Smack in the arid center of the state, Fresno is the biggest city in the Central Valley by far. It may not be scenic (it's a testing ground for every new chain store), but it is beautifully situated, just an hour's drive from four national parks (Yosemite, Sierra, Kings Canyon and Sequoia), making it the ideal last stop for expeditions.
Unfortunately, in recent years, Fresno's agriculture-based economy has been hit hard by catastrophic droughts and plummeting food prices, while unemployment has risen. A local farm movement to regain footing seeks to revolutionize food production through organic, sustainable practices and fair wages. Fresno's proximity to these progressive farms means it's experiencing a food and cultural renaissance. The produce and meat is the freshest you'll find anywhere. Fresno? Oh, Fresyes.
Like many valley towns, Fresno is home to diverse Mexican, Chinese and Basque communities, which arrived in successive waves. More recently thousands of Hmong people have put down roots in the area. The longstanding Armenian community is famously represented by author and playwright William Saroyan, who was born, lived and died in this city he loved dearly.