Upper Bidwell Park is both massive in its size and diverse in the trails it offers to visitors. When we were there in February it was a unseasonably warm but very windy day. Most of the folks hiking the trails were on short day hikes and many had their dogs.
We started on the Middle Trail is an easy flat trail that begins at the intersection of Wildwood Avenue and Upper Park Road (Parking Lot A). We however entered the trail at the Easter Cross area which is adjacent to Parking Lot B. The trail winds down around Horseshoe Lake and the Chico Observatory. We found the trail enjoyable but frustrating in that the trail is filled with small rocks that constantly have to be dodged.
North Rim Trail is a longer but not necessarily more difficult trail. It starts at the Easter Cross parking area (Parking Lot B) and makes a very slow ascent of approximately 700 feet up the northern bluffs of the park. It offers some great views of the creek, Horseshoe Lake and the surrounding area. We caught up with the trail by taking a loop off of Middle Trail that connects with North Rim. Similar to Middle Trail, you are constantly dodging small rocks constantly over the many miles of the trail.
The 10 Mile Trail is a very scenic area offering spectacular views of Big Chico Creek and the surrounding area. Photo is courtesy of Wiki.
There are at least nine other trails in the park. Some of them were not accessible when we there due to heavy rains and winter conditions.
The murals which number in excess of twenty from my count take on many forms. Some such as the incredible Vicotorian homes and the Robin Hood mural take on historic themes and others such as the landscape murals close to Chico City Hall appear almost to take on the form of landscape pictures. The Victorian home picture is courtesy of 101 things to do in Chico which is also identified below.
See the list on this link for a pretty complete listing of all murals in the City of Chico.
John Pugh is a distinguished artist who specializes in the design of 3-D murals which are sometimes referred to as trompe L'oeil murals. He attended school at California State University, Chico and has been creating these murals since the 1970's. He now lives in Santa Cruz, California and has been commissioned to do his murals all over the world including New Zealand and Taiwan.
Sitting at the side entrance to Taylor Hall at the university campus is a mural portraying Doric-style columns. They look so real from a distance but up close it is clear they are only paint.
For more information on John Pugh please visit his web site identified below.
Five Mile Recreation Area is a picnic area, adjacent to a bike trail, in Upper Bidwell Park Chico. The area has barbeques, picnic tables, restrooms, a bridge across the creek. In addition, the area is connected by the bike trail from Lower Bidwell Park. The picnic area, which consists of eight tables, can be rented for special events from the City of Chico.
At certain times of the year beavers build dams across Bidwell Creek. There were sitings of deer when we were in the area. The main entrance via car is across the street from two of the main trail systems in Upper Bidwell Park.
All and all it is a serene and peaceful area to wonder around in and enjoy some of the natural beauty of Upper Bidwell Park.
There is no fee to enter Upper Bidwell Park. Facilities basically open after sunrise and close at sunset.
Downtown Chico still retains a fair portion of its original buildings from the early 20th century. Two notable examples are the Senator and El Rey Theatres downtown.
The Senator Theatre located on 517 Main Street opened in 1927 as a 1,400-seat vaudeville and movie house. It was operated by T & D Jr. Enterprises chain. In 1978, the theatre was purchased by United Artists. The company quickly sectioned off the balcony to create a second screening room, making the theater a twin.
The Senator Theatre was restored in 2001 and later reopened as a performing arts center. The restoration removed the artificial wall that was added in the twinning process and the theatre now seats about1,000making it one of the largest stages in the area. The Senator now books a wide variety of musical acts including everything from heavy metal to jazz. What is impressive is that the theatre marquee is completely intact and still sparkles at night.
The El Rey Theatre came nine years later than the Senator Theatre in 1936. It was designed as an art deco theatre by Clifford Balch. Its seating capacity is smaller than the Senator After serving as a local theatre for over fifty years it was converted to a music venue in 1994. The same company JMAX Productions owns both the El Rey and Senator Theatres.
Right next door to the Bidwell Mansion sits the recently completed Gateway Science Center. The museum is on the Chico State campus and was just opened in 2010. The museum's mission is to help educate residents about Northeastern California's history, nature and science. There are many interactive exhibits. Many of them are oriented to children. The museum includes a large area of a sustainable garden. The exhibits also change frequently based on seasons and programs from the staff.
Current hours are 12 to 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Admission is $ 6 for adults and $ 3 for children and students.
In 1883 Oscar Stanbury, a medical doctor, built a large Victorian house for he and his wife. He was known at the time for making medical visits with his carriage throughout Chico. In 1974 this mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places and seventeen years later was taken over by the City of Chico. The City of Chico now runs the house as a museum for its residents and tourists. Unfortunately it is open only on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons for tours. In 2007 the City undertook a major modification to the carriage house in the rear of the property. The carriage house now has a collection of medical instruments including Dr. Stanbury's old X ray machine and a carriage similar to the one he used on house calls.
The house is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 pm. Cost of the tour is $4 for adults and $ 2 for students and free for children.
This could be both a things to do and a restaurant but the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is so well known throughout Northern California that it really is a place to visit.
The brewery began in 1979 when Ken Grossman, a local brewer, began building a small brewery. A year later the brewery was brewing its trade mark Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which is now sold all over the United States and world wide. The brewery has undergone several expansions over the last twenty two years and is now part of a large complex on East 20th Street.
So what do you do when you come to the Sierra Nevada Brewery?
Brewery Tour- Sierra Nevada has a great brewery tour of its facilities. The tour is about 1 1/2 hours long and goes over the ingredients used, a look at the brew house fermentation and filtration process, and how the beer is packaged. The tour is free. At the end of the tour there is,"educational tasting," for those of drinking age. Tours are given on the hour and run until 4 on weekdays and 5 on weekends.
Tap Room and Restaurant- There is also an excellent restaurant and tap room adjacent to the brewery. The restaurant includes a wide variety of vegetarian items and all of the restaurant's breads are made at the brewery and utilize some of the ingredients that go in the beer.
What surprised me the first time I visited the Bidwell Mansion was how surprisingly close to downtown and the university it was. Located at 525 Esplanade it is literally adjacent to the university.
This impressive mansion that is part of Bidwell State Historic Park was constructed beginning in 1865 by John Bidwell. In 1868 it became the home of John and Annie Bidwell after their marraige. The massive house has 26 rooms on three levels. It was designed as an Italian villa and the interior is adorned by a pink plaster.
After the death of Annie Bidwell in 1918 the home went through many uses. It was used both as a dormitory for Chico State Teachers College Students and later as the home of several academic departments of the college.
With cuts to the State budget, the interior of the Bidwell Mansion is now open only Saturday to Monday from 12 to 5. There is a visitor center adjacent to the mansion but it is open only during the time the mansion is open. The cost of viewing the mansion is $ 6 for adults and $ 3 for children.
The gigantic 3,000 plus acre Bidwell Park in Chico is divided into two areas; Lower and Upper. The dividing line between the two parks. The area west of Manzanita Avenue has generally flat terrain and is known as Lower Park. The hilly area to the east of Manzanita Avenue is called Upper Park.
On a late October afternoon I made my way through Lower Park. The most prominent area in the park is known as One Mile Recreation Area. I think it was named such because the main trail and most of the recreational venues are within a one mile walk of each other. There is a huge rectangular swimming pool called Sycamore Pool which was closed for the year when I got there. Big Chico Creek also runs through the park but looks like an area to be avoided for swimming because of the swifter moving water. There are also several softball playing fields, barbecue facilities, horseshoe pits and a snack bar that was also closed when I arrived. For a midweek late afternoon I was impressed by how many people were making use of the park. I was also struck by the size of the incredible size of the park and for a moment it was hard to remember that this is the relatively small town of Chico.
Lower Park also includes an area called Cedar Grove. The grove area contains picnic and barbeque facilities. It also includes a large area where Shakespeare in the Park is performed in the summer as well as other cultural events.