7 best things to do in Visalia in the fall
As the temperatures cool and the leaves begin to change color, the town of Visalia is shifting into high gear for the fall season. The surrounding farms of Tulare County are busy harvesting an abundance of fruits and vegetables, and everyone is ready to celebrate with an impressive lineup of festivals.
Visalia is found in the Central Valley, California’s most productive agricultural region, supplying more than half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States. Although it is a medium-sized town providing visitors with all modern amenities, it also has a small town feel to it. Stroll along the historic Main Street lined with family-friendly shops and restaurants, browse a gallery showcasing local artists, or relax in a bar selling local craft beers. And when you consider that there are two national parks just an hour away, you’ll understand why Visalia is such a perfect destination.
This trip was organized by Visit Visalia, but all opinions are mine.
Things to do
There is always plenty to do in Visalia throughout the year, but fall is an especially great time to visit. Make sure you allow plenty of time to take in all that this city has to offer.
1. Have fun at a festival
The Chamber of Commerce launches the festival season with Oktoberfest end of September. As one of the biggest events of its kind in the Central Valley, Oktoberfest offers guests plenty of food, drink, music, and entertainment. Make sure you buy your tickets in advance as this festival is often full.
The next step is Taste of downtown Visalia, which is held every year in mid-October. Enjoy food from over 30 restaurants representing cuisines from around the world. Beer and wine tastings are also offered and, of course, live music.
Probably the most unique festival is Taste the arts (also held in October) with a “Fun with Food” sculpture competition. Music and performances are offered on three stages as well as exhibitions by 70 regional visual artists and their paintings, sculptures, ironwork, photographs and jewelry. Admission is free and activities are offered for all ages.
2. Appreciate the art
Installed in an old creamery, Visalia Arts is a local non-profit gallery that supports visual arts and artists. Each month offers a new exhibition of paintings, sculptures or photographs. Art classes are also available for children and adults. Currently, the gallery exhibits the work of local sculptor, Peggee Davis. A great way to experience this gallery is on the First Fridays, which are once a month from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Taste wine and cheese, browse the exhibits, and meet the artists.
3. Explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
When visiting Visalia, be sure to set aside a day to visit Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks. Both are run as one unit, so you’ll only pay once and get to explore two awesome parks.
One of the best ways to experience Kings Canyon National Park is by horseback riding. Grant Grove Stables offers guided walks of 1 or 2 hours through a grove of giant redwoods. Along the way you will see the General Grant Tree – the third tallest tree in the world – and the Gamlin Hut built in 1872. It is also possible to spot wildlife like deer and black bears.
After your ride, be sure to take a short walk through Grants Grove and stand at the base of the 267-foot-tall General Grant Tree. Look for the fallen redwood that has been hollowed out for visitors to walk through. Giant sequoias can only be found on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains, so enjoy this rare sight.
Within both parks are hundreds of miles of scenic hiking trails ranging from easy to difficult. Visit Visalia has a list of best trails in parks and neighboring state forests. Paved and accessible trails are also available.
Pro tip: Weather conditions vary greatly in both parks depending on the day, altitude and time of year. Do not hesitate to consult the park websites for the conditions before visiting.
4. Eat and shop at the farmer’s market
Visiting one of the country’s most productive agricultural regions during harvest season requires virtually a stop at Visalia Farmer’s Market. Come prepared with your reusable shopping bags.
Taking place every Saturday morning, rain or shine, the Farmers Market is home to over 30 vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, honey, nuts, olive oil and homemade gifts. You will also find prepared meals from all over the world.
Don’t forget to visit farmer Bob Todd and buy one of his delicious watermelon juice. Then head to Haas Olives for some excellent olive oil sold in recycled bottles.
5. Drink lots of beer
Visalia has its own neighborhood of microbreweries serving beers from all over California and beyond. The largest selection is available on BarrelHouse Brewing with 26 draft beers. Whether you like stouts, sisters, IPAs or lagers, there is something for you here. There is live music on the weekends and food trucks offering delicious food. If you are visiting with children, you will enjoy the large beer garden.
Within walking distance are Brewbakers Brewing Company, Visalia Brewing Company and Sequoia Brewing Company.
6. Take a walk along the main street
Stroll along by Visalia Main Street lined with trees and browse its local shops. This time of year you will appreciate the changing color of the foliage.
Treasures of the Pacific & Gourmet sells gourmet packaged foods, candles, jewelry and gift items. Succulent & Cactus Casas offers a wide assortment of already potted plants in vintage pots, perfect for your home or as a gift. If you prefer vinyl to streaming apps, go to Velouria discs and explore their wide selection of records. Along the way you will also find a few vintage stores, clothing boutiques, and home decor stores.
7. Eat lots of good food
Whether you are looking for quick casual or fine dining, Visalia has plenty of dining options. And with all of this local produce to be had, the food here is really good.
For a special celebration, or just to enjoy dinner at an upscale venue, make reservations at Vintage press. The interior is decorated with dark wood, unique architectural elements and vintage decor. In the bar area you will find a grand piano perched above tables and an oversized old-fashioned wooden bar. Fall is a great time to visit as baby roasted pumpkins stuffed with smoked chicken are on the menu. According to Wine spectator, Vintage Press has one of the best wine lists in the world.
For something quick and casual, head over to pita skewer. Their selection of healthy salads, kebabs and wraps is perfect for a family lunch or dinner. Complement your meal with a wide selection of West Coast beers, both on tap and in cans.
Valhalla Restaurant and Gift Shop it’s like entering Denmark. Family-run for 3 generations, their Scandinavian-inspired cuisine is delicious and comforting. Come have breakfast or brunch and enjoy the Danish classic, æbleskiver, small pancake balls topped with powdered sugar.
Join the locals for authentic Mexican cuisine at Chapala Grill. Located in an indescribable mini-mall, this popular spot has a large menu of all of the Mexican favorites as well as a few lesser-known dishes. Mole lovers will definitely want to try their version served over enchiladas. And be sure to wash it all down with one of their classic or fruit flavored margaritas.
Located on the main street, Fugazzi combines elegant decor with excellent Californian cuisine, all complemented by a classic cocktail menu. Entree options include pasta, pizza, sandwiches, steaks, and seafood. Chicken Fettuccine Tequila comes highly recommended.
Where to stay in Visalia
Visalia offers a wide range of accommodation ranging from budget to luxury. It is recommended that you select one of the hotels near the historic city center so that restaurants, shops and brasseries are all within walking distance.
Comfort Suites Visalia convention center offers its guests large suites, perfect for a family or a longer stay. Each room includes a refrigerator and microwave. A hot breakfast is included with a ‘make your own waffle’ option. Photos of nearby national parks adorn the walls of each room, reminding guests to get out and explore.
The Marriott at the Palais des Congrès offers spacious rooms, an on-site restaurant and bar and a swimming pool. The nearby redwoods are reflected throughout the hotel in its decor, making it look less like a standard, big-chain hotel and more like a boutique inn.
For something both unique and upscale, the Darling Hotel is perfect. Located in the old Tulare County Court Annex, this lovingly restored Art Deco building features a rooftop restaurant with stunning city views.
Visalia is a great destination any time of the year, but there is something very special about autumn. Come visit during harvest season and you will enjoy a temperate climate, fall foliage and many delicious, locally grown dishes. If possible, schedule your trip to participate in at least one of the fun festivals.
For more activities and interests to explore around Central California, check out these articles: