Chico is for the little people
Sure, Chico’s a haven for college kids. But what about the tiny tots? No worries. There are so many things for the little ones to do, you’d think the town was designed around them—from the cute trolley-type buses to the downtown curbs that are as convenient for strollers as they are for wheelchairs.The No. 1 perk for the small set is Bidwell Park. Picnic spots, playgrounds and swimming holes abound, with the most accessible being the concrete Sycamore Pool at One-Mile Recreation Area. The creek has been dammed off a bit, and young people spend many sunny summer hours splashing and floating in the water there.
If you’ve just rolled into town for a visit and the kids are going car-crazy, 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 adults may not 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 the visit to Caper Acres, you and your child can enjoy a walk through nature. Starting at One-Mile Recreation Area and heading east is a good way to enjoy the huge oak trees and the wildlife. There’s a nice walking trail next to the creek and a paved bicycle path a bit farther away.
Other intriguing 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 (http://now2000.com/naturecenter/), 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. Older kids will enjoy hiking in Upper Bidwell Park, which encompasses the whole of Big Chico Creek Canyon beginning five miles east of downtown. Check out the Yahi Trail, which runs along the north side of the creek, featuring swimming holes and dazzling basalt rock formations.
If your children are looking to do something more active, Chico has plenty of playgrounds, fun centers and other diversions. Here’s a list:
There are two great playgrounds in Bidwell Park—Caper Acres and the Hooker Oak Recreation Area. There is also a small playground area at the Children’s Park, which is conveniently located downtown, just east of the Bidwell Memorial Presbyterian Church at First and Broadway. Chico’s largest outdoor sports park, the Community Park off East 20th Street just west of Highway 99, has a large children’s playground in addition to its volleyball and tennis courts and expansive playing fields. A great place for a picnic while visiting is the Oak Way Playground, at the corner of West Eighth Avenue and Highway 32, which offers a variety of play facilities, including a playground, sports fields and basketball courts. And Chico’s newest playground (and one of its best) is located at Wildwood Park, on Wildwood Avenue just off Manzanita at the entrance to Upper Bidwell Park.
A skating rink plus miniature golf plus batting cages. What more could a kid want? Cal Skate is Chico’s one and only roller-skating rink, and it’s a good one—large, clean and well-run. It’s the kind of place where you can drop off the kids for a couple of hours and know they’re going to have fun and be all right. The new minature golf course is called Putters, and it’s fun for the kids as well as challenging for the grownups. There are different activities every day of the week, so call its “fun line” at 343-1601 to find out what’s happening and what the hours are. The rink is located at 2465 Carmichael Drive, just west and north of the Park Avenue and Highway 99 intersection. www.calskatechico.com, www.funlandchico.com
Chuck E. CheeseWe can’t leave Chuck the “Big Cheese” out 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 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Tues. and 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Located at 966 East Ave. 894-0400.
Orchard LanesMore than a bowling alley, this entertainment center has an arcade, snack bar, pro-family shop with plenty of family fun at 2397 The Esplanade. 895-3257.
Just down Highway 32 from Chico, in Orland, is Farm Sanctuary, 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, call 865-4617 or visit www.farmsanctuary.org.
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, rail, box, two 3-foot-wide steps, curbing and steel coping to supply the skaters with enough variation to mix up their patterns. The park is open from 8 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. throughout the summer months; in the fall the park closes at sunset.