The Central Valley: Places to Explore


  • Bakersfield

    Bakersfield's founder, Colonel Thomas Baker, arrived with the discovery of gold in the nearby Kern River valley in 1851. Now Kern County's biggest city—its 347,000 residents include the largest Basque community... Read more

  • Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park

  • Fresno

    Sprawling Fresno, with nearly half a million people, is the center of the richest agricultural county in the United States. Cotton, grapes, and tomatoes are among the major crops; poultry and milk are also... Read more

  • Hanford

    Founded in 1877 as a Southern Pacific Railroad stop, Hanford had one of California's largest Chinatowns—the Chinese came to help build the railroads and stayed on to farm. If you arrive on a typically... Read more

  • Kernville

    The wild Kern River, which flows through Kernville en route from Mt. Whitney to Bakersfield, delivers some of the most exciting white-water rafting in the state. Kernville (population 1,700) rests in a... Read more

  • Lodi

    Founded on agriculture, Lodi was once the watermelon capital of the country. Today it's surrounded by fields of asparagus, pumpkins, beans, safflowers, sunflowers, kiwis, melons, squashes, peaches, and... Read more

  • Merced

    Thanks to a branch of the University of California opening in 2005 and an aggressive community redevelopment plan, the downtown of county seat Merced is coming back to life. The transformation is not yet... Read more

  • Modesto

    Modesto, a gateway to Yosemite and the southern reaches of the Gold Country, was founded in 1870 to serve the Central Pacific Railroad. The frontier town was originally to be named Ralston, after a railroad... Read more

  • Oakdale

    Oakdale was founded as an orchard community and, in a real stretch, calls itself the Cowboy Capital of the World. Formerly the home of a Hershey's chocolate factory, the city continues to hold the Oakdale... Read more

  • Stockton

    California's first inland port—connected since 1933 to San Francisco via a 60-mile-long deepwater channel—is wedged between Interstate 5 and Highway 99, on the eastern end of the Sacramento River delta... Read more

  • Visalia

    Visalia's combination of a reliable agricultural economy and civic pride has yielded the Central Valley's most vibrant downtown. If you're into Victorian and other old houses, drop by the city's visitor... Read more