Free Things to Do in Fresno, California

Whether you want to spend the day exploring its green spaces, art or architecture, Fresno has a free activity for you
Whether you want to spend the day exploring its green spaces, art or architecture, Fresno has a free activity for you | © Grant Porter / Unsplash
Photo of Alice Johnston
Food Editor10 August 2020

The Central Valley’s largest city is well equipped to keep even the most demanding traveler entertained with free activities. Known for agriculture and farming, it is a great place to spend a few days and is within easy reach of other large California cities and, of course, Sequoia National Park. Here are the best free things to do in Fresno.

Walk around downtown

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Warnors Theatre (formerly Pantages Theater), historic theatre and lankmark in Downtown Fresno, California.
© stellamc / Alamy Stock Photo

Fresno’s downtown area is well worth walking around, especially if you’re interested in history. It’s home to buildings dating back to the early 1900s; check out the Bank of Italy Building, the Pacific Southwest Building and the San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation Building for a blast from the past. Strolling the area is a great way to get a sense of the city and absorb that laid-back Californian vibe. Public art is visible on some of the streets, so you’ll be getting a healthy dose of culture too.

Woodward Park

Natural Feature, Hiking Trail, Park
Map View

Lush and verdant, Fresno’s most beautiful park is perfect for escaping the heat. Whether you’re interested in picnics, wildlife or simply taking in some nature, Woodward Park is the ideal place to relax for free. It’s time to stop and smell the flowers. A highlight is the Shinzen Friendship Garden, which includes a teahouse and more than 100 bonsai plants. The San Joaquin River also runs through the park. You don’t get a better free activity than this.

Roeding Park

Memorial, Park, Zoo
Map View
A Elephant near a waterfall at the Fresno Chaffey Zoo in Fresno,CA. on March 26, 2011.(Credit Image: © John Pyle/Cal Sport Media/ZUMAPRESS.com)
© ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo
The 159-acre (64ha) Roeding Park is a charming place to spend a sunny afternoon and, of course, is free to enjoy. The Fresno Chaffee Zoo sits within the park grounds and charges admission. However, there’s plenty else to see, including a large lake and several small ponds, as well as groves of cedar, ash, pine and redwood trees. Pack a picnic and make a day of it while enjoying the tennis courts and horseshoe pits that Roeding Park has to offer.

Saint John’s Cathedral

Cathedral
Map View

This Gothic-Romanesque cathedral, designed by Thomas Bermingham and built in 1902, is a must-see on a tour of free things to do in Fresno. Two square towers with spires frame its red-brick exterior, and the interior is a sight to behold, with decorated ceilings and stained-glass windows. To the side of the building is the avenue of the saints, an area decorated with many stone statues; it’s striking to walk through. It’s open daily and free for all to visit, though it’s worth checking the times of services before going.

Old Fresno Water Tower

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Old Fresno Water Tower, Fresno, California
© UrbanTexture / Alamy Stock Photo

A famous symbol of old Fresno, this water tower started serving the town in 1894 but hasn’t been a water source since 1963. It’s now a cultural center: the Fresno Arts Council Water Tower. At 109ft (33m) high, you can hardly miss this city landmark. A unique and eye-catching piece of design and history, the water tower is shaped like a castle, and inside, there are exhibitions on local history and art, as well as a gift shop selling products from local artisans.

Oh Wow Nickel Arcade

Amusement Park
Map View

While this one’s not completely free, you’ll only have to spare a single nickel to play an arcade game at this vintage spot. There are all the classics as well as skeeball and pinball. Located in central Fresno, the Oh Wow Nickel Arcade is an ideal place to while away a rainy afternoon playing games for pennies. You can relive your childhood (or the childhood you never had) by getting a new top score. Grab a soda and the joystick, and let’s go.

These recommendations were updated on August 10, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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