A Slice of Chico life
No matter where you live or where you are from, there is something in downtown Chico to make you feel at home. And don’t be surprised if complete strangers smile, nod or say hello; downtown retains the small-town feeling that used to characterize the rest of Chico not so long ago. The diverse mix of trendy boutiques, hip cafes, crowded bars and mouth-watering restaurants that comprise downtown reflects the variety of people who frequent them. Take a self-guided walking tour to discover hidden gems. Look around and enjoy the eclectic range of historic architecture that mirrors Chico’s growth over time.
These facades provide the backdrop to multiple street fairs, holiday festivities and community events. Farmers’ markets, where local vendors peddle their fresh produce and other wares, are a must. Enjoy an early-morning stroll through the stalls year-round at Saturday’s market, or—for those not-so-early risers—spend an evening at the downtown Thursday Night Market, which includes food and entertainment and runs from April through late October.
Downtown’s colorful array of awnings provides shade on those famously hot Chico summer days and shelter from wet, rainy winter days, making downtown hospitable any time of year. Whether you take advantage of the air-conditioning or the heating, the best free entertainment in Chico just may be chilling downtown, watching the people of Chico pass by.
By making the most of downtown’s plentiful resources, you’ll have an authentic Chico experience. Check out the unique locally owned shops during the day. Stick around for dinner on any budget, catch a flick at Chico’s independent movie theater or see a live performance, and grab an ice cream or frozen yogurt for dessert. If you’re over 21, hit the dance floor at a downtown club, or relax with the local brew at a lounge.
And don’t mind the crazy grid of one- and two-way streets that make up the heart of downtown Chico. They just take some getting used to—and they help locals pick out the newcomers.
Chico’s most famous home is the three-story, pink-and-brown mansion its founder, Gen. John Bidwell, built and lived in with his wife Annie. Now a lovingly restored state park, the mansion was once used for Chico State student housing—a fact that amuses locals. It was also the first home in Northern California to have indoor plumbing. The mansion is located at 525 The Esplanade, across the creek from Children’s Playground, and offers hourly tours Wed..-Fri., noon-4 p.m., and weekends, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tours cost $2 for those 16 and older; everyone else is free. The Visitor Center stays open till 5 p.m. for free, self-guided tours of their local history display. For more information, call 895-6144.
This one-block park in the heart of downtown (it’s between Fourth and Fifth and Main and Broadway) is currently undergoing a renovation that will bring a concert stage, water feature and other attractions. The park has been known as a great place to people-watch or just rest your feet. The Chico Municipal Center and City Council chambers are just across Main Street; the historic downtown post office is just across Fifth; and the beautifully restored Silberstein Building is across Broadway.
Housed in the former 1904 Carnegie Library at Second and Salem streets, the museum has three parts: a historical museum, which includes a permanent Chico collection; a re-creation of a Taoist temple altar much like one formerly found in Chico; and a rotating exhibit. Entry is free, but donations are appreciated. Though Jan. 7, the feature exhibit focuses on “Collections.” Open Wed.-Sun. noon-4 p.m. 891-4336. www.chicomuseum.org.
National Yo-Yo Museum
The world-class National Yo-Yo Museum is housed in the Bird In Hand store at 320 Broadway and also includes displays of vintage toys. Among the exhibits is “Big Yo,” the largest yo-yo in the world. Open Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, with no admission charge. www.nationalyoyo.org. 893-0545.
This artist-managed, nonprofit gallery is a showcase for experimental, progressive and “not necessarily commercial” art. 738 West Fifth St. Hours: Tues.-Sat. 12:30-5 p.m. 343-1973. www.1078gallery.org.
Vagabond Rose Gallery
Located downtown on Main Street between Second and Third streets, this business features exhibits from local artists that rotate on a monthly basis. Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 343-1110.
Chico Paper Company
In the heart of downtown at 345 Broadway, this custom framing and retail shop features works by local artists, with new exhibits appearing regularly. Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 891-0900.
Located slightly outside downtown, on Third Avenue off The Esplanade a few blocks north of Bidwell Mansion, this new gallery showcases the best in Northstate art. 173 E. Third Ave. Open Tues.-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 345-7500.
This gleaming white Victorian at the corner of West Fifth and Salem streets seems more than a little out of place surrounded by more contemporary brick buildings. But that just adds to the intrigue of Chico’s best-maintained example of late 19th century architecture. Tours, available Saturday and Sunday 1-4 p.m., with the exception of major holiday weekends, offer a well-preserved glimpse of that distant era. Stop by for Christmas-themed tours the first four weekends in December. All tours cost $2 for adults, $1 for students and are free for children under 10. Call 895-3848 for more information, 342-5362 for special tours and 343-0442 for weddings.
Avenue 9 Gallery
The newest gallery in town, Avenue 9 has already earned a reputation for diverse, interesting shows. Hours: Wed.-Sun. noon-4 p.m. 180 East Ninth Ave. 879-1821.