Gottados in the San Joaquin Valley Part 2

Apr 14, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Community, Terrance V. Mc Arthur

by Terrance V. Mc Arthur

Gottados are those things that you have to/ought to/got to do if you live in the Fresno region. Here’s the list, for better or worse:

1. Yosemite National Park
2. Kings Canyon National Park/Sequoia National Park: Grant Grove, Nation’s Christmas Tree
3. Forrestierre Underground Gardens
4. Roeding Park: Chaffee Zoo, Storyland, Rotary Playland
5. Downtown Fresno: Meux Home, City Hall, Fresno Water Tower
6. Kearney Park: Kearney Mansion, Civil War Revisited, Scottish Games
7. Woodward Park: Japanese Gardens, Woodward Shakespeare Festival
8. Fresno Fairgrounds: Big Fresno Fair, Hmong New Year Festival
9. Greek Food Festival
10. Rogue Performance Festival
11. Mariposa Storytelling Festival
12. Hanford: Hanford Renaissance of Kings, Superior Dairy
13. Fresno ArtHop
14. Fresno Art Museum
15. Endangered Cat Haven
16. Coke Hallowell Center and the San Joaquin River Parkway
17. Sanger Depot Museum
18. Erna’s Elderberry House
19. Gold Chain Theater
20. Valley Animal Center

The first article of this series looked at the first three locations.

Now, the tour continues.

4—Roeding Park: Chaffee Zoo, Storyland, Rotary Playland

East of Highway 99, between Belmont Avenue and Olive Avenue, Roeding Park is the grand old location for birthday parties, company picnics, and romantic-but-cheap dates with towering trees, acres of grass, picturesque ponding, and some beloved family attractions.

Chaffee Zoo

Started more than 100 years ago, Fresno’s zoo officially dates from 1929. Named for Dr. Paul S. Chaffee, who served as the first Zoo Director from 1965 to his death in 1990, the zoo is home to a wide spectrum of animal life from tigers to tortoises, pythons to peccaries, and anteaters to zebras. Wander through a rainforest, feel the call of the wild in the “Wolf Woods” exhibit, feed a giraffe or a mob of small animals, watch performing birds in the summer, and check the progress on the zoo’s new Sea Lion Cove. Bring the kids, students, grandchildren, or yourself. Here’s an article from Kings River Life about the joys of a day at the zoo.

Storyland & Playland

Need a place where you have official permission to be a kid? Storyland is the place for you! If you have your Magic Key, you can listen to favorite nursery rhymes and fairy tales as you wander past the Three Little Pigs and their houses, Grandma’s House (Is Grandma in there, or is it a wolf?), the Hansel and Gretel Merry-Go-Round (pretend the witch is chasing you), the Three Bears’ Cottage (slide down the slide from the bedroom), and the “Mother Goose in California” exhibit that combines classic rhymes, California’s wildlife, and the art of Doug Hansen, sit on the throne in King Arthur’s Castle, contemplate life in the Noah’s Ark Chapel, or repel all boarders on Long John Silver’s pirate ship. If you still miss seeing the face of the giant peering out of the cloud at the top of the Jack and the Beanstalk slide, take heart! There are plans to build a new-and-improved exhibit with a double slide!

Who needs to travel to Anaheim or Santa Cruz or the Bay Area for an amusement park where you can ride on the rides until you get sick, run out of tickets, or both? Come to Rotary Playland, a modestly-ecclectic collection of rides. Take a spin on the carousel, frolic in the water spraying across Splash Junction, bounce along on the Dragon Coaster, put on your life preservers and boat around Pirate Cove, or just sit and watch the kids have fun.

Playland opened in 1955, and Storyland took its place in Roeding Park in 1962. Money raised by the attractions has been used to help create Woodward Park and to support the Chaffee Zoo and the former Fresno Metropolitan Museum, so Storyland and Playland aren’t just fun, they are a way to support and improve life in Fresno.

5—Downtown Fresno: Meux Home, City Hall, Fresno Water Tower

Fresno-bashing may be a popular sport, and downtown Fresno gets more than its share of scorn and a bad reputation, but there are some amazing things to see in the center of the City of the Ash Tree, Fresno.

Meux Home

Thomas Richard Meux went from a physician’s assistant to an assistant surgeon for the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He brought his family to Fresno in 1887 in hopes of finding a better climate for his ailing wife. He opened up a medical practice and ordered a house from a mail-order catalog; it was finished in 1889, and members of the Meux family lived in the home for 81 years. The building is a mix of architectural styles, asymmetric and visually arresting. It may seem like a mansion to the modern visitor, but it was really a middle-class Victorian home. The hallways can seem narrow, and the beds seem small by our standards, but it would have been a wonderful place to live.

Meux Home

Docents in 19th- Century dress lead tours through the upstairs and downstairs of the house-museum, and at Christmastime it is most amazing to see the place spruced up for the holidays, looking like the family has just stepped out for a round of caroling in the area… and they’ll be back any moment. Are there spirits about to visit the visitors? Rumors and stories of ghosts abound, but that’s what rumors and stories are supposed to do.

Fresno City Hall

Fresno’s City Hall is like a cloud: each person who looks at it sees something that says more about the viewer than the actual thing that is seen:

A Klingon battlecruiser
Madonna’s bra
Combat helmet for a nun
The Sierra Nevada mountain range
A giant crab
The back end of Noah’s Ark

City Hall

Designed by Arthur Erickson and completed in 1991, the five-story edifice has a futuristic look, so science-fiction-y that its exterior was used as a government building for the 1994 movie based on Robert Heinlein’s “Puppet Masters.” Walk around, see the exhibits and artwork in the lobby and hallways, and get a bite to eat at the little café on the main floor.

Fresno Water Tower

Here’s another Fresno landmark with a history on the screen. The Fresno Water Tower was built in 1894, held 250,000 gallons, and was supposed to house a library on its second and third floors. Abandoned in 1963 because of leakage and being inadequate to meet a growing city’s needs, it became a staple of picture postcards, and was clambered over by stuntmen pretending to be Carol Burnett and Dabney Coleman in 1986 as part of the TV miniseries “Fresno: The Miniseries” The show also included Charles Grodin and Teri Garr in a spoof that skewered the era’s prime-time soap operas like Dallas and Dynasty. In the 1990s, it became a visitor’s center, and it now has the art and crafts of local artists on sale.

water tower

There are more locations and events worth sampling in the Valley, so check Kings River Life for further places to go and things to see and do. Gotta do it. Gottta run.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a California-born, Valley-raised librarian/entertainer/writer. He is currently writing a stage adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild for the Fresno County Public Library’s next The Big Read. He lives in Sanger, four blocks from the library, with his wife, his daughter, and a spinster cat.


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