Visalia Getaway Guide – Have you ever been charmed by a city you’d consider moving to it? This is how we felt when we visited Visalia, California. Tagged as the Gateway to the Sequoias, Visalia is where one would book a hotel for a trip to Sequoia National Park due to its proximity to the park’s gate (45 minutes away). After staying and exploring the city for 2 nights before our trip to Sequoia, I can honestly say, it’s not just a gateway but a destination in itself.
If you’re ever planning a Central Valley Road Trip or planning a trip to Sequoia National Park or Kings Canyon National Park, start your trip in Visalia and explore its vibrant downtown, see historical buildings, immerse in the city’s food scene, and try various family friendly activities by following our Visalia Getaway Guide below:
disclosure: this is a sponsored post. All opinions are our own.
GETTING TO VISALIA:
By car – Visalia is located 3 hours north of Los Angeles International Airport or 3.5 hrs south of San Francisco International Airport. You can drive to Visalia and make it your base when visiting Sequoia National Park (45 minutes away from the park’s gate) and Kings Canyon National Park (1 hr. away from the park’s gate).
By plane – the closest airport is Fresno Yosemite International Airport which is located 45 miles north of Visalia.
By rail – you can ride the Amtrak San Joaquin Train that travels from San Francisco or Sacramento down to Hanford, CA then travel by motor coach to Visalia Transit Center located in Downtown Visalia.
VISALIA GETAWAY GUIDE:
WHERE TO STAY IN VISALIA:
VISALIA MARRIOTT AT THE CONVENTION CENTER – Located in Downtown Visalia, Visalia Marriott is just a block or 2 away from various restaurants and stores. We arrived in Visalia around 7PM and finished our dinner around 9PM but it felt safe to walk around from our hotel to the restaurants and back. It’s also not very far from the freeway but it was very quiet. Rooms were recently updated and it was very clean. Parking is easily accessible from the front while the hotel can be access from both the front and the back giving you easy access to Downtown Visalia. There’s an outdoor pool & jacuzzi, gym, laundry room, and a business center available at the hotel. In the morning, you can grab your buffet breakfast and even Starbucks at the hotel’s dining room. You may also consider ordering a pack lunch from the hotel if you’re driving to Sequoia National Park as there’s really no food there.
Related Post: Check more pictures and learn more about our stay at Visalia Marriott.
WHERE TO EAT IN VISALIA:
LITTLE ITALY ITALIAN RESTAURANT – if you ever have a craving for Italian food while visiting Visalia, visit Little Italy. It’s walking distance from Visalia Marriott. We started with a basket of bread and butter as I ordered ravioli, the hubby got eggplant parmigiana, and the kids went for pizza and mac n’ cheese. We ended the night with Tiramisu and vanilla ice cream. Everything tasted great but the winning dish was the kids’ mac n’ cheese – comfort food, elevated! This restaurant looks like a date place, but almost every table (on a Thursday night) had kids in them. Either way, I think it’s a great place to visit.
VALHALLA RESTAURANT & GIFT SHOP – unless you’re Danish, you’ve probably never had aebleskivers. Initially, I thought it’s a beer but they’re actually pancake puffs. Visit Valhalla for breakfast to try them together with crepe-like Danish pancakes and sausages. This is a very kid-friendly restaurant as they have a dining room that has toys in them. We were in that room and the kids played pretend in this diner toy while we waited for our food. There’s also other rooms available in various sizes so you can have a meeting, a conference, or even a big family breakfast. After you dine, you can check out the gift shop. They sell all sorts of things from tea sets to toys and kitchen gadgets. We ended up buying a harmonica for the kids after our early morning breakfast.
BLAZE PIZZA – Visalia also has various fast-casual restaurant chains, with most of them located on Mooney Drive. If you ever crave for pizza, drive to Blaze Pizza for the option to create your own pizza with the toppings and dough you prefer. It is located just outside Visalia Mall so you can do some shopping and dining all in the same area.
PITA KABOB DOWNTOWN GASTROPUB – If you only have time to visit 1 restaurant in Visalia, it would have to be Pita Kabob but expect to wait during the dinner rush. Enjoy Mediterranean food and a variety of craft brews. The patio is beautifully lit at night but you can also dine inside or grab drinks by the bar. We ordered a shawarma plate with a side of traditional hummus and veggies, chicken kabob for the kids, another dish that I can’t remember what the name was but was very good, and ended it with a Sweet Potato Fries S’mores. We may need another visit to Visalia to try the other dishes.
THINGS TO DO IN VISALIA:
IMAGINEU CHILDREN’S MUSEUM – this place is perfect for toddlers, but our 8 yr. old enjoyed the place as well. You get to fish, milk a cow, fix a car, paint in glass, go up a treehouse, and a whole lot more. If you’re traveling to Visalia with young kids, take them here for hours of fun.
VISALIA ADVENTURE PARK – If your kids want to experience racing karts (fast & slow one for kids), mini golf, bumper boats, laser tag, batting cages, giant arcade games, and more – Visalia Adventure Park is the perfect place for them. They can even hold their birthdays here. We came here to play and even brought home prizes after scoring tickets at the arcade games. They also offer food, drinks, and desserts so you may never have to leave.
SAM B. PEÑA PLANETARIUM – we watched a show called “Perfect Little Planet” that talks about the planets and the various moons at the planetarium. It was a very educational show that I highly recommend for anyone visiting Visalia with a 3rd grader and up, even I learned a lot. Call to check as shows will vary as well as the target audience of each show. Also, don’t trust Google Maps, the actual address to this place is 11535 Avenue 264, Visalia, CA 93277. If you just type in planetarium, it may lead you to the old location. Good thing I called or we would have been late for the show.
VISIT DOWNTOWN VISALIA – besides all the restaurants in downtown, you can also marvel at various historical building like the Fox Theatre in downtown which currently serves as a live venue for music and stage performances and the Art Deco Visalia Town Center Post Office which is registered with the National Register of Historic Places.
VISIT SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK – With Visalia being located on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’re just a quick drive to Sequoia. But who needs to drive when you can ride a Sequoia shuttle service for only $15 roundtrip. This service is available starting end of May and runs throughout the summer. We did drive though as we were headed to Yosemite after Sequoia. Check our 20 Tips for Visiting Sequoia National Park as you may need more info other than the shuttle if you’re a first-timer.
Hope you can find the time to visit Visalia and Sequoia National Forest. Check our Instagram page for more photos from our visit.
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