We’ve all been struck by that momentary flash of inspiration to get out and get away, whether it’s to skip town for the weekend or just to get out of the house for a night. The beauty of Butte County is that it offers many solutions to satisfy both urges, with minimal planning necessary.
For locals, a nostalgic itch might be the motivation; for others, off-the-radar surprises can still be found around the area. Here are nine last-minute ways to get away in Butte County.
Museum of Northern California Art (monca)
A recently revamped facility on Chico’s botanically beautiful Esplanade, the Museum of Northern California Art (monca) is a fantastic place to absorb some culture and leave a little more knowledgeable than you entered. An ideal part of a summer day off (getting indoors during Chico summers is always a good idea), visitors can enter for just $5 (for students and children, it’s free) and enjoy a local celebration of regional artists.
A mild hike locally famous for its wildflower bloom in the spring, Table Mountain is one of the county’s best easygoing outdoor activities, quickly accessible from all over the area. Whether you’re jamming over to the trail after work, or trying to fill up a weekend day with some sun, this super-popular natural reserve in Oroville is a worthy trip. Bring good shoes and take lots of photos.
Chicoans looking to socialize, find live music, or grab a tasty bite are spoiled with the option of being within minutes of downtown’s offerings, and there are many. During the spring and summer months, downtown transforms into a social bazaar for the Thursday Night Market, complete with produce, flowers, and food vendors, assorted food trucks, and the occasional concert-like setting at City Plaza. You can find more mellow scenes here, too (an ice cream cone at Shubert’s or Sweet Chico Confections comes to mind), and downtown is the best place in town for some retail therapy—quality locally owned shops abound.
History is one of the primary draws to Oroville’s downtown—it was a major gold rush town, given its prominent mining location on the Feather River—but it also has undergone a recent revitalization to support local business while still honoring the past.
The “Riverfront District” is an eight-block, walkable business neighborhood (with free parking!) that boasts a total of 50 shops peddling wares ranging from boutique gifts to outdoor recreational gear and, of course, plenty of food and drink in between. While some Chicoans may be surprised to see that a trip down 99 is worth the short drive for a night out, residents of Oroville and its surrounding communities are already enjoying the newly renovated and upgraded options right in their own hometown.
Lower Bidwell Park
A casual bike ride, a shaded run, a picnic with friends, a dip in Sycamore Pool—it’s an embarrassment of riches on offer at Lower Bidwell Park, especially the area known as “One Mile,” and it’s all within walking distance of downtown. Like many areas in the county, Lower Park offers versatility, depending on the mood that strikes you. You could just as easily access a slackline competition in the park as you could hang up a hammock in the same spot when you’re done.
Upper Bidwell Park
Almost everything you can do in Lower Park, you can do in Upper Park— on a (way) bigger scale. A handful of popular hiking and bike trails snake over the expanse, and all have varying degrees of difficulty. Horseshoe Lake is a small bass and catfish hole that doubles as a fine bird-(and people) watching spot. The hottest days of summer make us appreciate the cold-water swimming holes just a short hike away, and when the skies clear, stargazers will appreciate the wide open spaces after sunset. Upper Park is simply a gem.
The thing about most winery tours: They’re usually out of the way, to a prohibitive degree that makes a “quick trip” less of a reality. That’s not the case with several in Butte County, including Almendra in Durham. Quality wines, a fantastic and easily accessible tasting room, and a new happy hour with a revamped menu make for a delightful experience—and one that won’t pull you far from city limits to partake.
Gateway Science Museum
In general, Chico State’s campus is a great mini-getaway for those in the area who want to kill some time with a bit of adventure mixed in. But you might be surprised to find that it also offers a place to take a bored kid (or a bored kid at heart). Gateway rotates its main exhibits fairly regularly, and features a fun and learning-focused blend of indoor and outdoor activities. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy the garden of all-native vegetation, an exhibit exploring local water habitats, or perhaps a comprehensive look at Northern California’s wolf population.
The summer’s upcoming exhibit will revisit the moon landing, which serves as a strong final reminder by contrast: We sometimes have to go to great lengths to find an adventure.
But in Butte County, destinations abound—whether you’re just now discovering them or you’ve known where to look all along.