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.


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)

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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!

9 thoughts on “The Portals Into Fresno: Which Is Best?”

  1. Thanks for telling me about Rocket Dog, didn’t even know that place existed.

    Whitesbridge to 180, go through downtown and central Fresno, then dropping off at Shaw and 41 is a decent way to “show off” (lol) Fresno.

  2. First of all I love your blog. With so many people in Fresno (I mean bigger than SAC and over 700K if you include clovis, madera, and the other small surrounding cities) it is just weird the lack of bloggers. Fresno is truly a big city with a small town feel still. Some may call that good, some bad. I would love to see Fresno really become more relevant in terms of positive social media to be up there with the likes of the Bay Area and SoCal.

    This is a good blog post someone posted about it

    Anyways, sorry about the rant. To get back to your post, I think this is a much bigger topic. For MOST people who travel through Fresno, they are on the 99 and that’s it. Someone made a good point about this on reddit Fresno and I could not agree more!

    If I wasn’t familiar with Fresno, just passing it on 99 would leave me with a “MEH” impression. The roads are “eh” lots of dried and dead plantation, nothing to see but commercial rigs and junk. You don’t even see much of the downtown unless you hop on the 180 or 41 from 99. I constantly have to tell people how big Fresno really is because they just don’t believe it driving on 99. Which leads to your post which then really opens people’s eyes who first visit Fresno. When I first actually got off one of the exists and explored the city, I was truly shocked of how big the city was–only then did I confirm that Fresno is indeed the 5th largest city in CA with over 500K population by itself. From herndon on 99 until you hit the 180, it seems like nothingness. Then when you get on the 180 and you start to see the freeway get nicer and opens up and you see the downtown area, its almost like a “ahh there it is” moment. But that shouldn’t be the case as currently the newer/nicer parts of Fresno are north but no one would realize that from 99. Who would think the nice $400-1mil+ homes are off of Herndon. I hope one day some city officials realize this and clean up 99 through Fresno or develop the patchiness of vacancy both east and west of the 99 that we see driving through. Even the littleness of Madera through the 99 looks nicer.

    Personally, until the revitalization of downtown is finished, I prob pick north over in Herndon, but if you are exiting going south bound on 99, the exist still poses the problem I just mentiond. You are on an overpass that has a lot of dead dried weeds and vegetation and go through a small area of undeveloped nothingness and only until you make the left on herndon you start to see el paseo marketplace followed by clean new houses will you start going “oh hey this is a nice area” I pick this because i’m an old foggie. My 40-50 year old friends want to see possible retirement areas and could care less for hippy things. If that was the case, I would prob would go down the 99 to 180 to 168 and exit on shaw by savemart center. this route will allow folks to see downtown, and hopefully after its developed will show that we do have some city life, and that we do have a freeway system. which is surprisingly nicely paved and clean (minus 99) and exiting at savemart center going through shaw west bound will showcase fresno state, and how developed this town really is.

    Shaw and 99 i wouldn’t. its meh. until you get past golden state when things are more developed. over the rails going through the underground forest is patchy and a interesting place for an in and out. the exit and freeway onramps and offramps there just like many off the 99 are filled with dead plants and shrubs. the underground forest should invest in maybe better showcasing with more drought resistent plantations above ground to bring more greens and eye candy to passer bys that would help out the scenery.

    I also thing that fresno sign is great, but in a questionable spot. but i guess thats where its OG but it should be in a place that is thriving, maybe somewhere in downtown when all the projects are done.

    keep up the good work and keep blogging for the sake of Fresno!

    1. Jim! Thanks for the awesome comment and kind words!

      I think Fresno is on the rise in social media and tech – Bitwise is a big example of that. We are definitely still behind though.

      The lameness that is 99 through Fresno is something I’ve been railing about for YEARS! I still don’t know how much responsibility CalTrans has over how it looks. And the city has done so little to make things look
      Ok when somebody attempts to get
      Off 99.

        1. Yep! And on the last Flowing With Famous, Josh & I were talking about how 41 has been looking crappy and if it’s Caltran’s responsibility. Then the fires happened.
          I might be writing a related post about it tonight or tomorrow.

  3. My choice for best portal into Fresno has to be Kearny Blvd!
    Miles and miles of palm trees and eucalyptus on both sides of the boulevard, it goes right by the charming and vintage Chandler Airport and then Ts into Fresno Street going N/E under the RR tracks into downtown. Easy access to Chinatown, including Central Fish and all downtown locations including Yoshi Now and Arte Americas, both of which are amazing and worthy of bringing out-of-town visitors to.
    Of course to enter from out of town you have to come thru Kerman but you CAN come from the central coast (Monterey Peninsula) and even the Bay Area this way, traveling down Hiway 5. Kearny is lovely, pastoral, and California iconic. *Side note here; If Trump had purchased Running Horse Golf Course a handful of years ago, his plans (besides probably defrauding the city) included closing this “best portal into Fresno”. Thank goodness we can still transverse this historic boulevard, into Fresno or out to Kearney Park.

  4. This is a problem that has bothered me in a small way for many years. When I’m traveling with guests I usually just take the quickest route direct to my place, after dark if I can. I don’t offer apologies (nearly all routes seem to call for one), just try to talk about something else and hope they don’t notice how desolate, run down, and dried out everything seems to be. It’s really sad, and I’m afraid the only solution is the invention of the transporter because the City, CalTrans, BNSF, and individual property owners sure don’t have the will or the means to clean up any of it. Pitiful.

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