Rites of passage
Ten activities for your Chico bucket list
Tube the Sac
Because Chico's a residential campus, it's easy to forget that the state's largest river is right in our backyard. One of our favorite ways to beat the heat is to rent a tube and float on the waterway, from nearby Hamilton City to Scotty's Landing. Alcohol is prohibited along that stretch on Labor Day weekend, but you can imbibe other times. Just take it easy. The river may not look dangerous, but the downed trees (called “strainers”) have the potential to pull you under. Look ahead to avoid them. Also, the water is really cold—like 60 degrees. Bring sunscreen, plenty of water and a snack. Buy a burger and fries at Scotty's before you head back to town.
Launch at Irvine Finch River Access—located just over the Sacramento River in Hamilton City
Get a scoop (or three)
If you think your hometown ice cream shop is great, wait till you try Shubert's. This old-timey purveyor of sweet treats crafts its “Chico famous” varieties, including several seasonal options, in small batches. We're partial to the Chico Mint—a milk-chocolatey cream with pieces of Shubert's signature homemade green mint candy scattered throughout. Other favorites: Turtle, Black Cherry, Cookie Dough—heck, they're all delicious. Seriously, though, try the Chico Mint.178 E. Seventh St.
Ride the bull
When you hit 21 and can finally explore Chico's bar scene, you'll quickly settle into the places where you feel most comfortable. At least once after becoming legal, you have to check out downtown's cowboy bar, the Crazy Horse Saloon. It may not become your regular hangout, but it's the only place in town with a mechanical bull. Order a stiff drink and hop on that big boy. If you tip in advance of your ride, you just might make it to eight seconds. Yeehaw!303 Main St.
Race a trike
You don't need to be an athlete to partake in the Trike Races each Wednesday night at Madison Bear Garden—aka “The Bear.” You just need to be willing to humiliate yourself a little by wearing a giant bra over your clothes, hopping on an adult-size tricycle and racing around the bar in front of a bunch of strangers. At the finish line, you'll chug a beer. If you can do all that faster than your competitors, the bragging rights (and Bear Bucks!) are all yours. Do it, and bask in the glory.316 W. Second St.
Take a dip
Chico in the summer is hot—like, volcanically hot—and you'll inevitably need some relief. Rather than standing next to the produce-misting system in the grocery store, look to one of the many swimming holes along Big Chico Creek, Butte Creek and the Feather River. In addition to the classic concrete swimming hole called Sycamore Pool at One-Mile Recreation Area in Lower Bidwell Park, refreshing dips are to be had at Bear and Salmon holes in Upper Park and the flumes in Paradise. This way, you won't get yourself banned from Safeway.www.bidwellpark.org
Meet Chico in the Plaza
The City Plaza is Chico's meeting place, and throughout the year it's host to a range of free, public events that get to the heart of our community. The big-ticket items include the weekly Friday Night Concerts and Thursday Night Market that happen during the good-weather months. But some of the most interesting events are the weird one-offs, most notably the Pumpkinhead endurance contest, hosted by local radio station Z-Rock during Halloween season, wherein contestants try to outlast each other while standing still with a carved pumpkin over their heads. That's the good stuff.
Enjoy weird theater
Chico's funky side is perhaps best exemplified in its community theater productions. And the funkiest of them all is without a doubt the annual Butcher Shop theater fest. On Labor Day weekend, local thespians and visiting ex-pats stage a free happening in the orchards south of town, with original avant garde one-acts sharing stages with local art and music. The Butcher Shop's freaky nature can be traced back to the beginnings of downtown's Blue Room Theatre, the black-box space above Collier Hardware that stages modern and contemporary works year round. Step outside your comfort zone for a taste of the real Chico.The Butcher Shop: www.facebook.com/TheButcherShopChico
Blue Room Theatre: 139 W. First St., www.blueroomtheatre.com
Hit the markets
You're probably used to shopping at big-name stores for things like produce, bread, eggs, nuts, meat and wine. But you can pick up all of those things—and much more (jewelry, pottery, candy, cut flowers)—at Chico's farmers' markets. We have two favorites. First, there's the year-round market each Saturday morning. It's your best bet for foodstuffs and cool knickknacks, though it also has great options for prepared food (Guzzetti's Indian Food is to die for!). The other is the seasonal Thursday Night Market, from April through September. It also offers produce and other edibles, including a nice selection of food trucks, but it has a more carnival-like feel.Chico Certified Farmers' Market: Saturday, 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Second and Wall streets. Thursday Night Market: April through September, 6-9 p.m., downtown Chico (Broadway, from Second to Fifth streets).
Visit the mothership
Chico's Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. may be a giant in the craft beer industry now, but the brewery has surprisingly humble roots. Back in the 1970s, founder Ken Grossman spent months driving through rural farming communities trying to find scraps of stainless steel tanks, which he then repurposed into custom-built brewing equipment. You'll learn all about Grossman's early days when you take one of several tours offered by the brewery (which include beer samples if you're of age). The brewhouse and sustainability tours are free, but you have to call ahead to reserve your spot.1075 E. 20th St., 899-4776, www.sierranevada.com
Tour the mansion
You may have noticed the big, pink house on The Esplanade. That's the Bidwell Mansion—a three-story, 26-room home completed in 1868 for John and Annie Bidwell, the pioneers who founded Chico. They lived there until they died in 1900 and 1918, respectively. Now a museum and State Historic Park, the mansion is one of Chico's most iconic landmarks, a relic that offers a glimpse into a bygone era. For an hour-long tour, call or drop by the visitor center next door to the mansion.525 Esplanade, 895-6144, www.facebook.com/BidwellMansionSHP