For the kids

Fun for the little ones

Hooker Oak Playground

Hooker Oak Playground

Sure, this is a college town. But it’s also a great place for children. Look around and you’ll find many terrific kid-friendly attractions, especially the city parks. With lots of green space and play equipment, Chico is the perfect destination for parents and tykes alike.

If you’ve just rolled into town for a visit and you’re going car-crazy—or worse—head directly to Caper Acres in the One-Mile Recreation Area. This playground is strictly for kids. In fact, the sign on the entrance gate says “no adult may enter unless accompanied by a child.” There are water fountains shaped like animals, a castle, sandboxes, playground equipment and more. Spaces for children’s parties can also be reserved.

After a visit to Caper Acres, take a walk through nature. There’s a nice a paved bicycle path just feet away and plenty of little trails that lead to the nearby creek. It’s a good way to enjoy the huge oak and sycamore trees, and wildlife.

Other places to explore in the park include the cork forest just behind Parkview School near Cedar Grove. Cork trees are pretty strange by themselves—a whole forest of them is really weird. Nearby is John Bidwell’s experimental tree-growing area, where the general planted trees from around the world. There is a self-guided nature trail to help you identify the trees.

From there it is a short walk to the Chico Creek Nature Center (, where kids can experience a safe and organized introduction to the natural world of Bidwell Park. The center’s Living Animal Museum includes tortoises, birds, snakes, frogs and ferrets. These attractions are all located in Lower Bidwell Park. Chico also has plenty of playgrounds, fun centers and other diversions. Here are just a few of your options:

There are two great playgrounds in Bidwell Park—Caper Acres and one at the Hooker Oak Recreation Area. A small one called Children’s Playground is conveniently located downtown, just north of the Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church at First Street and Broadway. Chico’s largest outdoor sports park, the Community Park, off East 20th Street just west of Highway 99, has a large playground in addition to its volleyball and tennis courts, and expansive playing fields. The Oak Way Playground at the corner of West Eighth Avenue and Highway 32 offers a variety of kid-friendly facilities, including a playground, sports fields and basketball courts. One of the best spots for kids is located at Wildwood Park, on Wildwood Avenue just off Manzanita Avenue at the entrance to Upper Bidwell Park. It has state-of-the-art equipment that is second to none. It’s definitely worth a visit. On 16th Street and Broadway is the small but fun Rotary Park.

Chuck E. Cheese
966 East Ave., 894-0400.
We can’t leave Chuck the “Big Cheese” off of this list. Our own kids won’t let us. You have your mechanical band made up of a gorilla, a chicken, a mouse and a pizza maker. There are carnival-type games, video games and rides for the real little kids, as well as an indoor soft-play facility. It’s open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; and Sunday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m.

Farm Sanctuary
Just west on Highway 32 from Chico, in Orland, 865-4617,
The farm is where animals such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats and turkeys are protected from harm—including becoming dinner. Children can meet the animals on weekends from April through November. For more information or directions, give ’em a call.

2465 Carmichael Drive, 343-1601,,
Think skating rink plus miniature golf plus batting cages. What more could a kid want? Cal Skate is Chico’s only roller-skating rink, and it’s a good one—large, clean and well-run. It’s a place where you can drop off the kids for a couple of hours and know they’re going to have fun and be safe. The miniature golf course, called Putters, is fun for kids and grownups. There are activities every day, as well as an Ice Cream Shoppe.

Humboldt Neighborhood Park

Humboldt Neighborhood Park
For skateboarding and inline skating, this park is located between Orient and Flume streets along Humboldt Avenue. The 10,000-square-foot skate track is equipped with a pyramid, a rail, a box, two 3-foot-wide steps, curbing and steel coping to supply skaters with enough variation to mix up their patterns. The park is open 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. throughout the summer months; in fall the park closes at sunset.

In Motion Fitness
1293 E. First Ave., 343-5678.
The Kids In Motion wing at Chico’s In Motion Fitness includes an infant room, a quiet reading/play area with large aquariums, a teen room with E-rated video games, kid-safe Internet access, snack and crafts areas, and more. Free tours of the facility are offered year-round.

Orchard Lanes
2397 Esplanade, 895-3257.
More than a bowling alley, this entertainment center has an arcade, snack bar, pro shop and plenty of family fun.