Bulging like a blister in the hot, dry center of the state, Fresno is by far the biggest city in the San Joaquin Valley. The old brick warehouses lining the Santa Fe railroad tracks are an impressive sight, as are the many historic downtown buildings such as the 1894 Fresno Water Tower and the 1928 Pantages (Warnors) Theatre. These compete for attention with newer structures such as the sprawling Convention Center and the modern ballpark for Fresno’s Triple A baseball team, the Grizzlies.
The biggest surprise Fresno throws a traveler’s way is the Tower District, which boasts the only active alternative-culture neighborhood between Sacramento and Los Angeles. North of downtown, the Tower District has book and record stores, music clubs and a handful of stylish, highly regarded restaurants.
Like many valley towns, Fresno’s surprisingly diverse. Mexican, Basque and Chinese communities have been here for decades, and, more recently, thousands of Hmong have put down roots in the area. The longstanding Armenian community is most famously represented by author and playwright William Saroyan, who was born, lived and died in this city he loved dearly.