Nicknamed the “City of Roses,” thanks to its beauty, nature, and natural features, Chico is a bustling city in Northern California that is home to various attractions for the whole family.
The word Chico is derived from a Spanish word meaning little. It was a small town that has become a metro today.
Although it is significantly populated, it is also fantastic. Geographically, it is vibrant and close to the Sacramento Valley, one of the world’s richest agricultural regions.
It is also blessed with mountains on one side and a river on the other.
Chico has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters.
It is also an excellent place for tourists as it has museums and gardens and activities like kayaking, canoeing, and more to try at the lakes.
Read on as you find out beautiful things to do in Chico as you prep for your trip.
Fun Things to Do in Chico
1. Go on a Ride at Bidwell Sacramento River State Park
Located on the Sacramento River and its tributary, Big Chico Creek, the State Park is truly a beautiful park that preserves a coastal type of terrestrial biome.
Canoeing and kayaking are fun and exciting activities you can do in its waters. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, and the scenic beauty looks straight out of a postcard.
With trees like oaks and cottonwoods towering high above and providing much-needed shade during the summer, it’s a perfect example of a great preserved natural environment.
Some of the growing shrubs include wild grapes, blackberries, and wild roses. Lovers of nature photography would certainly like to visit this part.
Other popular activities include fishing for local species such as salmon and steelhead.
You can also try hiking and picnicking. Bird watching is also a great activity; you can spot some rare species at the lake.
The waters are also completely accessible and can be used for outdoor recreational sports such as jet and water skiing.
2. Test Your Driving Skills on Silverdollar Speedway
Silverdollar is one of Chico’s famous auto racing tracks. This speedway has hosted the competition since its inception in 1962.
With a grandstand and seating for up to 7,000 people, it’s an experience of a lifetime.
The weekly Friday night shows are held from early April to the end of August and use a variety of cars such as sprint cars, pure stocks, and dirt-modified cars on the race tracks.
In addition, it hosts major events related to auto racing.
The main event held here is the Silverdollar Fair, where three days of racing entertainment can be watched.
3. Try Kayaking on the Horseshoe Lake
Although it is an artificial lake, it is a thriving area for various natural animal and plant species.
The lake is located in the upper Bidwell Park, right next to the observatory.
Although it was initially built as a reservoir to store water, today, it serves as a lake for recreational purposes for the city.
You should try kayaking and swim in its waters. Canoeing is another fun option to try too.
Warm waters teem with catfish, so fishing is another great sport. There are also toilets and water fountains nearby.
Things to Do in Chico at Night
1. Grab Some Beer at the Secret trail brewery
Known for its authentically brewed brews and beers, this brewing company produces art in glass.
Located in the barbershop area, it spans 3,200 square feet and has a production facility with up to 15 barrels.
The tasting room is modern and well-equipped. Some of the brewery’s must-try signature beers include Lights out Baltic Porter, Delta breeze Kolsch, and many more.
The pub is very beautifully built and aesthetically pleasing to look at, with a welcoming atmosphere.
The brewery remains closed on Tuesdays.
2. Stop By for a Drink at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Tours & Tastings, Chico
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is a family-owned brewery that produces a variety of beers and ales and offers facility tours and tastings.
Inspired by the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s beers are designed to be as bold, wild, and unyielding as those legendary granite peaks and are crafted from the finest ingredients.
The brewery offers several tours of varying duration and content, including a visit to the brewing vessels, fermenters, and packaging facilities, but also to learn more about the ingredients, the brewing process, and, of course, to sample the goods.
Guided tasting of new and limited beers or sampling directly from the fermentation tanks is also available for visitors over 21 years of age.
3. The Crazy Horse Saloon & Grill
This is a historic landmark in the vibrant heart of the Sierra Mountains. Built on a vast foundation of colorful history
Vintage Western charm is complemented by captivating touches such as imported Turkish light fixtures and modern art.
The Crazy Horse staff is like a big family that inspires the salon’s fun-loving atmosphere and all-inclusive attitude.
Crazy Horse is more than just a bar, restaurant, or live music venue.
It is the embodiment of a living, breathing legend, where the colorful essence of the past and the fun spontaneity of the present exist in harmony.
Things to Do in Chico For Couples
1. Shop at the Chico Certified Farmers Market
Part of four Butte County Farmers Markets, the Chico Certified Farmers Market is the perfect place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
For those who want to take some goodies back home, you can buy locally produced, organically produced honey or some homemade olive oil. You can also purchase baked goods like artisan bread.
There are also shops selling handicrafts and handmade items that you can take back as souvenirs for your friends and family.
2. Visit the Museum of Northern California Art
The museum is an art museum and gallery dedicated to promoting the works of Northern California artists through a diverse collection of art-related works, collections, exhibitions, and educational programs.
The museum’s collection includes paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and photographs by more than 100 Northern California artists, with works by Ann Pierce and David Hoppe.
Others include Claudia Steel, Richard Hornaday, Steve Reoutt, Salvatore Casa, James Kuiper, Ruth Ormerod, Maia Peebles- Bright, and Paul Di Pasqua.
3. Try an Italian Cuisine at Crush
It is a modern restaurant in the heart of Chico, offering traditional Italian cuisine and an extensive wine list in a relaxed, family atmosphere.
Blending tradition with new-age modern style, the restaurant majors in Italian cuisine with a global twist, with dishes made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients made from scratch and served with flair.
Exuding an intimate and elegant atmosphere with an elegant lounge and soft lighting, Crush offers an extensive wine list with over 100 selections of local and international wines by the glass and bottle.
Crush is open for late lunch and dinner seven days a week and offers valet parking.
Things to Do in Chico For Kids
1. Take Them to Bidwell Park
This is a vast city park in Chico; Bidwell Park covers nearly 3,670 acres of land, making it one of the largest city parks in the entire US.
The exciting thing is that several different interesting places are inside the park.
For example, you can try fishing or swimming in the Sycamore Pool.
Then there’s the Caper acres playground, set in a fairytale theme, making it an exciting and fun place for kids to play.
The Cedar Grove grow is a tree experiment farm where various trees are planted and cared for.
Pack a picnic in the five-mile area, which is really beautiful, with water on one side and a place to sit on the other.
Another exciting and aesthetic place to visit in the park is the monkey wall rock formation that resembles a monkey’s head.
It’s lovely for nature photography. The Chico Creek Nature Center is the park’s interpretive center.
It features many non-releasable species of wildlife in its animal museum, along with exotic plant species in a native plant garden.
2. Let Them Visit the Gateway Science Museum
Focused on kids, the Gateway Science Museum is an entertaining and interactive museum to visit with your kids.
It offers exhibits that can give you a hands-on experience of learning some science facts in a fun way.
It helps educate kids about science, technology, and engineering and is a must for kids of all ages.
The travelling exhibits are also really wonderful and a class apart.
3. Allow Them Catch Fun at the 20th Street Community Park
Another public park in South Chico is this 40-acre community park. It has various courts, but the most famous is the volleyball court.
There is also a pickleball court and a tennis court. There are two types of playgrounds depending on the age of the children. So don’t worry if you have a toddler with you.
The community park also has cute horseshoe pits. You can also have a picnic in designated areas where tables and grills are located.
Other games to enjoy at the park include softball, soccer, basketball, and dodgeball. There is also a gym.
Indoor Activities to Do in Chico For Adults
1. Check Out the Chico Air Museum
This elegant museum is located on the Chico Municipal Airport campus.
It has various artifacts and exhibits related to aviation and aircraft.
Space planes are also on display to educate visitors about space and the various dangers the aerospace industry faces when sending rockets into space.
The hangar at the museum has been recreated and set in a World War II theme, giving it a beautiful aura and aesthetic appeal.
There is also a static display area outside where massive model aircraft are displayed.
There is also a science library inside the campus. The museum is open only from Thursday to Sunday.
2. Don’t Miss the Exhibitions at the 1078 Gallery
This is an exciting and picturesque gallery. It offers different and unpredictable works of art and exhibits in a modern and contemporary style.
It facilitates and encourages artists to create art forms in a completely different way.
It has come a long way since its inception in 1981 and today hosts many exhibitions and installations focusing on various topics and cultures.
The gallery displays local and international artists and is crucial in maintaining cultural diversity in Chico.
3. Catch a Performance at the Chico Theatre Company
The theater is known to host many musicals and comedies in addition to drama performances throughout the year.
It was established in 2003 and had a capacity of 200 to 250 people at a time.
It was also established with the sole aim of creating a theatrical mindset and enabling the encouragement of art among the local people.
In addition, it also helps spread cultural diversity and awareness by encouraging local youth to perform in it.
It is closed on Sundays but remains open Monday through Saturday throughout the year.
Romantic Things to Do in Chico
1. Check Out the Chico Museum
The Chico Museum is located near California State University; it honors the history and culture of Chico with many permanent exhibits and beautiful rotating exhibits.
It provides insight into the rich history of Chico.
The museum itself is divided into two main galleries, the Patrick Gallery and the Carnegie Gallery, which host many exhibitions.
The exhibit on Indians is one of the most beautiful exhibits at the museum.
2. Shop for Art Glass at the Orient and Flume Art glass company
Making art glass is a fascinating and detailed process, but the hard work and patience are worth it because stunning works of art are created that are very pleasant to look at.
You can find different styles and themes created on the artwork here.
The main gallery hosts a variety of artifacts and exhibits that customers and visitors can purchase for their personal collections.
3. Visit the National Yo-Yo Museum
This museum is dedicated to the popular toy known as the yo-yo and is Located in the heart of downtown Chico.
It tells the story of its history and displays a variety of yo-yo-related memorabilia and a massive, functional wooden yo-yo weighing 256 pounds.
Located at the back of a local shop called Bird in Hand, the museum features a variety of yo-yos of various shapes and sizes and is the world’s largest working yo-yo.
It also hosts an annual national yo-yo competition in October, attracting yo-yo fans from around the world to participate.
Free Things to Do in Chico
1. Take a Walk Along the DeGarmo Park
What sets DeGarmo Park apart is that it is one of the few parks that also have a specially designated area as a dog park; dogs can be let off the hook here.
If you love dogs, then you would love to visit this place. Make new furry friends as you stroll through these peaceful spaces.
Softball fields and grass fields are also available. The footpaths are also well built and aesthetically pleasing, with trees on both sides.
Picnic shelters are also easily accessible, with locations throughout the park.
Moreover, it is spread over 36 acres of huge green spaces and lawns, making it great for walking and hiking.
2. Take a Walk Along the Honey Run Covered Bridge
The Honey Run Covered Bridge is a beautifully preserved example of historical engineering located on Honey Run Road in Chico. It spans Butte Creek just outside the city limits on its way to a nearby paradise.
Although it has undergone several renovations over the years, the impressive wooden structure of the bridge is still largely intact.
It is maintained by a local association dedicated to preserving a unique piece of history for decades.
The Honey Run Covered Bridge is surrounded by an idyllic park popular with picnickers, photographers, and artists looking for inspiration.
Most times, guests on the bridge leave a few bucks at the park’s donation point to help with maintenance costs.
3. Go Window Shopping at Eighth & Main Antiques
Be sure to check out Eighth and Main Antiques for some deals or unique finds.
With over 3,000 square feet to explore, you’re sure to leave with great gifts for friends, family, and of course, yourself!
Cheap Things to Do in Chico
1. Admire the Elegance of the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
Essentially a museum located inside Bidwell Castle, it provides a glimpse into the life of General John Bidwell and his wife, Annie Bidwell. Interestingly, it was one of the most modern mansions built at the time.
It is an architectural beauty and is set in the Italian style. An hour-long tour is included, during which you can view the entire interior of the museum.
The second and third floors of this museum are almost 50 steps high. It is very beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.
The visitor center inside the castle is really unique and fully accessible. They also have a gift shop, theater, and lobby seating.
2. Visit the Colman Memorial Community Museum
The Colman Memorial Community Museum boasts a variety of items relating to the region, including Civil War memorabilia, gold mining equipment, antique tools, a collection of Indian baskets, 19th-century clothing and objects, an antique kitchen, etc.
It also features the New Maidu exhibit, the Bridges of Butte Creek Canyon exhibit, and several changing exhibits.
3. Grab a Bite at 5th Street Steak House
It is a locally owned and operated restaurant in picturesque downtown Chico that offers upscale cuisine in a refined setting.
5th Street Steakhouse restaurant boasts a main dining room and banquet room for private dining and special events open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The menu features a range of globally inspired cuisine, including prime steaks, fresh seafood, organic salads and vegetables, handmade pasta, and a selection of award-winning desserts.
Excellent cuisine combines first-class service and an extensive list of quality wines from around the world, which you can enjoy by the glass or bottle.
Cool Places to Visit in Chico
1. Butte Creek Ecological Preserve
Butte Creek Ecological Reserve is an area that protects Butte Creek and Butte Creek Canyon.
Located along 0.9 miles of Butte Creek shoreline, the preserve provides access to a creek that provides critical habitat for Chinook salmon and offers spectacular views of the surrounding canyons, which are covered in wildflowers in the spring and summer.
A narrow corridor along the creek is home to a variety of riparian vegetation, while the upland habitat welcomes a wealth of birds and a wide range of avian diversity, from ducks and raptors to falcons, shorebirds, and woodpeckers.
The stream is ideal for swimming on warm summer days and the sandy beach for a picnic.
2. Brave Coffee
With great coffee, a comfortable and quiet atmosphere, and friendly staff, Brave Coffee is the perfect destination for the harried traveler with low energy.
Their menu includes non-drip coffee as well as hot and cold specialty drinks such as lattes, cappuccinos, etc.
Brave Coffee also serves plenty of non-coffee drinks and fresh baked goods, as well as plenty of seating, easy parking, and fast Wi-Fi for those who want to settle down with their laptop and do a few hours of work in a pleasant environment.
3. Gordo Burrito
Gordo Burrito is often described as a hole in the wall, but much of its appeal lies therein.
Serving authentic Mexican cuisine from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Gordo Burrito is a popular destination for hungry travelers who enjoy the big flavor, hefty portions, and an overall quiet atmosphere.
Its menu includes traditional favorites such as tacos, nachos, fajitas, and burritos.
They come with various fresh sauces and sides such as salsa, guacamole, sour cream, etc.
Gordo Burrito is conveniently located just off the freeway on East 8th Street, making it an excellent choice for those looking for a quick bite before heading out on their next adventure.
Chico is an amazing vacation destination filled with lots of activities to keep you excited all week round.
Follow our guide of things to do in Chico, and you are sure to have the time of your life.