From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The most populous city in its county and surrounded on all sides by incredible natural wildernesses, Chico is a one-of-a-kind California stop that’s often overlooked and underrated. In this guide, we’ll introduce you to some of our favorite things to do and places to explore in Chico!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Those who live, work, and play in Chico are lucky to be in such close proximity to a stunning array of beautiful natural spaces. Here are some of the best state and national parks set aside in and around Chico, CA.
Preserving the unique Riparian habitat that characterizes this part of California, Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park is comprised of just shy of 350 acres that straddle the border of Butte and Glenn Counties. The park offers a variety of amenities including boat ramps, hiking and biking trails, restrooms and more, and is primarily used by area fisherfolk looking to reel in salmon, steelhead and shad.
Tucked on the west side of Chico separating the town from the California coast beyond, Mendocino National Forest comprises a whopping 913,306 acres. And when we say this wilderness is wild, we mean it: it’s the only such preserved green space in the state of California that doesn’t have a major paved road leading into it, so you’re going to have to be willing to get a little dirty to get there! For those prepared for a serious backwoods endeavor, Mendocino National Forest offers unparalleled opportunities for hiking, boating, fishing, or swimming. Just be sure you bring a compass and a map, as well as sun protection, water, and snacks!
A sprawling wilderness of almost 1,400 square miles, Tahoe National Forest is a truly wild place — and offers a wild variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for adventurers of all skill and interest levels. Hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, and camping are just the beginning; this area is also frequented by rock climbers, equestrians, and bird watchers, among others.
Offering incredible views of Mount Shasta, Mount Lassen and the Trinity Alps as well as shady oak valleys and a diversity of plant species, the Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area is just a half hour drive northwest of Chico, making it the perfect place for a quick outdoor getaway. If you’re bringing your rig, there are a variety of developed campgrounds around the park, as well as an onsite campground with low prices (but no water, electrical, or sewer hookups).
Looking to get your boots on the ground? Chico is surrounded by a plethora of stunning hiking trails, ranging from short, easy strolls to longer and more challenging treks. Here are some of the best hiking trails in Chico, regardless of your fitness or experience level.
Tucked into the North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area, the Llano Seco Trail introduces hikers to the Llano Seco Unit, comprised of approximately 1,700 acres of preserved wild spaces including wetlands, grasslands, and riparian habitats. The trail itself is a flat and easy half-mile stroll with two observation platforms, and is a great place to grab some fresh air or take a picnic.
Definitely on the easier side, but still well worth the awe-inspiring views even for advanced hikers, Monkey Face Loop runs just over a mile all told, and sees less than 300 feet in elevation gain — so while it’s not completely flat, you’ll be just fine on its undulating hills without trekking poles. A good option for introducing the kids to the great outdoors, this hike is known for its wide views of the valley below and is a popular place to catch a sunset.
Running about four and a half miles and seeing about 500 feet in elevation gain along the way, the Yahi Trail to Live Oak to Upper Trail hike is pretty firmly in the “moderate” category, offering a venture that’ll take a couple of hours and elicit some sweat without making you want to quit or curse. Winding through a uniquely north-central California forest setting and popular amongst bird watchers, this trail is open and accessible year round.
Another option nestled into the ever-popular BIdwell Park, Guardians Trail to South Rim Trail is a lengthier hike that’s also favored by mountain bikers and trail runners. Seeing about 1,200 feet in elevation gain along its eight or so mile round-trip trek, this hike is in the moderate-to-challenging category and will certainly keep you busy for a full afternoon. Along the way, you’ll encounter steep hillsides, gently flowing creeks, unique rock formations, plants and more. It’s also a good spot to enjoy the wildflower bloom when it’s the right season.
Running about nine miles and seeing approximately 800 feet in elevation gain as it does, Big Chico Creek Loop is another moderately challenging hike that’s a good pick for more experienced outdoor enthusiasts who want a lengthier excursion. As its name suggests, this hike winds past Big Chico Creek, and also exhibits a one-of-a-kind California waterfall.
From Mexican to Italian and everything in between, Chico, CA is home to some incredible dining experiences. Here are some of the very best restaurants in Chico to keep you fueled and satisfied!
After the very best Italian restaurant in Chico? Crush may just take the cake — or the heaping plate of pasta, as luck may have it. Although, keep in mind that after you enjoy your delicious meatballs (just like mom used to make!) or a stunning slice of brick oven pizza covered with figs and prosciutto, there is cheesecake and chocolate cobbler to be had. Yes please!
It’s not a surprise that Chico — or any California town — has a lot of options to consider for the vegetarian and vegan crowd. But if you’re a skeptic of all things “plant-based,” Om Foods may just change your mind. A small space serving up organic vegan fare and smoothies as well as select fish dishes, this spot is a great pick for something healthy but still delicious and satisfying (and light on your conscience!).
Small but mighty, Aztlan Méxican Restaurant is a local Chico institution that’s been serving up authentic and delectable Mexican food to the local community for years. With portions generous enough to fulfill even the heartiest appetite and fresh flavors created in traditional methods, this is the perfect place to turn when you’re in the mood for some south-of-the-border dining without a drive to Tijuana.
There’s certainly no shortage of delicious and authentic Asian cuisine in Chico, but if you’re looking for the very best Japanese fare and sushi, The Rawbar Restaurant and Sushi is the place to go. Serving a plethora of handmade rolls as well as sashimi, nigiri, and select hot bites, this spot satisfies everyone in your party… and also offers classes and events so you can learn to do it all yourself at home!
Serving what’s considered by many locals to be the best Indian food available in Chico, Priya Indian Cuisine is a local go-to for spicy and satisfying favorites. From pakoras to dosas to a wide range of curries, vindaloo dishes and more, this place hits the spot whether you attend the lunch buffet or grab dinner for dine-in, delivery or takeout.
Once you’ve satisfied your stomach and your desire or outdoor adventure, you’ve just come to the beginning of the fun things that Chico has to offer. Here are our top picks for things to do in Chico — with kids, with your sweetheart, or just with yourself — this weekend.
Chico’s got tons of fun in store for families and young adventurers! These are just a few of our favorite options.
The world’s largest display of yo-yos, yo-yo memorabilia and contest awards are on display at the National Yo-Yo Museum — though let’s be frank, today’s kids may be unfamiliar with what a yo-yo is in the first place. Get them up (and down, and up) to date with a quick visit to this one-of-a-kind cultural attraction, which also offers annual museum events for National Yo-Yo Day and more.
The official visitor center for Bidwell Park — the green space inside of which many of the above-named hikes are situated — Chico Creek Nature Center offers the whole family an opportunity to get more familiar with the landscape and learn about the incredible sights they can see on their outdoor adventures here. Community events and camps give young wildlife enthusiasts the opportunity to interact with snakes, learn basic outdoor survival skills, and more.
Chances are you’re not going to run out of fun diversions to keep you occupied in Chico during the daytime hours… but what about at night? Good news: there are some incredible after-hours options!
When it comes to date night, there’s nothing quite like a good trip to the movies… and if you’re looking for things for couples to do in Chico, you’re probably looking for Pageant Theatre. The kind of local institution that offers vegan butter for the popcorn and plush, cozy seating to view a well-curated roster of films, this cinema is currently offering movies via virtual screening room until it’s possible to gather in a real life auditorium again.
Although it’s a nationwide favorite, Sierra Nevada beer started right here in Chico four decades ago — and today, those in Chico can still enjoy a sip (or several) at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company taproom. If you take your suds with a side of nerdery, may we suggest a brewery tour? Learn all about how your favorite beverage is brought to life and even taste a few samples along the way!
Think you have to spend an arm and a leg to get familiar with Chico? Think again. Here are some of our favorite low-cost places to explore in town!
The historic home of General John Bidwell and Annie Bidwell from late 1868 until 1900, when the General died, Bidwell Mansion is an iconic Chico landmark that’s an absolute must-visit — and since it’s technically a state historic park, costs are incredibly affordable. Guided tours are available for just $6 per head for adults (or $3 for kids 5-17), and the visitor center is completely ADA accessible.
There’s never a bad time to learn more about the natural world around us, and the Gateway Science Museum is the perfect place to do so. Along with its awe-inspiring permanent and rotating exhibits and collections, this museum also offers another small wonder: its incredibly affordable prices, which start at just $7 for adults 18 and older.
It’s true! There are some incredibly fun things to do in Chico that won’t cost you a cent.
Chico is lucky to have a wide array of local parks, green spaces, and playgrounds set aside for public enjoyment, each of which offer their own unique attractions and facilities. For example, the Chico Children’s Park offers a variety of playground equipment such as swing sets, slides, and monkey bars, as well as park benches and picnic tables for mom and dad to camp out at. Oak Way Park is known for its lighted paths and basketball courts, and 20th Street Park or Community Park, offers softball fields, soccer fields and more. There’s also Bidwell Park, of course, as mentioned above, which is also home to many of the hikes we’ve listed in this guide.
Whether you need a facial, a massage, or a new hairdo, there are some incredible day spas and salons to help you look and feel your best while you’re in Chico. Here are our top picks.
Offering nail care, massage in a variety of modalities, and skin care treatments including facials and more, Spa Pierman is an oasis that promises to leave you feeling playful and confident as well as relaxed and rejuvenated — not least because they also offer a comprehensive waxing service.
Lean back as a skilled aesthetician delivers a therapeutic skin treatment or sink into the table as a knowledgeable massage therapist finds and works out all your kinks. Either way, you’ll be sure to leave Bella Day Spa Salon & Boutique looking and feeling good as new — especially since they also offer a full range of hair care treatments and services.
Staying in shape is about so much more than having a “beach body.” Here are the best gyms and yoga studios in Chico for those looking to get strong and centered.
Widely considered one of the best all-around fitness centers in the area, Chico Sports Club delivers everything you need to meet all of your fitness goals. From classic cardio floor equipment to strength training devices and free weights, as well as indoor jacuzzis, steam and sauna rooms, locker facilities and towel rentals, you’ll be lying in the lap of luxury as you get your body to work!
Sometimes, you need more than just a gym to get motivated to workout: you need a community. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Cycle Thirty Three, which offers a wide range of spin classes designed to get your whole body in gear and deliver you a sweat you’ll never forget. Best of all, you’ll be in good company the entire time… which certainly makes it easier to put the work in!
If you ask us, yoga is for everybody — and every body — which is why we love the Yoga Center of Chico so much. Offering a number of classes designed to meet the needs of a wide range of yogis, this spot is populated by knowledgeable and empathetic instructors who will help you find your best practice, no matter where you are in your journey.
While there’s certainly no need to leave Chico to enjoy your time in the California sun, it’s true that there are some great day trip options just around the corner!
A sprawling freshwater lake as well-loved for its proximity to snow-skiing slopes as its summer water-skiing opportunities, Lake Tahoe is an absolute must-visit for anyone who calls California or Nevada home. Rent a cabin along the shore or bring your RV for a private getaway, and be sure to stay for the full weekend — you’re not going to want to leave as soon as you get there!
If you make the two-hour trip to San Francisco from Chico, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair — and prepare for some of the best dining, most intriguing cultural attractions, and, of course, some of the most delicious coffee you’ve ever had in your life. Then turn around and come home in time for dinner so you don’t have to worry about all that traffic and noise!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Chico that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Chico? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.