Play & Explore: Chico, CA

Expertise Provided By: Steve Metzger

Best Attractions

Bidwell Park

3,600-acre Bidwell Park flanks Big Chico Creek and runs several miles up into the foothills. Divided into Lower Park (picnic sites, playground equipment, swimming pool) and Upper Park (golf course, primitive dirt road, running and mountain-bike trails, isolated swimming holes), this is Chico’s crown jewel.

California State University Chico

The most “Ivy-League-looking” of the California State University’s 22 colleges, this beautiful campus dates from 1888, when it was called Chico Normal School and trained teachers. Located on Big Chico Creek and featuring several walking bridges.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

No visit to Chico is complete without a stop at the brewery-restaurant-concert hall that virtually launched the nation’s craft-beer phenomenon. Founded in 1980 by Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, physics and chemistry students who started off making beer in their garage, the green-centric company is nearly 100% self-sustaining.

Best Shopping


Downtown Chico

Mall and chain-free downtown showcases topnotch clothing stores (Truckers, For Elyse and 5th Street Clothing), toys and games (Bird in Hand), art (Art Etc., Vagabond Rose,  Chico Paper), cooking (Zucchini and Vine),  novelties (Tom Foolery), locally made jewelry, clothing, olive oils, furniture (Made in Chico).

The Galley Kitchen Center

Huge selection of quality kitchen and cooking products, from linens and cutlery to cookbooks and gadgets. They also have a small deli counter with gourmet cheeses imported from around the world.

Orient and Flume

Internationally acclaimed decorative collector art glass, including paperweights, vases, and stylized animals. Orient and Flume works are in permanent collections at the New York Metropolitan Museum, the Chicago Art Museum, the Smithsonian, and many others around the world. Tours available.

Satava Art Glass

Yep, another quality art-glass studio here in little ol’ Chico. Satava, best known for their stunning jellyfish vases, has been producing collectable vases and paperweights since 1977, mostly with a focus on nature and native Americana.

Best Entertainment Venues


Big Room, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

With seating for 350—at tables on a tiered incline—the Sierra Nevada Big Room is one of the best places to hear live music on the West Coast.  Big Room shows typically feature blues/roots/Americana acts—from artists such as Rodney Crowell, Marty Stewart,  Wailing Jennys, and Sarah Jarosz.

Blue Room Theater

Founded in the 1980s by a couple of high-school-age brothers, who converted an attic above a downtown hardware store into a 120-seat theater. Offers a wide range of quality drama, including gritty, cutting-edge contemporary plays, traditional pieces,  late-night “adult” shows, and productions for the whole family.

Duffy’s Tavern

Classic downtown watering hole with best margaritas and Bloody Marys in town—not to mention the best jukebox. Eccentric regulars range from attorneys and former mayors to hard hats, bikers, and transvestites. You can talk politics and horse racing, Hank Williams and James Joyce.

Laxson Auditorium

Located on the campus of Chico State, the 1,300-seat Laxson Auditorium attracts a wide range of major acts, from Willie Nelson to Carol Burnett to Jackson Brown to NPR’s Terri Gross to the Blind Boys of Alabama.

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