The Best Museums In Fresno, California

Photo of Josh Wright
9 February 2017

Despite being hundreds of miles away from the cultural hotspots of Los Angeles and San Francisco, Fresno is by no means a backwater. The largest inland city in California has a number of museums, from single-building affairs to large galleries. Some dwell on local history, while others celebrate the achievements of ethnic groups or Americans as a whole. Take your pick from these top museums in Fresno.

The Discovery Center

The five-acre Discovery Center consists of a museum and park that contain a wide range of hands on learning opportunities for children. Inside the museum, kids can visit exhibit areas dedicated to music, electricity, space, magnets, paleontology, botany, geology, and Native American artifacts. Outdoor attractions include a tortoise enclosure, a replica space capsule from the Gemini program, bark dwellings made by members of the Miwok tribe, a cactus garden, and the oldest adobe building in Fresno. The “Dino Dig” excavation area is always a hit – just watch out for the metal T-Rex and pterosaur.

Address & telephone number: 1944 N Winery Ave, Fresno, CA, +1 559-251-5533

Meux Home Museum

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Fresno Art Museum
Fresno Art Museum | © Gemini2525/WikiCommons
The former home of Dr. Thomas Meux, an assistant surgeon who served in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War, now operates as a museum that allows visitors a glimpse of what life was like in Fresno in times gone by. The Victorian house was built in 1888 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A guide in full costume will take you through the many rooms of the Meux Home, providing information on its elaborate decorations, period furnishings, and noteworthy architectural features.

Fresno Art Museum

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Cultural Arts District
Cultural Arts District | © Thomas Hawk/Flickr
The Fresno Art Museum’s two permanent collections document the work of ancient peoples from Mexico, Mesoamerica, and the Andes. Ranging in age from centuries to millennia, these fascinating artifacts exhibit a unique form of artistic expression and number in the hundreds. The works of modern and contemporary artists feature in the museum’s temporary collections, and lectures, panel discussions, and film screenings are also held here. Each year, a distinguished woman artist is presented with an award by the museum, and an exhibition of her work is presented for the public.

African American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley

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Kearney Mansion Museum
Kearney Mansion Museum | © R&sbwn/WikiCommons
Located in Fresno’s Cultural Arts District, this museum celebrates African American culture, art, and history, and profiles leading African Americans who have made significant contributions to the San Joaquin Valley. There is an emphasis here on community interaction, education, and the promotion of black heritage. Events held at the museum showcase the literature, music, and visual and performing arts of African Americans, while the various permanent and rotating exhibits grant further insight. Jazz, blues, R&B, soul, and Motown concerts are also hosted regularly.

Kearney Mansion Museum

M. Theo Kearney, known as the ‘Raisin King of California’ for his involvement in the fruit industry, was a self-made Irish businessman who played a major role in the San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural development in the latter part of the 19th century. In his will he bequeathed his residence and the grounds of his 230-acre estate to the city of Fresno, now Kearney Mansion Museum and Kearney Park respectively. Over 70 percent of the mansion’s original furnishings and décor from 1903 have been preserved, and guided tours can be taken around the premises.

Address & telephone number: 7160 W Kearney Blvd, Fresno, CA, +1 559-441-0862

Veterans Memorial Museum

Memorial, Museum
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The Day of the Dead at Arte Américas
The Day of the Dead at Arte Américas | © R Kurtz/Flickr
The Veterans Memorial Museum honors all those who have served in America’s wars and houses an extensive collection of uniforms, equipment, weapons, photographs, and memorabilia associated with U.S. military history. Displays include recovered Japanese airplane propellers from the Battle of Guadalcanal and scale replicas of battleships, while giant medals hang on the walls of the grand entrance lobby, the ceilings of which are decorated with murals commemorating historic skirmishes. As an establishment ‘dedicated to Americanism and education,’ the museum is staffed by volunteer veterans and is affiliated with the Legion of Valor.

Arte Américas

Across its 10,000 square feet of gallery, classroom, and performance space, Arte Américas aims ‘to make Central California a flourishing place for Latino arts’ by promoting the work of artists from Mexico, Latin America, the American Southwest, and California. To this end, exhibitions, performances, dances, and recitals are frequently held here. Cultural education is facilitated further by the provision of a Latino history and literature library. The center also contains a tiendita, or ‘little shop,’ that sells authentic handcrafted garments, jewelry, and other items.

Address & telephone number: 1630 Van Ness Ave, Fresno, CA, +1 559-266-2623