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Fresno is the biggest city in California’s beautiful Central Valley, a lush and fertile place where you’ll find much of the state’s agriculture. Fresno itself is a busy city that’s long served as the trading point for all those farmers (the meat and veg you eat here will be some of the freshest you’ve ever tasted), but it’s also a thrillingly diverse place, with strong connections to Chinese, Armenian and Mexican culture.
For all that, the city’s greatest strength is its location. Book a hire car in Fresno and you’re gaining access to some of the planet’s most beautiful and best-preserved corners, with four national parks (Sierra, Sequoia, Yosemite and Kings Canyon) within an hour’s drive.
Fresno is served by Fresno Yosemite International Airport, which you’ll find about 15 minutes away from the city centre. Or, you could fly into San Francisco International Airport and take the CA-99 south. It’ll take you about three hours to get to Fresno, in good traffic.
When you book a hire car in Fresno, you’re free to choose from a range of trusted and reliable providers. Popular picks include Alamo, National and Dollar, all of which have a presence at Fresno Yosemite Airport and a range of models to choose from.
Fresno’s best and most unique sight is the stunning subterranean gardens created by Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere. He spent 40 years digging out over 70 acres of tunnels, which he then used as his living quarters and an underground citrus plantation. It makes use of an ingenious system of skylines to pipe in beautiful California sunlight, 365 days a year. Find it on W Shaw Avenue, to the northwest of the city centre.
You can’t visit Fresno without making a trip out to at least one of the nearby national parks. Yosemite is undoubtedly the most well known, but each has its own unique charms to explore. Sequoia is the best place to see the 20-storey trees of the same name, some of which have stood here for 1,500 years. The two smaller towns of Merced and Madera make excellent bases for exploring any of the parks.
Don’t miss nearby Bakersfield (two hours south on the CA-99) either, an old oil town that’s reinventing itself as an up-market valley destination. The city’s Kern County Museum offers a fascinating insight into California’s pioneer past.
If you’ve driven in the US before, you’ll find nothing out of the ordinary in Fresno. Remember that cars are free to pass on either side of you on a multi-lane highway, and make sure to come to a complete stop at four-way junctions, even if you don’t see a stop sign. And choose your car wisely – a large SUV may be comfortable for intercity trips, but could be a little unwieldy on the hills of San Francisco, for example.
Itching to explore Fresno, California and the rest of the US for yourself? Get started with this Fresno city guide, and use the Expedia search tool to find the best deals on flights and hotels, and to research the most popular activities and attractions.
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