With an all-American, oak-shaded downtown and a sizable university, Chico is one of Sacramento Valley’s more attractive municipalities as well as a social and cultural hub. It has good restaurants, coffeehouses, nightclubs, bars and entertainment venues. Chico State University (CSU), with 16, 000 students, has a reputation for being a party school, which certainly heats things up during the school year.
During the summertime Chico can be a little sleepy - temperatures that regularly surpass 90ºF contribute to the lethargy. Wandering the downtown in the evening in T-shirts and short pants is truly relaxing, though. The swimming holes in shady Bidwell Park help take the edge off during the day and tubing down the Sacramento River is always fun. The fine pale ales produced at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, near downtown, is yet another of Chico’s blessings.
Chico was established in 1860 by John Bidwell, who came to California in 1841 and proceeded to make himself one of its most illustrious early pioneers. In the late 1840s he purchased 40 sq miles here, called Rancho del Arroyo Chico. In 1868, Bidwell and his wife, Annie Ellicott Kennedy, moved to the new mansion he had built. It is now the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park. After John died in 1900, Annie continued as a philanthropist until her death in 1918.