Have you driven through Visalia in the Central Valley but wondered what all there might be to do there? Well, let me share with you there are so many great things to do in Visalia that makes it a great stop on a longer road trip or even as a base for a few days while also taking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Where is Visalia?
Visalia is located in the San Joaquin Valley with around 140,000 residents. Visalia is largely dedicated to agriculture and supplies a great deal of the produce consumed in the US. Located about 300 miles from San Francisco and north of Los Angeles, Visalia is often considered the center of the state of California. This is the largest city heading into the Sierra Nevada region providing many things to do, great places to eat and stay too.
While most people probably have driven through this growing agricultural base, it’s proximity to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks makes it a perfect base for a national park trip as well as a stop over on longer California trips.
Top 7 Things To Do in Visalia California
For a small town like Visalia, there is a unique blend of easy, fun and uplifting things to do no matter what your age! From visiting a real life orange orchard in operation to riding go karts or hiking through renewed landscapes, there is something for everyone here in Visalia California. Read on for our top suggestions on what to do, where to eat and where to stay while you are in town.
Farmer Bob’s World @ McKellar Farms
One of our favorite things to do in Visalia is visit Farmer Bob’s World at McKellar Farms. Farmer Bob is a well known intenty in the community as his family has been around here since they bought their land in the 1920s. The farm is a great place to stop in for a tractor pulled wagon tour. My son absolutely loved the 40 minute educational tour which takes visitors through the groves learning about the different machines used to care for the trees as well as the various types of orange trees that grow here.
Don’t miss the video at the end of the tour. This cute video takes you through the whole production cycle through the eyes of an orange. The best part for many, at the end of your visit you get to pick a couple of oranges yourself! Arrive early before your tour or plan to stay after a bit to check out the various machines located around the farm, live animal viewing and the gift shop. We absolutely love the orange blossom honey and candied orange slices.
The farm store is open from Wednesdays – Sundays 9:00am to 4:00pm. Afternoon Tours are currently at 2pm only.
Visalia Legacy Tree
While you are staying in town, hop over to the iconic Visalia Legacy Tree located next to the post office. A 3 year old sapling was planted here in Visalia in 1939. It’s now 88 years old, which is quite young in its potential 3000 year life. One of the more interesting tidbits to see here is the concrete path circling the tree. This outline shows the width of the General Sherman tree located in Sequoia. Make sure to stop in here before or after your visit to be totally mind blown!
Visalia Adventure Park
If you are looking for some laugh out loud fun, this is the place to be! Visalia Adventure Park has everything a kid and grown up kids could ask for! Delicious pizza (yes, it’s true, it really is delicious!), tons of arcade games, and a whole world of fun outside for all ages. From mini golf to go karts (for both big and little kids), batting cages, water slides and bumper boats, you can easily spend a full day here sampling it all!
We had so much fun, and felt re-energized even after a day of 13 miles of hiking! This is a great place to stop in even if you aren’t planning to stay in town as it’s just off the highway and easily accessible. We are total fans and can’t wait to return.
Sequoia Riverlands Trust
If you haven’t had enough nature time in Sequoia or Kings Canyon, there are some great spots to hit close to Visalia that are worth checking out. The Sequoia Riverlands Trust has a mission to inspire love and protection of important lands in this area of the United States. In this quest to fulfil their mission they operate 4 parcels of land in the Visalia area that allow visitors to learn more about the important features found here as well as providing backdrops for educational programs.
- Kaweah Oaks Preserve, located off Hwy. 198 on Road 182 is open every day from sunrise to sunset. There are clearly marked flat trails to hike and welcomes dogs on leashes.
- Dry Creek Preserve, is another fantastic place to visit during the year for hiking or even fishing or disc golf.
- Homer Ranch Preserve is open on weekends typically from November-May. Perfect for short hikes and expansive views over the area.
- Blue Oak Ranch Preserve is open only on special days, with plans in the works for the site to be open permanently. Trails are under construction, and catch-and-release fishing for members is also allowed on some open days.
Mooney Grove Park
Families with kids, history buffs and those just looking for more time outdoors should head to Mooney Grove Park. One of the oldest oak groves in the area, this little spot, less than a few square miles of land was saved by local residents who didn’t want to see this developed and taken away from future generations. Now, it’s a great urban space for visitors and locals alike. My son loved taking photos of the Canada Geese, exploring the historic buildings as part of the Tulare County Museum on site as well as walking around the various paths.
If you are into Native American history, don’t miss a visit to the small museum which houses an amazing collection of woven baskets rival only to the Smithsonian! In addition there are a variety of artifacts of the pioneer era, agriculture history and restored buildings from days past. A perfect stop for homeschoolers! Note, the museum is free to enter, however there is a fee for the park itself.
Visalia Farmers Market
If you happen to be in town on a Saturday morning, we highly recommend making a visit to the Visalia Farmers Market. We love farmers markets in LA, but visiting one in an agricultural area was a special treat. We went for the Quesadilla Gorilla breakfast food truck (which is not always there!), but found ourselves enjoying all the various stalls of fruits and veggies as well as local artisans. Load up on snacks for the road, soaps, handmade goods while soaking up this cute market. The farmers market is located at the old Sears parking lot on Caldwell & Mooney.
Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks
One of our favorite places to visit to get out of our day to day lives is the Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Both parks offer an amazing array of hikes and sights to see, however accommodation within the parks is quite limited. For many visitors this means that a visit to the park is a one day affair with a stay outside of the parks. However, we must tell you that Visalia is a great base to explore the area offering you the opportunity to visit multiple days while also adding other adventures to your vacation.
With numerous hiking trails, massive sequoia trees and learning opportunities there is plenty to keep you occupied on a single day visit or a multi-day trip to the parks. We highly recommending starting off your visit on one side of the park and continuing through to the other side of the park to get the highlights of both. Return the following day to dive deeper in either Kings Canyon along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway or Sequoia.
Need more ideas?
Looking for a few other things to check out? We have heard the ImagineU Children’s Museum is fantastic but it was closed during our visit due to COVID restrictions. Additionally, we would have loved to check out the Fox Theater downtown, but it was also closed. For sports fans, don’t miss checking out the fantastic Riverway Sports Park that beats any sports area we have in Los Angeles by miles and has playgrounds and water features for hot summer days. (It is located at: 3611 N Dinuba Blvd, Visalia, CA 93291).
For sports fan visiting during spring and summer, check out the local baseball team Visalia Rawhide, at Rawhide Ballpark for a major league game feel, but at much lower prices!
Where to Eat in Visalia, CA
One of the best benefits to staying in Visalia CA during a trip through the area or to Sequoia National Park is the abundance of amazing places to eat in town. There are so many great local places to eat, but here are a few of our favorites that you should make time to check out.
This is our family favorite for any trip to Sequoia or Kings Canyon. Previously we always stopped at the location in Three Rivers, but we have now learned there are several locations including in downtown Visalia. Quesadilla Gorilla offers really unique pairings in a massive quesadilla that will appeal to both kids and grown ups. Kids will love making their own or even just having a dessert quesadilla.
I’m a fan of the chicken lime jalapeno quesadilla while my son goes for the plain mixed cheese with black beans make your own. In addition to the variety of choices for quesadilla fillings, their homemade salsas are a must try!! No matter if we are just driving through or in town for a bit, we make sure this is on our itinerary at least once, but usually twice!
Sequoia Brewing Company
If you are looking for some fantastic comfort food, head over to Sequoia Brewing Company. One of the best things to do in Visalia is eat your way through town and this is top of the list! Serving up traditional American fare with large portions, there is something for everyone on this menu. Come here to enjoy some microbrews and great tasting food. We loved the grilled chicken sandwich and chicken parmesan pasta. Sequoia Brewing company also has the vibe of a sports bar, so if you are looking to catch the latest major league baseball game or current sport, head here!
Another local favorite in Visalia is Pita Kabob. This mediterranean gastropub in downtown Visalia is a hub for delicious kabobs, shawarma, gyros, falafels and of course craft brews. The large outdoor patio has made this a mainstay even during COVID. We are in love with their pilaf rice, pita chips, hummus and large portions. After a full day of hiking or exploring around the area, this is the place to come to unwind and munch away the night.
Component Coffee Lab
Heading out for the day or getting back on the road calls for a stop at Component Coffee Lab. If you are into coffee, you will not want to miss your chance to visit. Here they specialize in single origin beans that are roasted in small batches. Located downtown, this place is always hopping, so plan to take your time. Cold drinks are offered as well as a variety of delicious coffee concoctions! If you fall in love with their brews, considering getting a coffee subscription!
Where to Stay in Visalia California
The benefit of staying in Visalia whether you are just passing through or want to visit the national parks is the variety of options and prices! Another great thing about staying in hotels in Visalia is there are often incentives from the local tourist board to help lure people to stay here rather than in other nearby towns. The current promotion through Visit Visalia is a 3 night stay (booked through their portal) allows you to get a free 1 year Sequoia National Park pass or a $50 gas card. You must book through their site though, so don’t forget to check it out before you next trip.
Below are some of our favorite options for you to check out.
This is where we stayed on our visit. The Wyndham Visalia is perfectly situated just off the 99 as you head into Visalia making it a great spot for those passing through. The rooms are large and well equipped with everything you need. There is both an indoor and outdoor pool for swimming regardless of the season. Free breakfast is included making it perfect for those who are budget conscious and on the run early.
The Darling Hotel
While eating at Pita Kabob we spied out this adorable hotel and have it marked for a possible future visit. This historic building was originally an annex to the Tulare County Courthouse, but has been restored to the beautiful Darling Hotel that includes fitness center and outdoor pool. This 32 room hotel oozes with 1920s charm and is within walking distance to everything in downtown Visalia.
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