Peoples Choice

Things to do

Art Gallery: The Ward family enjoy art on display at Arte Americas.
Art Gallery: The Ward family enjoy art on display at Arte Americas.

Art Gallery

1. Arte Américas

1630 Van Ness Ave.

(559) 266-2623

It only seems appropriate that the public has voted Arte Américas as the People’s Choice for favorite Art Gallery. The local Latino cultural center is now celebrating its 30th year and is a not only a place for Latino art, but a flourishing hub for the entire artistic community. It has diverse exhibits rotating every four months, a popular summer concert series “Nights in the Plaza,” a well-attended Dia De Los Muertos gala and various workshops highlighting visual, performing and literary arts.

Executive Director and Chief Curator Frank Delgado says when it comes to programming, the center features both local and outside artists, hoping to elevate creative people’s work in the area by celebrating them alongside some heavy hitters who’ve come to Fresno. In fact, from December through February, Arte Américas spotlighted high school students up and down the Central Valley to nurture and give support to artists the space hopes to feature again down the road.

Its third annual women’s exhibition is on now and will run through May. Entitled “Three Degrees of Separation,” the concept includes 12 female artists who were personally invited by last year’s invitees — building on a network of talented women who identify with different ages, styles, mediums and cultures.

“The gender gap in art galleries is disgusting. It says 90/10, but it’s closer to 93/7 or 93/6,” Delgado says. “We’re super women-powered and we take an active role in not participating in that gender gap. We always try to keep it closer to that 50/50 mark. We want to create an example, and provide a platform via the arts to open up the conversation.”

Arte Américas offers free admission to the public Thursday through Saturday, and the fee is $2 per person for school visits.

“We try to be very inclusive and make it available to everyone, so families with limited funds are welcomed and are excited to participate in what we’re doing,” Delgado explains. “We had some of the biggest names in art last year. These are people who are only showing in LA, NYC or Paris but can come to downtown Fresno and see it for free. That’s how people connect.”

2. M Street Arts Complex

1419 M. St.

(559) 438-8200

3. Jewel FM Art Gallery

1415 Fulton St.

(559) 497-5118!the-gallery

Central Coast Destination

1. Pismo Beach

As if we didn’t have enough reasons to be obsessed with Pismo Beach, the classic California beach town’s allure is in top form as we transition from the cold winter months to a more palatable spring.

More than 26 miles of uninterrupted, pristine ocean views? Check. Various outdoor activities, rich wildlife and nature preserves? Got it. Fresh farmland produce, sea-inspired cuisine and a slew of tasting rooms highlighting the splendors from surrounding wine-making regions? You bet.

The semi off-season offers visitors special, discounted rates for extended stays with many area hoteliers, as well as an opportunity to experience some of the Central Coast’s migrating wildlife.

Naturists just missed the cluster of Monarch butterflies that seek refuge in Pismo State Beach’s grove of eucalyptus trees from October through February, but there are still ways to get an up-close view of dolphins, whales, sea otters and numerous bird species traveling through and near the Pacific Ocean waters. Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding and biking are just a few methods adventurers choose to explore Pismo’s natural life — and that includes their furry friends.

Pismo Beach has become regarded as one of America’s most dog-friendly towns. So much so, in fact, there’s an official dog-friendly website created specifically for canine-loving travelers to assist with finding dog-friendly lodging, restaurants, activities and more.

Celebrating local arts and culture is also a priority of the popular beach town. One of its latest events: CowParade SLO.

The event is part of a series of worldwide exhibitions featuring decorated, life-size cow statues, with four placed throughout Pismo Beach. The PisMoo Beach CowParade Photo contest invites guests to participate in scouting out the statues — located at Pismo Pier, Main Street parking, Dinosaur Caves Park and Pismo Beach Premium Outlets — and taking creative pictures with the art pieces to win a one-night stay in Pismo Beach. The contest ends May 1.

2. Monterey,

3. Morro Bay

Golf Course

1. Copper River Country Club

2140 E. Clubhouse Drive

(559) 434-5200

An aesthetic and feel of “old California” was William R. Tatham Sr.’s goal when he envisioned Copper River Country Club — its picturesque surroundings of rolling hills, vineyards and view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains creating a nice backdrop to the facility’s Spanish courtyard fountains, arched walkways and top-of-the-line amenities.

But for many, it’s the 18-hole championship course that has area golfers flocking to its grounds.

Since opening for play in 1995, Copper River Country Club’s course has established itself as a challenging and fun course that caters to every kind of golfer, offering players privacy and pleasing visuals with the natural surroundings.

“As a private country club we are quite unique in that we do not have any holes running back and forth or next to one another,” says Ryan Lancaster, head golf professional and golf operations manager. “Each hole is different from the others, and the only view you are seeing is of the challenge directly in front of you.”

Copper River Country Club has recently made an effort to take the region’s environmental concerns to heart, and installed major irrigation and sprinkler upgrades to its operation that make the facility more water efficient in maintaining its grounds, Lancaster explains.

The club’s amenities also extend past its renowned course, including a tennis facility, state-of-the-art fitness center, swimming pool and spa, casual and fine dining and even a kids center to ensure that all members of the family are taken care of.

Its elegant function areas make Copper River Country Club a go-to venue for the greater community, as well. Whether it’s a wedding reception, business dinner, holiday party, nonprofit banquet, golf tournament or Sunday brunch, both members and non-members alike turn to the club’s professional staff, service and food quality to host events throughout the year.

As for the what’s on the horizon, well, this place isn’t leaving any opportunity out.

“Being as fast-moving and forward-thinking as we are,” Lancaster notes, “we are always prepared to make country club life even more enjoyable for our members.”

2. Fort Washington Golf and Country Club

10272 N. Millbrook Ave.

(559) 434-1702

3. Fig Garden Golf Club

7700 N Van Ness Blvd.

(559) 439-2928

Local Casino

1. Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino

711 Lucky Lane, Coarsegold

(866) 794-6946

Located near Yosemite National Park, Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino has made it its mission to provide a world-class destination experience for gaming, dining and entertainment — all from its home in the Sierra foothills. And since reopening its doors last January after more than a year of closure, it seems the popular casino is back to doing what it does best: variety.

“We work very hard to keep our gaming options interesting and updated for our guests,” says Deann Kamalani, director of marketing. “We provide a wide range gaming options by offering the latest variety of slots machines and also a variety of fast-action table games available on the market.”

The casino offers 56,000 square feet of gaming space dedicated to its 1,740 slot machines and table games, including options like video poker, Britney Spears and Sons of Anarchy to blackjack, Mystery Card Roulette and Ultimate Texas Hold’em. But that’s just the tip of the entertainment iceberg for Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino.

When it comes to amenities, this place provides guests with 402 hotel rooms to help extend their visit, a full-service spa, state-of-the-art fitness room, indoor/outdoor pool, outdoor event center, five dining venues, nightclub, arcade, business center and conference rooms. Kamalani notes within the last year, its outdoor entertainment venue has been updated and a VIP lounge and the Mountain View lobby have opened.

“Our friendly team members, casino atmosphere, lodging accommodations, a wide assortment of dining options and a variety of Rewards Club benefits are a few attributes that set us apart from our local competition,” Kamalani explains. She recommends visitors stay up to date with by visiting its website to catch the Summer Concert Series lineup.

2. Table Mountain Casino

8184 Table Mountain Road, Friant

(559) 822-7777

3. Tachi Palace

17225 Jersey Ave., Lemoore

(866) 4PALACE


1. Fresno Art Museum

2233 N. First St.

(559) 441-4221

As one of Fresno’s few art museums, earning the top spot in the People’s Choice Awards category may appear as an easy out. Well, not so fast.

The 67-year-old institution has worked tirelessly to provide residents and visitors with a superb selection of contemporary art exhibitions through the years. Executive director and chief curator Michele Ellis Pracy has made it a museum goal to benefit all who pass through its doors by providing thought-provoking educational programs and special interactions with various artists.

Since Ellis Pracy signed on with the museum two years ago, the museum has hosted original exhibitions and enriching programs geared toward adults and continued to foster its vibrant art education program for children ages pre-K through college.

But with the museum’s location in a central Fresno neighborhood that receives little foot traffic — at Clinton Avenue and First Street — it was key to market Fresno Art Museum differently and reach wider audiences to make it a destination again, Ellis Pracy says. Its efforts seem to be working.

“Our marketing strategies have resulted in increased traffic, especially from those visiting the area,” she explains. “Donors are investing in the museum because they see evidence the museum is well managed. They know FAM’s exhibitions and programs meet standards of excellence, and that the staff is comprised of museum professionals.”

The American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum also set its focus on curating original exhibitions that are relevant to Fresno and its surrounding communities, helping to expand their impact with panel discussions, lectures, demonstrations, classes and readings that are closely tied to them. Its indoor and outdoor facilities are available to the community for outside events, including weddings, receptions, plays, concerts and more.

Highlighting local artists, as well as selections from Fresno Art Museum’s permanent collection more regularly are also of utmost importance to Ellis Pracy. This year’s first full changeover exhibition opens May 19, and will devote three primary galleries to two of Fresno’s “heralded women artists:” Nancy Youdelman and Leslie Patterson Batty.

“As chief curator, I intend for the museum as a whole to have a message expressed through the artists and artworks chosen for exhibition. We do not show art simply for art’s sake,” Ellis Pracy says. “Our curatorial decisions come from a think-tank situation, where we bring ideas to the table, divide up the exhibitions and pursue the final product.”

The Fresno Art Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Thursday to Sunday. Admission costs $5 for youth from ages 6 to 17. Adults cost $10 and children under 5 are admitted for free. The museum does close for special events, so it is best to check the museum’s website before planning a visit.

2. Forestiere Underground Gardens

5021 W. Shaw Ave.

(559) 271-0734

(tours held March through November)

3. Arte Américas

1630 Van Ness Ave.

(559) 266-2623


1. The Standard Restaurant and Lounge

9455 Fort Washington Rd.

(559) 434-3638

The Standard Restaurant and Lounge’s name is not just a flashy title — it’s basically the business’ motto. For the past nine years, The Standard has created an upscale experience on both the restaurant and nightlife sides of its operation, focusing on an intimate social setting and a slower pace for guests to enjoy.

“We’re busy on both sides. For the restaurant, we’re not hustle and bustle, especially with our lounge setting. And on the nightlife side, it’s vibrant,” says manager Raj Bisla. “Our DJs know how to cater to the Fresno crowd. Our bottle service is top tier; we have an excellent bar staff and waitress staff. They’re all versed and knowledgeable on the ‘the standard’ of highest customer service.”

The Standard has earned a reputation for serving the best in craft cocktails and housing a large whisky selection, as well as providing a nice, safe environment for visitors to socialize and let loose for the evening. The regular rotation of resident DJs also play a variety of music genres for Fresno’s diverse crowds, including Top 40, house, hip-hop and throwback tunes.

But its true secret weapon: owner, Steve Bisla.

“Our owner, Steve Bisla, has been in business for a long time; he’s never stayed stagnant but wants to keep ourselves updated,” Bisla says. “After 25 years, he keeps evolving and moving forward. It keeps a good customer base coming in and seeing what we have to offer.”

The club — open Fridays and Saturdays — was recently outfitted with a new lighting system to keep the atmosphere new and fresh, and has a steady slew of exciting annual and special parties to keep locals on their toes.

Along with The Standard’s Halloween, pre-Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve festivities, Bisla says the business has been foraying into the world of themed parties with September’s Masquerade Ball and last December’s prohibition party to celebrate its official end in 1933. Guests donned flapper dresses, paperboy hats and secured their entrances with a password — all genuinely buying into the club’s efforts.

The Standard is hoping to add to its success of themed events, and keeps its website and social media sites up to date with new information and the latest happenings.“We’re becoming one of those Fresno staples that give people a chance to have a good time, socialize and feel safe,” Bisla says. “That’s what a nightclub is all about.”

2. Strummers

833 E. Fern Ave.

(559) 485-5356

3. Fulton 55

875 Divisadero St.

(559) 412-7400

Performing Arts Venue/Theater

1. Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater

1226 N. Wishon Ave.

(559) 266-9494

On the eve of its 40th anniversary, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater’s namesake, Mr. Roger Rocka himself, believes it’s the unique entertainment venue’s caliber rather than setup that makes it tick. Sure, the intimate space provides a full evening of relaxation and fun with its dinner and a show combo. But for Rocka, it’s success over the past few decades encompasses much more than that.

“What’s special about it is not so much of our structure, but that Dan [Pessano] and his crew have done outstanding performances year after year,” he says. “We try to match that high quality on the food and service side of things, and make everyone feel like family than just customers.”

Pessano and Good Company Players got their start five years earlier, putting on performances at a downtown Fresno hotel during the summers before Pessano and Rocka joined forces to create a space for the theater group to perform on a regular basis. The dinner and theater revenue streams help to keep the other side afloat.

The Oregon resident stays up to date with Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater happenings every week through the wonders of technology, and rarely misses a new performance. But he gives a lot of credit to Pessano and the Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater staff for running its day-to day operations, with many of its employees maintaining a long tenure.

In fact, the executive chef, Eric DeGroot, got his start at the venue in 1987 working as a busboy and server, later coming back to Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater to help out in the kitchen where he still remains today. Rocka explains that DeGroot and his team put together an innovative, creative menu for each of the featured shows that help complement and add to the overall experience for guests show after show.

“Audiences have evolved and we’re tried to evolve with them, so we involve young people more and more and more,” Rocka says. “We go back to old favorites because they’re favorites for a reason and still try to challenge the audiences with something they’ve never seen before.”

“Pete and the Starcatcher” is the current show gracing the venue’s stage, and is a prequel to “Peter Pan,” featuring only a handful of actors to play more than 100 characters. Performances run through Sunday, May 14. As for the future, well, Rocka hopes more and more generations of audiences will come to view the space as home.

“I hope that we can continue and be the kind of place where people feel like we care about them when they come in, and we do,” he says. “In our culture right now, that’s hard to come by, so that’s what we want to be.

2. Saroyan Theater

730 M St.

(559) 445-8100

3. The Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts Events Center

815 E. Olive Ave.

(559) 485-9050

Sports Bar

1. Dog House Grill

2789 E. Shaw Ave.

(559) 294-9920

For Dog House Grill, it’s all about creating the best seat and atmosphere for the big game. Period.

“The atmosphere is a sports bar,” says general manager, Matt Billingsley. “We’re a kick-back restaurant with American barbecue.”

Since opening its doors in 2004, people have continued to flock to the joint — its famously packed parking lot only helping to illustrate the point. And when a special event at the nearby Save Mart Center, Fresno State campus or an explosive team rivalry is scheduled to appear on the big screen, an open spot is even more valuable.

Billingsley credits Dog House Grill’s menu to “supersede” that of typical sports bar fare, and lists its tri tip sandwich, ribs, chicken wings and side or basket of fries as the most popular items requested by hungry sports fans. The restaurant’s offerings expand to include burgers, house salads, grilled chicken, vegetable and pork sandwiches and various fried sides.

Dog House Grill proudly houses 14 TVs in its corner-lot space, with four of those being 120-inch projector screens that help bring clarity and the action to life for patrons. Revamped seating in the patio area also adds more space for diners to take advantage of during the lunchtime and dinner rushes.

But when it comes to what it does best, this place is sticking to what it knows best: consistency.

“Our service, our ability to keep people happy, replenished and interested in the game, it really does separate us from everybody else,” Billingsley says. “We have the ability to offer every big event and every big game in a classy, sports-loving fashion.”

2. Mad Duck Craft Brewing Co.

3085 E. Campus Pointe Drive

(559) 325-3825

765 W. Herndon Ave., Suite 200, Clovis

(559) 298-3825

3. Yard House

90 El Camino Drive

(559) 261-2165

Water Park

1. Wild Water Adventures

11413 E. Shaw Ave., Clovis

(559) 299-9453

There’s no better way to beat the heat in the Central Valley than a trip to Wild Water Adventure Park. The 43-year-old destination is home to a lot of things that make the waterpark a go-to favorite during the warmer months: shade, fun rides and attractions and something that the whole family can enjoy.

Average stays at the park are around the 7-hour mark, illustrating that Wild Water Adventure Park’s sprawling grounds provide more than enough to keep people engaged, including its barbecue pits and three on-site lakes for anglers to hunt prime catch that can be found swimming through their waters.

Longtime attractions like the Thunder Falls family ride and Banzai Pipeline and The Rampage rides tend to draw the longest lines, with the Blue Wave, King River Waterworks mat slides and Orca Lagoon helping to round out just a few more of the water park’s various experiences designed to entertain guests of all ages.

But it’s Wild Water Adventure Park’s most recent addition, Kaleidoslide, that still has park-goers’ attention.

The high-tech attraction engages today’s generation with video game-inspired elements that challenge riders’ hand-eye coordination to match the colored buttons on a console with lights flashing throughout the tube as they travel down the slide.

And as an added thrill, the waterpark encourages guests to beat the best scores of the day through the social media.

Special family friendly summer events like the Dive-in Movies screenings at the Blue Wave and Fireworks on the Lake displays only add to the excitement and memorable experiences regularly created at this local hot spot.

2. Island Waterpark (open seasonally)

6099 W. Barstow Ave.

(559) 277-6800

3. Blackbeard’s Family Fun Center

4055 N. Chestnut Diagonal

(559) 292-9000


1. Fresno State

2360 E. Barstow Ave.

(559) 278-4867

Fresno State Winery this year will celebrate its 20th anniversary of becoming the first commercially bonded winery for a university in the country, says business and marketing manager Kevin Smith.

In those two decades, students have produced a wide variety of wines that have won more than 600 awards, including recent gold medals awarded by the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest competition of American wines in the world.

About 5,500 cases of wine are produced annually, Smith says. Half of the wine grapes are grown on campus, some come from Duarte Nursery in Linden and the rest are donated by boutique vineyards in Fresno County.

“Because we want our students to learn various styles and varietals, we do 20 different wines, including a lot of the major French style wines like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and syrah,” he says. “We also do Spanish varietals, Portuguese and Italian. Those are warmer weather wines that come from areas south of the French regions. We have warmer weather here in the San Joaquin Valley so we do well in those wines like tempranillo, barbera, touriga, and sangiovese.”

Fresno State Winery is also known for its Tailgate series, which includes a red blend, white blend, rose and moscato.

Fresno State wines can be purchased from local retailers such as Trader Joe’s, Save Mart, Vons, Whole Foods, The Meat Market and The Market, Smith says. The wines are also sold in stores in the nearby foothill communities of Prather and Coarsegold.

The Gibson Farm market is the only store that carries every wine created by Fresno State Winery, and offers in-house tastings and the opportunity to sign up for Fresno State’s exclusive wine club, Unleashed. Members receive three annual four-bottle shipments at $50 per shipment.

“All the revenues that come from the wine club and sales go back to support the Jordan College of Agriculture and our program,” Smith says. “So it’s a great way to enjoy wine but also support education and research programs at Fresno State. Joining the wine club is a great way to do that year after year.”

2. Engelmann Cellars

3275 N. Rolinda Ave.

(559) 274-9463

3. CRU Wine Company

20146 Road 21, Madera

(559) 673-6372