If you're thinking about visiting the Central Valley, the city of Clovis is a great place to start. Located in the heart of California, it is the only area in America that is 1 ½ hours away from three national parks – Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
If you love the beach, a 3 hour day trip takes you to Morro Bay and Pismo while an hour jaunt east will land you in our Land of Lakes with great fishing and water sports. In the winter, the mountains offer top notch skiing.
But if you want to stay around town, there's plenty to keep you busy.
The first full weekend in April finds one of the West Coast's favorite events in the Table Mountain Casino BIG Hat Days. Twelve blocks of Old Town are filled with 140,000 visitors shopping at more than 350 craft booths manned by vendors from across the country. Appetites are sated by a wide variety of food and beverages as live bands entertain the crowds. Little ones enjoy the family carnival and pony rides in the kids' area. It's a great event for the entire family.
Fall in the Central Valley means back-to-school, autumn leaves, football and the Table Mountain Casino ClovisFest and Hot Air Balloon Fun Fly. Held in late September, this two-day festival starts out each morning with more than 12 hot air balloons taking off to float across the valley sky. Then stroll over to Old Town for free family fun, including 250 arts and craft booths, great live entertainment and a variety of food.
Clovis takes great pride in its annual rodeo, held for more than 90 years. Sanctioned by the Pro Rodeo Circuit, it is known nationwide. On Thursday, you'll find the Xtreme Bull Riding and Tie Down Championships that are featured on ESPN. The next days are filled with more rodeo competition in the arena, as well as the Rodeo Parade, concerts and dance.
From May until October, on Friday nights, local growers descend on Old Town Clovis to sell their produce at the Clovis Farmers' Market. Shoppers can buy fresh products from one of the world's largest agricultural areas. In August, the market features the North American Pole Vault Championships right in the middle of the street.
Kids know that December means a visit from old Saint Nick and the Children's Electric Christmas Parade. A nighttime event, every float and participant is covered with lights – red, green, big and little. Finishing the mile-long procession is the great one himself, Santa Claus, who delights the viewers with his white beard (it's real) and big waves.
Every October, the 165-acre Fresno Fairgrounds comes to life with The Big Fresno Fair. This 12-day fair is the largest annual event in the Central Valley and a longstanding tradition for many families. From competitive exhibits and food to carnival rides, concerts and live horse racing, there's something for everyone. Visit: www.FresnoFair.com for more information.
Clovis is the new home for the California Interscholastic Federation, CIF, State Track Championships. It is held at the Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School, considered the top high school venue in the state. This year the athletes from throughout California created 11 in the top 4 national marks, 7 in the top 2 and 3 of the number marks in the nation.
Many other smaller events entertain Clovis families throughout the year. One Enchanted Evening, Wine Walks, the Antiques and Collectible Fairs and Pole Vault Championships all happen in Old Town. The Saturday before Easter is the annual Easter Egg Hunt at Bicentennial Park; the Lawn Chair Theater is held in the summer; and you can enjoy the Clovis Community Picnic in September.
On weekends, you'll see school and city play fields packed with athletes of all ages playing every sport imaginable. Of course, Friday nights in the fall find sold-out high school football games complete with fireworks, cheerleaders and huge bands.
The Clovis area is a recreation paradise. It's located an hour and a half from three national parks, three hours from the coast and not far from summer boating and winter skiing. But you don't have to leave the Valley to have some fun.
Located at the Clovis Veterans' Memorial Building, this moving memorial honors the brave men and women who responded to the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. The contents of the museum include an American flag that flew over Ground Zero, debris from the site and hundreds of photos and memorabilia. All items were donated by New York Fire, Police and Port Authority Officers.
In 1924, Thomas Griffin pulled off an historic bank heist in Clovis' first bank. Today, kids of all ages can see a reenactment of that crime in the original vault located in what is now the Clovis Big Dry Creek Museum. Built in 1912, the building housed the bank until it sat empty after the Great Depression in 1929. For a time, it served as the courthouse before becoming the museum. Memorabilia is located throughout the museum for visitors wishing to take a trip back in time.
Kids of all ages enjoy the benefits of exercise at the Clovis Area Recreation Center on Clovis Avenue. Classes and workshops are available for infants to seniors. Budding Babe Ruths can hone their skills at the Clovis Batting Range.
The Clovis Botanical Garden is a one-acre water-wise demonstration garden composed of beautiful plants and landscapes appropriate for the hot summers and cool winters of the Central Valley. The garden's mission is to promote water conservation in the Central Valley landscape through excellent gardens, exhibits and programs that educate and inspire the public. Visiting hours are Wednesday through Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The garden is closed Monday, and Tuesday and select holidays.
The Clovis Senior Center serves the social, emotional and physical needs of older adults. Located near city hall, the center features a multi-purpose room, classroom/exercise room and kitchen. In addition to the many classes, activities and programs, the center offers a gathering place for coffee, cards and conversation. The Clovis Chamber appreciates the many volunteer hours provided by these seniors who are truly young at heart.
Spanning five blocks, the Fresno Convention & Entertainment Center has five separate facilities geared toward fulfilling a variety of needs. From conventions and exhibitions to top-name entertainers and theatrical events, the center is a popular venue for young and old alike.
The trail is a foothill drive that can be explored throughout the year. It is a favorite haunt for photographers, especially from late February through May, as the flowers are in their fullest bloom. Maps of the trail are available at the Chamber office in Old Town Clovis.
Old Town Clovis is full of turn-of-the-century architecture, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of olden days. Pollasky Avenue is lined with antique shops, dining establishments and brick sidewalks. Twice a year, Old Town is the site of the largest festivals in Central California – BIG Hat Days in April and ClovisFest in September, as well as many smaller events.
Opened in 2005, this has become one of the main attractions for youth and the leading extreme sport, skateboarding. This 28,000-square-foot park features seven- to eight-foot deep bowls, ramps and rails.
Poignant statues, located at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building, pay tribute to military personnel both past and present. Titled "On Behalf of a Grateful Nation," the display includes five figures, representing the five branches of the military in each of the five wars from World War I to the Persian Gulf War. From the marine kneeling at the helmet of his fallen brother to the World War I bugler, the exhibit is a moving reminder of the true sacrifices and devotion made by our men and women in the service.
The San Joaquin River Parkway is a combination of several hiking and outdoor opportunities, including the five-mile Lewis Eaton Trail leading east from Woodward Park in Fresno; Raptor Point with bluff-top vistas of the Sierra; and river and nature trails at both Lost Lake Park and Jensen River Ranch.
The largest privately funded arena in the U.S., the 450,000-square-foot SaveMart Center has elevated the Central Valley to a top-rated entertainment venue. Everything from big-name singers to rodeo events thrills the sold-out crowds. It is also home to the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Located less than one hour east of Clovis, the parks extend from the San Joaquin Valley foothills to the crest of the Sierra Nevada. Their elevation goes from 1,200 feet in the foothills to 14,491 feet at the summit of Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. They are home to two of the most famous giant sequoia trees: the General Grant, designated the Nation's Christmas Tree in 1926, and the General Sherman, the largest living tree in the world.
On Jensen and Clovis avenues you'll find one of the Valley's most cherished landmarks. Simonian Farms was established four generations ago in 1901. Its eclectic collection of agricultural antiques will take you back to the turn of the century. These surround one of the largest selections of fresh fruits and nuts in the valley.
This 70-mile-long scenic byway begins in Clovis, proceeds along State Highway 168 from Old Town Clovis and continues up Forest Route 80 to Kaiser Meadows. Travelers view foothills, wildflowers, grazing cattle, wood cutting and logging. They also enjoy fishing, horseback riding, backpacking, hunting and off-highway vehicle driving along the way. The route climbs 9,000 feet and offers views of Kaiser, Ansel Adams and John Muir Wilderness Areas.
Considered the "Crown Jewel of the National Parks," this wonderland is a mere hour and a half drive from Clovis. The park encompasses 1,170 square miles – the size of Rhode Island. Half Dome, El Capitan and Glacier Point are well-known peaks, while waterfalls such as Bridalveil, Vernal and Yosemite – the tallest in North America – provide breathtaking scenery.