15 Best Things to Do in Chico (CA)

With approximately 90,000 residents, Chico is the most populous city in Butte County in northern central California.

The city is relatively equidistant from the Pacific Coast to the west, Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, and the state capital of Sacramento to the south.

Chico’s proximity to many of the state’s largest national forests, as well as state and national parks, makes it a popular destination for outdoor recreation enthusiasts such as hikers, campers, mountain bikers and anglers.

The city has many historical attractions and museums, as well as plenty of dining and lodging options to suit every budget.

1. Chico Aviation Museum

Chico Aviation Museum

If it ever flew through the atmosphere or space, you’ll have a chance to learn about it at the Chico Air Museum.

Located on Ryan Avenue, the Chico Aviation Museum is dedicated to preserving the region’s rich aviation history. Over the years, its collection has grown to include a range of aviation and aviation equipment and memorabilia that are appealing and educational to visitors of all ages.

Of course, refurbished planes tend to steal the show. They were housed in an authentic WWII hangar at the city’s municipal airport.

The museum is only open a few days a week, so check their schedules before special trips.

2. Wutong Pond

Sycamore Pond

Due to its northern location, Chico’s weather can be cool or downright cold most of the year. But during the warm summer months, there are usually a few days when you can take a dip in the cool swimming pool.

Sycamore Pool is located in Bidwell Park and was created by building a concrete dam on a section of Big Chico Creek.

The resulting natural swimming area has active water all year round. Lifeguards are on duty in summer, making it ideal for families with children.

There is also an annual “Polar Bear” swim on New Year’s Day, which is suitable for people with strong physique.

3. Northern California Museum of Art

art gallery

Although they share many of the same influences, there are some differences between the art created by Northern and Southern California artists.

The Northern California Museum of Art houses the work of dozens of top Northern California artists; they are displayed in a number of different collections.

These works include paintings, drawings, sculptures and photography, most of which have distinct regional themes.

Staff also host many special events throughout the year, including guest speakers, art workshops and festivals.

Located on Chico’s Esplanade, the museum is usually only open four days a week.

4. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Tour

Sierra Nevada Beer

Since its founding in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has become one of the most popular breweries in the country.

While it started small, it is now among the top 10 selling brewers in the U.S., and it all started with Chico.

Sierra Nevada’s beers are known for their bold flavors and top-notch ingredients, available in nearly every color and flavor. There’s no better way to see how they’re made and tasted than on a guided brewery tour.

There are many tour options of varying lengths to choose from, and tastings may include beers that have not yet been released to the public.

5. Chico Certified Farmers Market

Chico Certified Farmers Market

Chico Certified Farmers’ Market on East 2nd Street is a local market offering a variety of locally and regionally grown organic fruits and vegetables, as well as handcrafted products from artists and entrepreneurs living in the area.

While the produce is often appealing, visitors can also use other items such as crafts, handmade jewelry, health and body products, and prepared foods like olive oil, artisan baked goods, and honey.

The market is open two days a week and year round. Nearby Paradise and Oroville also have two affiliated seasonal markets held on separate days.

6. Bidwell Park

Bidwell Park

At over 3,500 acres, Bidwell Park is one of the largest municipal parks in the area. It offers visitors a variety of outdoor recreation options.

Amenities at the park include a nature center, lakes, several impressive geological formations, abundant tree areas and a popular municipal golf course popular with cost-conscious golfers.

On warm spring and summer weekends, the park can draw large crowds. Consider stopping in the morning of the week if you wish to visit while the crowd is working or still sleeping.

7. Chico Theater Company


Located on East Eaton Road in Chico, the Chico Theatre Company offers live performance fans an intimate venue to enjoy a variety of locally produced productions throughout the year.

The theatre officially opened nearly two decades ago with the aim of nurturing local talent. Its production includes a variety of performances, many of which are made for school-aged visitors.

Their schedule also includes performances by many adult theater lovers. Tickets for the most popular shows sell out quickly, so it’s wise to book your seats in advance if you know when you’ll be in the area.

8. National Yoyo Museum

National Yoyo Museum

While they’re definitely not as popular with little ones as they’ve been in decades past, yoyos hold a special place in the hearts of retro toy lovers.

The National Yo-Yo Museum is located on Broadway in downtown Chico. According to locals, it has one of the most impressive collections of historical toys in the area.

Guests will learn about the history of this iconic toy, see dazzling examples of all shapes and sizes, and gaze at a 200-plus-pound giant specimen, one of the largest in the world.

The museum hosts an annual yo-yo competition and other fun events throughout the year and is open to the public almost every day.

9. Brave Coffee


Brave Coffee offers high-quality coffee, a comfortable and quiet atmosphere, and friendly staff, making it the ideal destination for energized, on-the-go travelers.

Former visitors who have tried numerous regional rivals claim Brave’s coffee puts others to shame.

Their menu includes simple drip coffee as well as hot and cold specialties such as lattes, cappuccinos and smoothies.

There’s also a huge selection of non-coffee drinks and fresh baked goods, as well as ample seating, easy parking and fast Wi-Fi for those looking to settle down with a laptop to get a few hours of work done in a pleasant environment people.

10. Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park

Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park

At just over 300 acres, Chico’s Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park isn’t the largest park in the area, but it’s small enough to make up for the lack of amenities.

The park includes protected riparian habitat along the Sacramento and Grand Chico rivers. It is home to a variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish.

There are several day-use areas within the park boundaries. For those interested in boating and fishing, there is a boat ramp.

Featuring a network of multipurpose trails, the park is popular with bird watchers, hikers, cyclists, and those looking to spend some quality time outdoors among the crowds.

11. Honey Run Covered Bridge

Honey Run Covered Bridge

The Honey Run Covered Bridge on Honey Run Road in Chico is a well-preserved example of historic engineering. On the way to nearby paradise, it crossed Butte Creek just beyond the city boundaries.

Although it has undergone some renovations over the years, the bridge’s impressive wooden structure remains largely intact. Its maintenance is managed by a local association dedicated to preserving the unique history for decades to come.

Surrounded by an idyllic park, the bridge is popular with picnickers, photographers and artists looking for inspiration for their next work.

Most guests leave a few bucks at the park’s donation site to help pay for maintenance.

12. Gateway Science Centre

california state university chico

Located on the campus of California State University, Chico, the Gateway Science Museum is a child-centered learning attraction featuring interactive exhibits on topics including technology, the natural world, and the wonders of space.

When the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities, the museum is a great place to get away from the natural environment. While it’s designed for kids, it often ends up being an appealing and educational attraction for older kids and adults.

While the museum is open year-round, it’s not open every day, so check online or give them a call before you go.

13. Silver Dollar Track

race track

Silver Dollar Speedway on Fair Street in Chico has been one of the area’s premier speedways since its inception in the early ’60s.

With seating for over 6,000 spectators in the grandstands at the track, it’s an extraordinarily loud and fun event for those who love the roar of engines and the smell of exhaust.

The quarter-mile track is highly sloping and has clay surfaces that make traction a problem. Cars are more likely to coast around corners than on traditional asphalt tracks.

Race season typically runs from early spring to late summer, with the biggest events taking place over Memorial Day weekend.

14. Godot Burritos

corn flake

Gordo Burrito is often described as a small hole, but that’s where most of its appeal lies.

Serving authentic Mexican cuisine from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Gordo Burrito is a favorite dining destination for hungry travelers who like big flavors, generous portions, and an all-around understated ambience.

Its menu includes traditional favorites such as tacos, nachos, burritos, and burritos. They come with a range of fresh sauces and sides like salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

Conveniently located just off the freeway on East 8th Street, the restaurant is a great option for those looking for a quick bite before embarking on other adventures.

15. Butte Creek Ecological Reserve

Xiaoxi Ecological Reserve

Located on the Honey Run Road in Chico, the Butte Creek Ecological Reserve is a protected natural area along Butte Creek and adjacent canyons, featuring a variety of environments and rich species of flora and fauna.

The reserve is especially popular with bird watchers who come to spot falcons, wading birds, woodpeckers, waterfowl and hummingbirds.

During spring and summer, the banks of the creek are often inundated with expanses of vibrant, colorful wildflowers. The reserve offers several beaches and is a great place to while away summer afternoons swimming, sunbathing and picnicking.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Chico, CA
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