How Are We Going To Make Fresno “Cool”, Yo?

We have a problem here. A problem I bounce around in a post from time to time but never take on directly.

What will it take for Fresno to be considered a cool city?

If you’re thinking “Hey, but wait, I already think it’s cool!” I don’t disagree with you, but we both have to acknowledge that we are in the minority, chief.

How do we make Fresno appear cool to an outsider? This is what I’m talking about. To a Fresno State grad, we lost to brain drain? What can we do to win that person back? It’s a question that Fresno creatives have been wrestling with for many years.

First. The Immovable Object.

We are land locked, no getting around that. Except that we are not as landlocked as Denver, or Boise, or Dallas, or Every City Not On The Ocean. We can go to the beach for a morning surf session and be back in town for a late lunch.

So while this is tough, we have workarounds, it could be a lot worse.

The air sucks. It does. But, the past couple years, it feeeeels like it has gotten better?  And if California can (continue?) to lead in clean air…stuff and things? Maybe I’m being naive but I feel like future technology and regulations will make the terrible air a thing of the past. But we definitely need to be a lead-city on clean air initiatives.

Booze May Be An Answer.

Here might be a cool city suggestion we can work on:

Rooftop whiskey bars, eh? I definitely like the idea of rooftop things – like the pic at the top of the post from a Phoenix rooftop bar. And adding a niche element like whiskey is the kind of thing that pushes something from being “Oh that, you can find that in every city.” To “Oh that is rad, I wish we had one of those in our city.”

That unique, “can’t put my finger on it why it’s cool but I just know it’s cool” thing is really what we need to get at here in Fresno.

Touting our agriculture backbone. Being sunny almost every damn day. Embracing our sports, like the soccer community that gets bigger every year:

We’re just spitballing here.

The Cool Roots Are Taking Hold.

We have things already going for us. Not many cities can boast that they are a “basecamp city” to three National Parks. One of which, Yosemite, is considered by many to hold the most beautiful place in the world, Yosemite Valley – and I am in complete agreement with that.

There are other signs of coolness brewing as well. Bitwise pushing Fresno into the tech and startup scene is a big one. The rising craft beer and coffee scene. Branding ourselves as the Capitol of Tacos. These are the kind of things to ride into the cool town sunset.

So let’s tally up some of the cool stuff we got and the stuff we can do more of:

  • Agriculture.
  • Craft Beer – even more breweries.
  • Bitwise and tech.
  • Tacos.
  • Sports – including soccer.
  • Diversity.
  • Leader In Clean Air.
  • Outdoor city – more trails, parks, and owning the Sierra Nevada closeness.

This is but a humble start of a list by a blogger that only went as far as Fresno City College – a great community college, btw. I know only bits and pieces of things. So I choose you to comment and help.

What are some of your suggestions? Leave a comment! On the August episode of Flowing With Famous, myself and Joshua Tehee will parse them out and talk about them on the podcast.

Cool? Cool.


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Author: The Fresnan

Hey, Mikey Seay here. Local nerd. Longtime blogger and podcaster. I love talking local, Star Wars, beer and other junk. Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat: @thefresnan CHEERS!

19 thoughts on “How Are We Going To Make Fresno “Cool”, Yo?”

  1. Pub crawls! I’m with the Fresno Zombie Society and we throw a minimum of 3 a year.

    But I’m with you, I love Fresno. I want others to love it too.

  2. nieve??????Nieve definition: the closed hand ; fist
    or do you mean naive????
    Sorry just a teacher, can’t let go!

  3. I think you pointed out the big things that can lead the way.

    As for air quality, I saw this post on reddit
    So basically The bay area, socal, and sacramento who all think have much superior air quality that fresno are also bad. Fresno is just more so. But in some categories not as bad. To sum it up, all the populated areas of CA are bad in one way or another. Fresno and the central valley has just seemed to be an scapegoat. So I think its important to always point this out when Fresno is always tagged for bad air quality. And as you mentioned it has gotten better.

    Being labeled an outdoor city is huge. Others and myself have mentioned it as well. The national parks close by should be synonymous with Fresno as the SF and the golden gate bridge is to the bay area. Ironically Fresno itself is poor in terms of green spaces and parks but we have all these close national parks.

    The rest you mentioned have the wheels turning. As downtown continues to revitalize, and hopefully more educated and hip people move down there, it will bring more unique and cool businesses. I think rooftop bars are cool no matter what, and it will just add to Fresno’s Ale Trail

  4. My husband, Jaguar Bennett, just spent 12 days at the San Diego Fringe Festival performing his show “Bullshit is my Native Language” (first performed at the Rogue Festival 2016). Whenever he takes a show out of town, he wears his Fresno t-shirts, proudly puts Fresno in his bio, and doesn’t hedge or flinch when he mentions he and his work (which is getting good reviews and full houses) are products of Fresno.

    Most people respond with a vague surprise at the notion that things – even many cool things – happen in Fresno. Occasionally, a real asshole comes out of the woodwork to tell him how wrong he is about the place where he has spent his entire life. But for the most part, that moment – when Fresnans show themselves to be down-to-earth, interesting, & talented to the outside world- goes a long way toward getting outsiders to understand what Fresno has to offer.

  5. I totally agree. Rooftop rooftop rooftop. We have so many possible buildings to choose from.

    Also, that’s my fire squad video! 🙂 Thanks for sharing it!!

  6. Why Fresno SUCKS!
    The HOT summers.
    The bad drivers and drunk and texting drivers.
    The general despair regarding civic pride as evidenced by the trash all along our city streets and freeways.
    The bad air.
    The general poverty stricken amount of people here.
    The non non progressive old school good ole boys mentality of city leaders.
    The lack of community trust in the FPD.
    Once we change ALL of these things listed, Fresno won’t be a cool city. People need to realize that Fresno is NOT LA OR SF. Noe do we need to be. YH, DNB, Cheesecake WONT make Fresno cool just because LA and SF has them. We need to be US–FRESNO! Getting stupid rooftop bars wont do shit. We need to most importantly need to increase education to our kids since they’re the future, and increase our economic base. SMH.

    1. Not all of SF or LA is great. They are bigger cities and also have problematic areas, but they have a positive side people see.
      Fresno does as well but the locals and people outside of Fresno dont tap into it. Fresno’s biggest attraction is being an outdoor city. Being the biggest city closest to a few national parks.
      The constant bringing up of air quality, education, crime etc–all the negatives does not help the stigma in Fresno.
      The bay area, and socal are also listed to having bad air but you dont see the locals talking about it.
      Las Vegas and many parts of AZ have worse heat than Fresno but you dont see their locals highlighting it.
      Because they chose to highlight the good. In Fresno/Clovis, the residents seem to not see the good around there an only highlight the bad just as you mentioned. So what does that do? It trickles to people not even from around there and they too will have that impression.
      Instead of reiterating what is already known, locals have to be the contrast and show people what good Fresno has.
      Bad drivers in Fresno?
      Not as bad as Sacramento, the bay, SD, SF.
      Crime? If it wasn’t for that crazy killer in downtown we wouldnt be on PAR with SF but be less in terms of homicides.
      I also saw this floating around that will say otherwise about Fresno crime
      Like I said if the locals have the same attitude like you do only pointing out and simply highlighting and reiterating the bad, it will just spread and even those not from around here will see Fresno in that bad light without seeing the big picture.
      So rooftop bars will definitely do a lot of shit–it will at least give me positive things to talk about. Because you can’t fix it all.

  7. Let’s build upon our Art scene! We already have a mural district…something plenty of cities cannot boast! In your face Boca Raton!!!

    I’m thinking let’s build some cool art installations that are oversized and obnoxiously cool. I vote for a 20 foot taco.

    1. I visit Fresno frequently and I have yet to check out the mural district or art hop. But I see some coverage on social media and it looks awesome.

      I think it needs more exposure. Fresno in general lacks positive social media. The art scene looks like a major part and hopefully it gets bigger and exposed more.

  8. I am happy that I found this blog and that you guys are talking about this. My partner and I are moving to Fresno from LA this summer. I’ve thought a lot about this question as the move got closer, and it seems like there are some major barriers in replicating these aspects of big city culture. For one, the night life scene that you are describing requires single people with disposable income. The brain drain sucks those people out of Fresno. Maybe Bitwise will bring some of these people back. But, when I’ve talked to a few friends who work Silicon Valley/Bay Area about moving to Fresno to work in tech, I get a lot of raised eyebrows. The few friends that did seem interested were the ones starting families, who would likely be the types to live in North Fresno/Clovis. All that to say, I don’t think it is as simple as having a few cool bars, but I do think more of those things can help to attract people to the city.

    1. Fresno is the the 5th largest city in CA. Compared to a lot of smaller cities heck yea its better. But look who it has to compete against when it comes to the other big cities. From biggest to smallest: 1) LA 2) San Diego 3) San Jose 4) San Francisco 5) Fresno

      So everyone from those other big cities will be expecting cool stuff just like in theirs.

      Fresno hasn’t really linked itself with something to make it’s identity. I have suggested (and others as well) that it be known as an ourdoor city. Fresno IS the closest major city to Yosemite and Sequoia. The airport is already named Fresno Yosemite. The problem as you see is people outside of Fresno don’t see this and are oblivious to it. That should be the culture of Fresno along with the food obviously being a high AG city. Well, some actually already see this, but not enough. Instead only the negatives and bad stigma is what spreads and sticks.

      People are coming here. As mentioned it is the 5th biggst city and it has grown. If one takes a step back and see how fresno has changed from several years ago it has indeed improved and still improving. Yet once again no one ever talks about that–or hardly.

      This obviously isnt a tech heavy city, but if you land some of the few positions in the tech sector you probably will be living a lot more comfortable than someone who makes more in the bay area since making 100K there is considered low income and all you get is rent. You make $70-80K in Fresno and you live in a nice house and nice neighborhoods.

      You are correct brain drain is present as job fields isn’t as diverse. But it is alot better than many small cities, and still ideal for many who aren’t in the tech sector.

      The coolness factor needs to be added and thus why I also agree on cool rooftop bars, progression of the Fresno Ale Trail, move lively and hip downtown, and a stronger link to Yosemite and the Sequioa as an outdoor city.

  9. Investing in good public transportation, not the wannabe “BRT”. Perhaps a streetcar with transit-oriented development. More green space, especially in south Fresno. Green Technology. Progressive-minded city politicians. As long as you have tea party and right-wing conservatives on the city council, any real change will not happen. More murals in the mural/cultural arts/whatever people call it now-a-days. Bookstores and music stores on Fulton street. Marijuana dispensaries.

  10. Downtown needs more unique shops and entertainment options that you don’t have any where else in town. I’d love to see an independent/art house movie theater with dining options, but the economics of that are tough.

    Since the heat is a major compliant, let’s look at what makes people think Phoenix is a cool place? I don’t quite know myself, but their heat is comparable if not worse than Fresno’s.

    We gotta fix up the neighborhoods in and around downtown. I know Lowel has come a long way, just got to keep it up and make sure that extends to the other neighborhoods. It may not be as “cool” as roof top bars, but it’s important for the lasting vitality of the area.

    1. The Phoenix question is interesting to me as I lived there as a teen (not long but still) and still have lots of family there. It is definitely hotter so the weather is definitively worse. But they don’t complain about it as much as we do. Their mentality is “Yeah it’s hot, don’t go outside in the afternoon. The AC works. Big deal. Happens every year.”
      In Fresno we seemed surprised by it every year and can’t understand why it’s still hot in July like it’s been every year since existence. It’s as if we expect Summer heat to stop one year. I think our proximity to the perfect coastal weather fools us and makes us jealous.

  11. Building on the “outdoor city” comments, more Community Gardens would be awesome to see in the area. My wife and I recently moved here, and we joined the Alluvial Community Garden to grab some greenspace outside of our apartment. It’s a great way for people to come together, ties into the area’s AG focus, creates beautiful spaces to look at. For those worried about water needs, they could be installed in parks that are already being watered…

    Walkability/bikability/public transit is another big one. Would be nice to see more trails in proportion to street-side bike paths in Fresno proper.

  12. Growing up in the 80s, I was convinced that San Dimas was the coolest place in California because of their legendary water park. I’m not suggesting that a world-class water park (not the poseur one near Herndon) is the magic bullet but it would make Fresno cool (and wet).

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