Chico extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

Berkeley and Beyond



Chico is 22 miles east of I-5 via Highway 32.

Though many residents of this charming small town prefer to play it down, Chico is most famous for its party school, Chico State--the second-oldest university in the state.  Both Playboy and MTV have acknowledged this claim to fame.  And indeed, students are seen all around the town, which is not particularly surprising since downtown streets dead-end at the campus.  Still, in spite of the fact that Chico is first and foremost Party Central, much more to see and do awaits visitors here.  It is no wonder that Chico is also referred to as “the crown jewel of the north valley,” and many movies were filmed here, among them Gone with the Wind and Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales.  It is an interesting fact that streets are named for plants and trees near the college--Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry, Orange--spelling out “Chico.”

Butte County Cultural Tourism
Chico Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center


Annual Events

Endangered Species Faire  May.  Free.  Interactive educational activities, live animal presentations, and musical performances combine to make this an enjoyable event. 


CHICO-Bidwell Mansion-PR
image courtesy of venue

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park  525 The Esplanade, downtown.  Fee.  An early pioneer, General John Bidwell arrived in California in 1841 and founded Chico in 1860.  He built this 3-floor, 26-room Italianate Victorian mansion in 1868.  Its cavernous rooms have 14-foot ceilings and provide a cooling break in summer.  Interesting features include eight slate fireplaces painted to look like marble and a third-floor ballroom that--because the owners were Presbyterians--was never used for that purpose.  Shockingly, the house once served as a Chico State dormitory.  A gigantic Southern magnolia tree planted out front in 1863 is now taller than the house, and an adjacent carriage house displays several antique coaches and wagons.

Bidwell Park  Free.  The third-largest city park in the U.S. (Phoenix’s South Mountain Park is the largest; Los Angeles’ Griffith Park is second), this 3,670-acre park was the movie stand-in for Sherwood Forest in the original 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood.  Among its numerous trails is the -mile-long World of Trees Independence Trail nature path that winds through a former U.S. Forest Service tree nursery and is accessible to both the physically and visually challenged.  Most of the park is closed to cars and so is particularly enjoyable on a bicycle, which can be rented downtown.   In summer, Chico Creek is dammed to form several swimming holes.  Imaginative Caper Acres playground located at the south end has a nursery rhyme theme, and a stables rents horses. 
Chico Creek Nature Center  By donation.  This busy center displays living examples of area wildlife and operates a children’s program. 

California State University, Chico (Chico State)  2nd St./Hazel St.  Founded in 1887, this beautiful campus has several art galleries, an anthropology museum, and a rose garden.  Free guided campus tours are available; reservations advised. 

Chico Museum  141 Salem St.  Fee.  Housed in an architecturally interesting former Carnegie Library dating from 1904, this gem of a museum focuses on Chico’s history and culture.  Collection highlights include the town’s original Chinese Taoist Temple and some exceptional Maidu and Yahi Indian baskets. 

CHICO-National YoYo Contest-PR
image courtesy of venue

National Yo-Yo Museum  320 Broadway, in Bird in Hand store.  Free. More than 2,000 yo-yos are displayed here.  Among them is the world’s largest--a 256-pound wooden behemoth that requires an 80-foot crane to operate.
The National Yo-Yo Championships are hosted here annually in October. 

Glass-blowing studios:
Orient & Flume Art Glass  2161 Park Ave.  M-Sat 10-5.  This stunning glass art studio has work displayed in the Metropolitan Museum and Smithsonian, and pieces are for sale in Gump‘s in San Francisco.  The artists here make everything from paperweights to vases.  Prices are high, but seconds are available for less.  You can view glassblowers in a warehouse behind the gallery, and an art glass museum is on-site. 

CHICO-Satava Glass Blowing-scan-400pix(cCaroleTerwilligerMeyers)
Satava Art Glass Studio  819 Wall St.  Using ancient techniques to create nature-themed glass pieces, Richard Satava has been blowing vividly colored artworks at his studio here since 1977.  His ethereal jellyfish pieces sell for between $400 and $10,000.  Less expensive items are also available in the gift shop inside a converted house.  Watching him in action out back in his cool, open-air studio is fascinating.  There, surrounded by mature black bamboo and a giant fig tree, Rick and crew perform their finely orchestrated glass-blowing dance to vintage Beatles tunes and squawking jays.

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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