Where Is THE Place To Pull Off Highway 99 In Fresno?

I have a lot of thoughts about the 99 corridor in Fresno. Most of them are bad. It ain’t exactly a pretty way to see Fresno. It ain’t pretty and very little has been done since it was built, to change that.

There is a big rabbit pot hole I could go down about how bad a first impression Highway 99 gives people traveling through. But that is a post for another day.

Today we figure out the best place to exit off the 99 in Fresno. The best place for you, the person traveling through, that only has time for one stop and likely won’t visit Fresno again.

DOWNTOWN FRESNO

I imagine you are coming from Los Angeles (but it doesn’t really matter) and there is nothing South of the Highway 41 interchange. Nothing. So we’re going to head slightly North and try Downtown.

If you’re a beer geek, get off at Ventura and head East add you’ll see Full Circle Brewing. Go. Enjoy. Head a block & a half more and visit the regional beer king, Tioga Sequoia. Maybe pop into Bitwise, get a glimpse of Fresno’s rising tech scene. Did you see the baseball stadium? Yeah, that’s where the Fresno Grizzlies (aka the AAA Astros) play.

The rest of Downtown? There’s a lot going on, there really is, but you don’t have time for that today, you need to get back on the road.

BELMONT AVENUE

We have a food element and a fun element here. The fun is Roeding Park with the renowned and newly expanded Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Not to mention Storyland and Playland.

Then go across 99 on Belmont and have a good-ass burger at Triangle Drive In.

HERNDON AVENUE 

Once it could only boast the throw-back truck stop called Kline’s. Now (if you go West over the tracks) you have a Five Guys burger that was SOME FREAKING HOW voted better than In & Out for best burger place in the country. Five Guys just copied In & Out, how the hell could!?…. nevermind. One day it will have a Crackle Barrel, if you’re into that. For now, there is an Olive Garden and High Speed Rail construction. Oh and there’s a rad song:

SHAW AVENUE 

Speaking of In & Out, here is your 99 spot to get your Double Double and “animal style” fries. But the best thing about Shaw & 99 is also THE unique place in Fresno: Forestiere Underground Gardens.

A unique view into our Trinity Courtyard #undergroundgardensfresno #thingstodoinfresno #visitfresno #realizefresno

A post shared by Underground Gardens (@forestiereundergroundgardens) on


And it is this wonderous and unique place that makes me choose Shaw, with a visit underground, as the place to get off Highway 99 in Fresno. Have fun. Let me know what you thought. Tell your little L.A. friends all about it.

*Highway 99 photo by Raymond YU. Downtown photo credit: Blogspot.com

Olive Garden Opening In Fresno Is A Good Thing…There, I Said It.


I don’t go to Olive Garden. Well, I haven’t for a long time. I went to the Modesto Garden years ago because my Grandma wanted to. And yeah, I have been to the Clovis one. I’m embarrassed¬†to admit I brought a date there once. There was no second date.

I purposely have not Gardened for a long time. Waiting an hour for a table to eat chain “Italian” food in Clovis is not my idea of a good night out – I don’t care how many unlimited bread sticks you throw at me.

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So why the hell should I care or think it’s a good thing that Olive Garden is about to open up its first Fresno location? [Located at Marketplace Shopping Center, BTW)

Because the Highway City area of NW Fresno does not have a sit-down, waiter comes to your table, restaurant. If the first one has to be an Olive Garden, so be it.

I would rather it be a local restaurant or something we have never seen in Fresno before. But it’s not. It’s an Olive Garden. Highway City will have to accept it. Something tells me they will and there will be an hour wait there too.

Some advice, though. Don’t take a first date there, dude. Impressed she will not be. Unless you can do a dance routine with your bread sticks.

The Portals Into Fresno: Which Is Best?

Fresno Sign by David Husted

What are the best entry points to Fresno?

Let’s say you are escorting a person into Fresno that has never been here before and you want to make the most Fresno-y impression. Where are you getting off the freeway? What do you want them seeing first?

Many things to consider here. Do you go for the cleanest? The most representative? Most relevant? Most interesting?

Simply, what entry point would you use?

Shaw and 99. You’ve got the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the convenience of getting off Highway 99 and In & Out. But it looks like shit. Weeds and fast food. Could be a decent spot if they cleaned up the area around Underground Gardens and made it more of a park and light touristy area. But they aren’t.

Blackstone and Friant/Nees (AKA River Park). For some this would be impressive. If you’re going South on Blackstone from Nees it looks sorta nice. And there are those that just like new stuff. They like shopping. They like chain stores. This Fresno portal has all of that.

Herndon and 99. There is a bunch of new businesses there on the other side of the tracks. Northernmost entrance. Rademacher even plays a song about it, so that’s something – one of my favorite all-time songs by a local band, btw:

Shaw and 41. Well the Silver Dollar is no longer there so that’s all screwed. But there is Heroes Comics and Rocket Dog and that’s a rad representation of Fresno, in this nerd’s mind. Plus right there is Shaw & Blackstone which is considered the cross-streets of the Valley.

The Airport. I guess if somebody is flying in you don’t have much of a choice. I don’t see too many United flights landing at Sierra Sky Park. As it has been written, I am fond of Fresno Yosemite International (yep, flying to Mexico counts as “International”, look it up, bro). Plus Swear Bear greets travelers over the PA, touting Fresno’s awesomeness.

Herndon and 41. No chance for me here. It’s just an excuse to wedge in an old “Cross Streets” video from Dumb Drum:

The Amtrak Station. I kinda like this one. Nice area of Downtown. You can pop onto a freeway and get anywhere in the city in 15 minutes.

Tulare and 41. Maybe when the Farmers Market food court was there but I don’t want a Starbucks and Office Depot representing the entrance to my city.

Highway 99 and Fresno Street. It has Fresno street in the name. Center of Downtown and about where Fresno literally started. The Chuk is right there. The Downtown Fresno skyline is staring back at you. But it’s kinda sketch.

Shaw and 168. Fresno State. Doghouse Grill. Save Mart Center. The new Campus Point thingamathing. Looking kinda good here. WAIT! Clovis is on the other side of the freeway. Fuck. That. Way too close.

TOO DAMN MANY CHOICES

I wanna go with the Airport. But I think a place where you drive into Fresno would be a more accurate way to figure this out. Hummmmmm.

Screw it: Shaw & 41. Not the nicest for sure but best represents the City as a whole. I guess. Not real excited about that.

What do you think? What was missed? I’m expecting some comments on this one. Don’t make me look like a douche and leave me with no comments on this post, Fresnan.

(Fresno Sign photo by David Husted)