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As the urban hub of Butte County, you could spend a lifetime exploring Chico and all that it has to offer. But what if all you have is a couple of days or even just a couple of hours?
Start with our list of the Top 20 things to do in Chico, according to TripAdvisor. These are the highest-rated attractions according to locals and visitors, so you know a visit will be a great one! However long you’re here, fill your time with some of these favorites!
#1 Sierra Nevada Brewery Tours & Tastings
The brewery that started a craft brewery revolution in the United States, Sierra Nevada Brewery is a must-visit anytime you’re in the area! Even if you’re not a big beer drinker, a tour of the brewery is a delightfully educational experience—and there are more in-depth tours for fanatics. You can also skip the tour and head straight to the Taproom for lunch, flight tasting, and of course, some goodies from the Gift Shop to-go. Reopening May 26, 2021.
#2 Bidwell Park
Stretching nearly 11 miles in length with over 3,600 acres, Bidwell Park is the crown jewel of the city. Divided into two parts, Lower Bidwell Park offers a flatter, more relaxed experience while Upper Bidwell Park serves up more rugged terrain and epic views, perfect for exploring on foot, bike, or even horse! With wildflowers in the spring, natural swimming holes in the summer, gorgeous foliage in the fall, and mild temperatures in the winter, it’s a perfect year-round destination.
#3 Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
As the former home to Chico’s most famous couple, John and Annie Bidwell, today their three-story, 26-room Victorian mansion is a museum that acts as a memorial to the pair and a peek into the city’s past. Come for a walking tour through the Bidwell Mansion (make sure to make a reservation!), learn about general Chico history in the no-reservations-required visitor center, or simply get some pics in front of the iconic pink mansion.
#4 Chico Certified Farmers’ Market
With the freshest fruits and vegetables, locally made gifts, fresh baked goods, and more, a stop at the Chico Certified Farmers’ Market is always a great start to any Chico adventure! The Saturday market in particular will put you in the middle of the action Downtown, so you can walk to other local shops and restaurants, but the Wednesday market will be just as fun for any mid-week explorations.
#5 The Pageant Theatre
Movie buffs will definitely want to check out the Pageant Theatre, Chico’s only independent movie theater that screens art-house films. Featuring independent, small-run, or niche movies in an intimate setting, you’re sure to leave feeling inspired, knowledgeable, moved - or all at once!
#6 Gateway Science Museum
The hands-on, interactive Gateway Science Museum encourages youth interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts - but all ages will have fun here! Explore permanent and rotating exhibits as well as gardens outside that represent four distinct eco-regions of Northern California and get ready to leave knowing more than when you arrived.
#7 Eighth & Main Antiques
If you’re looking to score some deals or snatch up unique finds, you’ll want to make sure to check out Eighth & Main Antiques. With over 3,000 square feet to explore, you’re sure to walk away with great gifts for friends, family, and, of course, yourself!
#8 Chico Air Museum
Located inside a WWII era hangar, the Chico Air Museum is a must for airplane enthusiasts, though anyone who visits will find the sights of the aircraft on display—which span nearly 100 years—impressive. With both indoor and outdoor aircraft on display (even some that the kids can hop into!), educational exhibits, and friendly docents, you’ll find a visit well worth the trip.
#9 Silver Dollar Speedway
The Silver Dollar Speedway is a Friday night staple during the summer. Located at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, the highly banked quarter-mile clay track makes for a fast and fun race for the racers and spectators alike, especially when you’re in the packed and raucous grandstands. Whether you’re there for spring car races, monster truck rallies, or other special events, get ready to cheer on!
#10 Orient & Flume Art Glass
Since 1972, Orient & Flume Art Glass has been producing high-quality hand-blown glass art. While you could go all the way to such famed museums as the Metropolitan, the Smithsonian, or the Corning Glass Museum to see their work, we find it much easier to visit at their studio right in Chico. While no longer produced out of the namesake carriage house that was located between Orient Street and Flume Street, you’ll find the quality and beauty as timeless as ever.
#11 Chico History Museum
History buffs and first-time visitors to Chico should check out the small but mighty Chico History Museum. Housed in the historic Andrew Carnegie Library located in the heart of vibrant downtown Chico, and immediately adjacent to the California State University campus, this museum hosts a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits covering everything from general Chico history, local Native tribes, regional agriculture, and more!
#12 Secret Trail Brewing Co.
Looking to drink off the beaten path? Check out Secret Trail Brewing Co. Featuring artisan, locally brewed craft beers, Secret Trail is a great start to, or stop on, your own personal ale trail. Relax on their patio with a pint or flight tasting and some grub from the food-truck-of-the-day for a chill Chico experience.
#13 DeGarmo Park
A local favorite, DeGarmo Park has it all: a dog park, picnic areas, playground, baseball and soccer fields, and a walking trail. With all the amenities, you’ll find it a popular place most days of the week, especially on the weekends with youth sports tournaments. Whether you’re local needing play space for the kids or need a spot to let the dog off leash during a road trip, there’s something for everyone at DeGarmo.
#14 Butte Creek Ecological Preserve
Currently, the preserve is closed due to damage from the 2018 Camp Fire. Located on 93-acres along the middle section of Butte Creek, the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve includes more than a mile of creek frontage, which allows access to the creek and amazing views of the canyon. The preserve is a critical habitat for Central Valley Spring Run Chinook as well as a great place for bird watching opportunities.
#15 Sycamore Pool
The most accessible of all of Bidwell Park’s swimming holes, Sycamore Pool at the One Mile Recreation Area is a popular summertime destination. The concrete pool filled with the cool flowing waters of Big Chico Creek makes for a uniquely Chico experience, and one that is a perfect solution to the sometimes brutal summer temperatures.
#16 Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park
Chico’s share of the Sacramento River—the largest in the state—shines at the Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park. Visitors can get on the water for river tubing and boating adventures or stay on shore for milder explorations, such as picnicking, hiking, and wildlife viewing.
#17 National Yo-Yo Museum
There is perhaps no more unique-to-Chico location than the National Yo-Yo Museum. Located inside local favorite Bird in Hand in Downtown Chico, this museum is the bona fide mecca of American yo-yo culture. At the museum, you can learn about the sport’s history, take a picture with “Big Yo,” and even enjoy free lessons on Saturdays.
#18 Community Park
With 40-acres to explore, Community Park is South Chico’s premier public recreation facility. With multiple playgrounds, horseshoe pits, various sports courts and fields, and more, you’ll find it bustling with activity on any given day.
#19 1078 Gallery
A small gallery dedicated to artists of cultural and geographic diversity, 1078 Gallery also is a great spot to hear music, attend a lecture, or listen to a play reading.
#20 Museum of Northern California Art
More commonly known as monca, the Museum of Northern California Art is dedicated to showcasing Northern California artists through both permanent and themed rotating exhibitions. With both professional and community work, it’s a small space that showcases big ideas and big works through the Northern California perspective.