Ok, so there has to be a museum for everything right? If Ct. has a garbage museum, and NC has an aluminum tree museum, certainly there has to be a national yo-yo museum right? Well low and behold one exists and it is in Chico, California. Now well I was advised by the one reviewer on Virtual Tourist as to the address what was left out is that the museum was in the back of the Bird in Hand Gift store on 320 Broadway in downtown Chico. So I had to circle up and down the street before entering the store to ask directions when i suddenly found the museum in the back of the store. A neon light just below the store ceiling illuminated me to the fact that I had arrived.
Situated snuggly in the back of the greeting card store, is about 500 square feet devoted to yo-yo's. There is the world's biggest yo-yo and about I would estimate 2,000 yo-yos of all sizes and colors under a series of display cases.
The National Yo-Yo Museum was established in this building in 1993 to celebrate the history of the yo-yo. In 1993 the museum hosted the first United States National Yo-Yo Championship since 1961. The museum also sponsors applicants who compete in the national championship. There is a superb collection of yo-yo's in the museum. A current site on the web museum's web goes over a beautiful set of wooden yo yo's designed by Tom Kuhn. This is definitely a unique museum and worth visiting to relive a time in my life when I purchased a yo and yo and tried to master tricks such as "walking the dog."
The museum is open Monday to Saturdays 10 to 6 pm and on Sunday 12 to 5 pm. Admission is free.
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.
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.
Chico was founded in the late 1800’s by John and Annie Bidwell. Their home, located near downtown, is one of several historical homes of the era that has been preserved and restored. The Bidwell Mansion is a museum and tours are available taking you back in time to when Chico was nothing more than a pioneer town.
Hours of Operation: Wed – Fri 12 pm to 5 pm, Sat & Sun 10 am to 5 pm.
Tours & Tickets: Every hour on the hour, lasting approximately 50 minutes, $2 US. Group tours also available, call for a reservation.
Walk through downtown Chico or drive along its many tree lined streets and you will surely see some murals. Some depict the history of Chico, others just familiar spots across the United States. All of them seemed to be very well done and in touch with the surrounding area. For example, at the back of the Brooklyn Bagel Works in downtown is a mural of the New York City cityscape. A detailed list, which I wish I had when I was last in Chico, is available from the below link.
Across the street from City Hall between 4th and 5th Streets sits the Municipal Plaza or as some call it Plaza Park. The plaza was actually reserved by John Bidwell over 135 years ago as an informal gathering place for city residents. According to the Chico City Plaza Master Plan in 2005, Bidwell was actually reported to have planted the trees and suggested the diagonal walkways as a design element.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is just outside downtown Chico. John and Annie Bidwell lived here for many years. General John Bidwell was a leader in the Bear Flag Revolt, winning California's independence from Mexico. He was also a farmer, businessman, statesman, and civic booster. The Bidwells donated huge tracts of land to Chico State University and Bidwell Park. Without them, Chico would be nothing.
This is one of the largest municipal parks anywhere in the US. It extends from downtown Chico way out into the Sierra Nevada foothills. Created on land donated by the wealthy Bidwell family, it is a fine place for hiking, swimming, horseback riding, and just hanging out.
It starts near Chico State University, then extends miles to the northeast. The western part is thickly wooded, with a small river running through it. The Nature Center is in this area. As you get farther east, the trees thin out. Then you get to a vast semi-arid scrubland, with a huge canyon. The eastern and western parts are so different from each other that they don't even seem to be in the same region.
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.
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.