Chico College Connection

Experience Chico State Like a Student

One of the country’s last true col­lege towns, Chico has a unique­ly inter­twined stu­dent life dynam­ic. Down­town Chico is joined insep­a­ra­bly with Cal­i­for­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty, Chico, not just geo­graph­i­cal­ly, but in spirit.

Many liv­ing in Butte Coun­ty are Chico State alums, like myself. I earned my bachelor’s degree in jour­nal­ism in 2009, and like many oth­ers do, I stayed in love with the area and con­tin­ued to pur­sue my pro­fes­sion­al career here. But, it should be said: The Chico Expe­ri­ence,” while innate­ly tied to the col­lege, isn’t exclu­sive to students.

Just because you didn’t attend the Uni­ver­si­ty doesn’t mean you can’t still expe­ri­ence Chico State — and for the record, if you’re vis­it­ing Butte Coun­ty, a tour of the cam­pus is a must.

Whether you’re reliv­ing your Wild­cat past, or if you nev­er got to expe­ri­ence it, the Chico Expe­ri­ence is a spe­cial one. Here’s how you can take it in for your­self — minus the home­work and tuition.

Tour the Campus

Chico State is wor­thy of a walk-through any time of year, but the spring and fall in par­tic­u­lar will wow you. A rec­og­nized arbore­tum and cozy home to squir­rels, jays and even owls, Chico State also fea­tures abun­dant flow­ers and ver­dant foliage. You can cross Big Chico Creek, the water­way that runs through cam­pus, over nine his­toric bridges. If you tour in the fall, the cam­pus-cen­tral rose gar­den will be ready for prime view­ing. You can explore build­ings both his­toric and mod­ern (Kendall Hall, the pho­to-famous admin­is­tra­tive build­ing, or the new Arts and Human­i­ties Build­ing, the newest com­plet­ed hall on cam­pus). You can do this all in about 30 min­utes, and when you’re done, down­town is all yours. 

Let’s start at the most icon­ic of Chico State eateries.

Get Some Tasty and Icon­ic Eats

There is no eatery more close­ly attached to Chico State than the Madi­son Bear Gar­den—if you want to eat like a Wild­cat, a Bear Burg­er is a must. Quite tasty and stu­dent-priced, with the most acces­si­ble off-cam­pus loca­tion imag­in­able (it’s right behind the afore­men­tioned arts build­ing), The Bear” has been flip­ping burg­ers for Wild­cats since 1977. And for those who won’t set­tle for less than top billing and a bit more of a grown-up set­ting, I rec­om­mend Burg­ers & Brew, over at 3rd and Broadway. 

Celestino’s, mean­while, is just as close if New York-style piz­za is your pref­er­ence. I met up with a friend every Thurs­day at Celestino’s for two slices, usu­al­ly a cheese and a Tom Jones, Cel’s all-meat option. If New York-style isn’t your thing, anoth­er down­town favorite, Woodstock’s, is just a few blocks down on 2nd Street and also quite tasty.

The Fresh­man 15 is not a myth.

Explore Bid­well Park

Sim­ply put, you’ve got to make your way to Bid­well Park. One Mile Recre­ation Area, which is direct­ly acces­si­ble from Down­town Chico, is in Low­er Bid­well Park and a great place for warm-weath­er play, whether it’s a run or bike ride through the park (Chico is famous­ly friend­ly to ath­letes of all lev­els in both sports). In the sum­mer, a dip in Sycamore Pool is refresh­ing bliss. And any time of year is good for a trip to Upper Bid­well Park, no mat­ter if you’re cycling, horse­back rid­ing, sight­see­ing, or run­ning (Chico State’s nation­al­ly renowned cross coun­try teams have the dis­tinct advan­tage of get­ting to train on these very trails!).

Cool Down at a Swim­ming Hole or at the River

Salmon Hole. Bear Hole. The Sacra­men­to River.

For the Chico State expe­ri­ence, these locales are syn­ony­mous with warm weath­er. With a short dri­ve and hike, you can take a dip in either an urban swim­ming hole (I should cau­tion, though — they stay pret­ty con­sis­tent­ly cold, and unlike Sycamore Pool, there’s nev­er a life­guard). And, as always, you have the option of float­ing down the Sacra­men­to Riv­er from the Irvine Finch launch ramp in near­by Hamil­ton City, down to Scotty’s Land­ing, where you real­ly should have a bite to eat.

Root for the Cats

From fall through the spring, Chico State puts com­peti­tors on the field in every sport. In 2018, the Wild­cats had all 13 inter­col­le­giate teams make the play­offs for the first time ever, so what­ev­er sport you’re inter­est­ed in, you can’t go wrong. The spring semes­ter is the liveli­est time to take in a game, as the bas­ket­ball teams are usu­al­ly mak­ing a play­off push and base­ball and soft­ball are in full swing. Chico State hosts a high­ly enter­tain­ing twi­light track invi­ta­tion­al; as a senior, I was there to watch Scott Bauhs break the 4‑minute mile mark and it was as crazy of a sports scene as I’ve wit­nessed on campus.

Catch a Show

I always regret­ted not going to more shows as a stu­dent, whether it was plays or con­certs at Lax­son, stand-up come­di­ans vis­it­ing the BMU Audi­to­ri­um, or even a non-main­stream flick at the Pageant The­atre. For­tu­nate­ly, hav­ing remained in Chico since grad­u­a­tion, I’ve been able to par­take in each of these much more fre­quent­ly, and you should, too.

I’m a Chico State staffer now, and feel so for­tu­nate to still have access to the Chico State expe­ri­ence. The thing is, though, that any­body here can do it! In 2018, I split my sides watch­ing the musi­cal Avenue Q” at Lax­son Audi­to­ri­um, and I took a date to see There Will be Blood” at the Pageant back in 2007 (we sat in the front row, where they famous­ly have couch seat­ing). If you want to class things up a bit, Chico State hosts the excel­lent North State Symphony , and attend­ing a recital, while not the most icon­ic of col­lege expe­ri­ences, is still a cool scene if you’re a music buff.

Ask Around & Get Recommendations 

The great thing about the Chico Expe­ri­ence is that while there are some icon­ic check­box­es you can tick off to see it for your­self, there is a lot of diver­si­ty with­in that expe­ri­ence, too. 

There are a ton of oth­er things to do and places to go, and with the warm, friend­ly nature of the peo­ple you’ll find down­town, there is no short­age of will­ing tour guides to set you on a new path.