Sep 27, 2018 11:00AM
● By Kerri Regan
By Kerri Regan and Ronda Alvey
Photos by Monica Fatica
• During the Civil War, residents couldn’t decide which side they should be on, so they staged their own mini Civil War on Main Street.
• Famous folks who have called Visalia home include actor and Oscar-winning director Kevin Costner, Doobie Brothers founding member Tom Johnston, former Journey lead singer Steve Perry and Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert B. Laughlin.
• Visalia’s economy is driven largely by agriculture, including grapes, olives, cotton, citrus and more.
• Visalia was featured in several episodes of the television series “24” (though the name was often pronounced incorrectly).
Walking Through the Past: The Historic Visalia Walking Trail includes stops at the town’s first church, a hotel, stagecoach station, the first newspaper building, the first schoolhouse, Fort Visalia and more. The map was an Eagle Scout project and is available at www.visitvisalia.org.
Battle for Bragging Rights: The Cowhide Football Game has become one of the most heated rivalries in California. Visalia High School was founded in 1910 and the match up began in 1954 when it was split into two schools. Every fall Mt. Whitney and Redwood high schools square off on the gridiron for a year’s worth of bragging rights – the winning school gets to display the trophy, which features a hide nailed to a board.
Steeped in History: Architecture and history lovers have some must-see stops in Visalia, as several buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Hyde House at 500 S. Court St. was built in the Queen Anne style in 1886. Also on the register are the Bank of Italy, The Pioneer statue and the U.S. Post Office/Visalia Town Center Station.
Over the Moon: Mooney Grove Park offers a variety of opportunities for recreation enthusiasts, including fields for baseball, disc golf and horseshoes. Rent a boat to enjoy on the lagoon, or let the kids explore the playground. This is also home to The Pioneer, a statue first displayed at a world’s fair in San Francisco in 1915. Visalia bought it for $150 – the cost of shipping it. Though the statue was destroyed in an earthquake in 1980, its base remains.
Things to do in Visalia:
Curtains call: The performing arts are revered in Visalia, and several theatres provide a space for thespians, musicians and more to demonstrate their talents. The Fox Theatre was founded in 1930 as a movie theatre, and restoration efforts were completed in 1999. The College of the Sequoias Theatre and the Ice House Theatre (formerly an ice plant) also bustle with activity throughout the year.
Cultural Explorations: Honoring everything from planets to Chinese culture, Visalia’s museums offer a diverse look at the world around us. The ImagineU Children’s Museum, Pena Planetarium, Tulare County Historical Museum and Central California Chinese Cultural Center are some of the places where a few dollars buy you plenty of brain food. Arts Visalia, a nonprofit community art center, is another great way to get your fix of culture while honoring local artisans.
Going Downtown: Clothing boutiques, restaurants, thrift shops, furniture stores, salons, murals and much, much more are among the highlights in Visalia’s vibrant downtown. We love their “downtown gift checks,” where the lucky recipient can treat themselves to something from one of their many favorite shops.
Hey, pumpkin: It’s finally fall, and Vossler Farms wants to help you celebrate. Pick up a pumpkin, get lost in the corn maze and get your adrenaline flowing in the Field of Screams.
Let Someone Else Do the Driving: The Sequoia Shuttle provides round-trip transportation to Sequoia National Park from Visalia during the summer for just $15 (and its wheelchair accessible). The V-Line shuttle is an affordable and convenient option for commuters and students to travel between Visalia and Fresno with stops at the airports, Fresno State and more. The shuttle runs six times per day, seven days per week, and has WiFi and USB charging ports.
Dig into Downtown Dining: If you’re hungry, downtown Visalia is the place to be, and it’s impossible to list all the places we’ve enjoyed a tasty treat. Taylor’s Hot Dogs has been in business since 1952. The Vintage Press prides itself on elegant dining and an expansive wine list, while The Depot Restaurant is adorned with antiques, historic photographs and other memorabilia. Jack and Charlie’s uses locally sourced ingredients in its fine dining menu, and it’s served in the old Tulare County jailhouse that now features the ambience of a speakeasy (too fun!). Prefer pizza? The Planing Mill Artisan Pizza (the Visalia Chamber’s 2017 small business of the year) bakes up creative pies – enjoy some outdoor games while you wait.
First Friday Fun: Food, wine, live music and art highlight the First Fridays Art Walk, from 5 to 8 pm the first Friday of every month, year-round in downtown Visalia.
On the map: Visalia:
1. The Visalia Rawhide minor league baseball team has played its home games at Recreation Park since its inception in 1946.
2. College of the Sequoias was established in 1926 and offers a variety of transfer, vocational and community-based classes, including the fire and police academies for Tulare and Kings counties.
3. Plaza Park includes a raceway, playgrounds, a fishing pond, softball fields, tennis courts, pickleball and more.
4. BarrelHouse Brewery features two stages, a spacious patio, vintage pinball machines and 26 taps.