Peoples Choice

2019 People’s Choice: Arts and Entertainment

Art Gallery

1. Arte Américas

1630 Van Ness Ave.

(559) 266-2623

The Central Valley is home to Arte Américas — a flourishing place for Latino arts. Known as Casa De La Cultura, the 10,000-square-foot cultural center has been an art gallery in the Cultural Arts District of downtown Fresno for more than 30 years.

The cultural center is recognized as a key stakeholder working to redefine downtown Fresno. It hosts Friday night concerts, Nights in the Plaza, from May to September, as well as ArtHop on the first Thursday of each month. The family-friendly events and exhibits feature community artists with talents that celebrate Latino arts. There are performances by Flamenco, folklorico and mariachi ensembles, and presentations by poets, authors, writers and novelists.

Camino’s launched the 2019 season by opening on Sunday, March 3. Lilia Gonzáles Chávez, the executive director of Fresno Arts Council, says the exhibit is “a comprehensive look at Latinos in the Central Valley.”

On the horizon for 2019: The Dia de las Madres (Mother’s Day) Celebration in May. You can bring your mother(s) for brunch at La Plazita. The Cala Gala will return to celebrate Dia de los Muerto in early November.

“For the holidays, Arte Américas will be filled with traditional Nacimientos (Nativity scenes) created by community artists,” Gonzáles Chávez says.

2. M Street Arts Complex

1419 M St.

(559) 438-8200

3. Fig Tree Gallery

644 Van Ness Ave.

(559) 485-0460

Central Coast Destination

CENTRAL COAST DESTINATION: The newly renovated Pismo Beach Pier is open for visitors. It closed in March 2017 as part of an $8.7 million overhaul of the aging structure located in the People’s Choice for Best Central Coast Destination, Pismo Beach. Joe Johnston

1. Pismo Beach

If you haven’t been to Pismo Beach lately, it’s time to go back.

First and foremost, the iconic Pismo Beach Pier has reopened after an 18-month renovation. The $8.7 million overhaul of the aging structure closed the pier from March 2017 to October 2018. During that time, deck boards, wooden pilings and supports were replaced. Before the renovation, city officials said there were wooden boards on the structure that hadn’t been replaced since the pier was built in 1928. As it stands now, the Pismo Beach Pier is the 18th longest in California, at 1,200 feet.

The pier’s facelift is the cornerstone of a larger project that will, planners hope, make this great beach town even better. The project to redesign the pier’s plaza area includes redesigned public restrooms and a newly created stage area with “flex spaces” for farmers markets and public events.

The plaza renovation project — and new hotels in the area — will take up space that is currently used for parking. A story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune noted, however, that the parking area is being reconfigured to maximize parking in the smaller space. Between removing landscaping and making all the spots parallel, rather than at an angle, the lot would likely only lose about five parking spaces at the project’s completion.

While you’re visiting Pismo Beach, make sure to explore beyond the pier area. The city of Pismo Beach has miles of sandy shores, unending entertainment options and some of the best restaurants, clam chowder and scenery around.

Also make sure to visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Dinosaur Caves Park or the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

2. Monterey

3. Morro Bay

Golf Course

1. Copper River Country Club

2140 E. Clubhouse Drive

(559) 434-5200

Tranquility and natural beauty meet at Copper River Country Club. Located at the end of the palm tree-lined driveway sits an early California-inspired clubhouse surrounded by an 18-hole, par 72 golf course that was designed by David W. Pfaff.

The world-renowned golf course architect designed the country club at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range — offering members a picturesque view while burning calories.

Members also have access to La Cantina for hot and cold sandwiches, soups and salads, and a selection of grab-and-go snacks. The Restaurant at Copper River, offering lunch items Wednesday through Saturday, is open to the public. The menu for Sunday brunch includes made-to-order omelets, pancakes and French toast, and classic sides like bacon and sausage.

The country club also features 15 LED-lighted tennis courts and two clay courts, which host the United States Tennis Association NorCal tournaments.

The Fitness Centre provides members with equipment by Life Fitness, Cybex and Schwinn Carbon Blue, along with exercise classes from HIIT to Cardio Jam. The Swim Pavilion includes a 25-meter outdoor swimming pool with lap lanes, which is heated throughout the fall and winter.

2. Fort Washington Golf and Country Club

10272 N. Millbrook Ave.

(559) 434-1702

3. San Joaquin Country Club

3484 W. Bluff Ave.

(559) 439-3484

LOCAL CASINO: Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino offers table games, entertainment and dining options just minutes away from Fresno.

Local Casino

1. Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino

711 Lucky Lane, Coarsegold

(866) 794-6946

They say winning isn’t everything. But at Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, the local gaming destination gives its players as many opportunities as possible to make it happen.

A whopping 1,800 slot machines, 36 live table games, nine progressive table games and a High Limit Room help make up the landscape of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino’s 56,000-square-foot gaming floor. Visitors are welcome to test their luck at the casino’s popular slot machine games, including Dragon Link, Wheel of Fortune, Buffalo, Lightning Links and Monopoly series.

“We have premium slots, regular reel, video slots, Keno, electronic table games including poker and craps. We also have wide area progressives, which have large top jackpots,” says Deann Kamalani, Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino’s director of marketing. “We’re always refreshing our casino floor with the newest games in the Valley.”

The casino recently upped the ante for its Rewards Club members, which earns users points for fine dining, resort accommodations, merchandise, extended gaming and cash with every slot or table game played. Points are now double what they used to be, according to Kamalani, and are worth twice as much than any other casino program in California.

And Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino is all about its guests winning big. More than 300 machines have jackpots of $10,000 or more, while several of its wide area progressive table games have jackpots starting in the mid-$100,000 range that grow into millions of dollars. The biggest jackpot since its 2018 reopening was $1.5 million on the Monopoly Millionaire slot.

But what really makes the casino a stand out is that Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino is much more.

“Chukchansi is the only casino in the Central Valley with resort accommodations and amenities for our guests to enjoy unlike any other — offering more than 400 spacious rooms and suites, six dining venues with distinct cuisines options, four bars, two café venues, a luxurious spa, indoor/outdoor pool and weekly live entertainment, along with our Summer Concert Series hosted in our 1,900-seat Outdoor Pavilion,” Kamalani says.

Add in the spectacular views and proximity of nearby Yosemite National Park, and it’s nearly impossible to leave this place feeling less than lucky.

2. Table Mountain Casino

8184 Table Mountain Road, Friant

(559) 822-7777

3. Tachi Palace

17225 Jersey Ave., Lemoore

(866) 4PALACE

MUSEUM: The work of Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant who created an oasis below Fresno’s ground floor in the early 1900s, is designated as a California Registered Historical Landmark and is the People’s Choice winner for Best Museum. MARK CROSSE Fresno Bee Staff Photo


1. Forestiere Underground Gardens

5021 W. Shaw Ave.

(559) 271-0734

Central Valley’s heat during the summer months is inescapable. That is, unless you’re Baldassare Forestiere. The Sicilian immigrant created his own oasis below Fresno’s ground floor in the early 1900s — imaginatively crafting nearly 10 acres of patios, grottoes and garden courts from the blueprint of his own mind.

Today, Forestiere’s work is a designated as a California Registered Historical Landmark and has been visited by people from 50 U.S. states and as many as 80 countries around the globe.

“The Underground Gardens provides guided tours through a one-of-a kind inspirational environment that offers a testament on how our dreams and talents can help us achieve the unbelievable,” says Lyn Forestiere Kosewski, great-niece of Baldassare Forestiere and co-owner of Forestiere Underground Gardens LLC. “For 40 years, Forestiere dreamed and labored in his spare time to build an underground Mediterranean resort. … Although he didn’t live to complete his resort, what remains has proven to be an even greater legacy than he imagined.”

The one-hour tour includes the history of the site, weaving guests through three levels of a subterranean maze and courtyards filled with fruit trees and grapevines originally planted by Forestiere. Forestiere Kosewski notes that visitors will even experience an underground home, which consists of a kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms and a fireplace.

Tour season runs from April through November, with the summer drawing out the bigger crowds starting Memorial Day weekend. Forestiere Kosewksi recommends visitors wear comfortable shoes and check back with Forestiere Underground Gardens online for updates and special announcements throughout the year.

2. Fresno Art Museum

2233 N. First St.

(559) 441-4221

3. Arte Américas

1630 Van Ness Ave.

(559) 266-2623


1. Fulton 55

875 Divisadero St.

(559) 412-7400

Located on the corner of Divisadero and Fulton streets, Fulton 55 is a landmark in the Mural Arts District of downtown Fresno. The nightclub hosts a diversity of acts in various genres.

For example, February included a mariachi ensemble, tribute bands and four California-based comedians.

“The atmosphere changes from show to show, but we always provide a safe, fun place to visit,” says Tony Martin, the general manager of Fulton 55.

Recently, the nightclub hosted Tenova, an American DJ, producer and songwriter; Prey 4 Reign, a Fresno-based metal band; Metalachi, a heavy metal/mariachi ensemble; and Patrick Contreras; a Carlos Santana tribute act.

Situated in a two-story building, the nightclub can also accommodate large crowds for private parties, holiday celebrations and corporate events.

2. The Standard Restaurant and Lounge

9455 Fort Washington Road

(559) 434-3638

3. Strummer’s

833 E. Fern Ave.

(559) 485-5356

Performing Arts Venue/Theater

1. Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater

1226 N. Wishon Ave.

(559) 266-9494

Located on Wishon Avenue in the Tower District, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater has been the hub for live theater for more than four decades.

The performing arts venue was started by Roger Rocka and Dan Pessano in 1978. It became the home of Good Company Players, which was founded by Pessano and a group of local actors and musicians in 1973. It features shows with broad appeal, family-friendly themes and a cross section of works to get the community involved.

Rocka attributes the success of the performing arts venue to “friendly, attentive service” and “customers who become friends.” And, of course, meticulous attention is paid to the menu.

With Eric DeGroot behind the menu, you can expect to see mouth-watering plates designed to complement the shows. For example, the menu for “Mama Mia!” included pan-seared chicken, New York steak and ricotta-stuffed gnocchi. Cocktails, inspired by the soundtrack, were named S.O.S., Dancing Queen and Honey, Honey.

The 2019 schedule of shows includes performances of “Hairspray,” “Disney’s Newsies,” “Calamity Jane,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Elf The Musical.”

2. Saroyan Theatre

730 M St.

(559) 445-8100

3. The Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts

815 E. Olive Ave.

(559) 485-9050

SPORTS BAR: A barbecue Tri-Tip sandwich, fries and a drink is a popular item at The Doghouse Grill, the People's Choice winner for Sports Bar. Gary Kazanjian Gary Kazanjian

Sports Bar

1. Dog House Grill

2789 E. Shaw Ave.

(559) 294-9920

Sport fans can rejoice when they enter Dog House Grill, located across the street from Fresno State and the Save Mart Center. It starts with TVs — lots of big screens. The restaurant/bar features 10 70-inch TVs and four 120-inch projector screens to help you catch all the details of the games.

The interior is decorated with photographs and memorabilia from legends in the NFL, NBA and MLB — a treat for sport fans.

The owners, David and Vickie Billingsley, created the menu to satisfy your taste buds after rooting and cheering for your favorite team. You can’t go wrong with the tri-tip steak sandwich, the ABC Burger — avocado, bacon and Jack cheese — or The Pig Sandwich, shredded pork, coleslaw and barbecue sauce on a French roll.

You can also find a hearty selection of beers like 805, Union Jack, DBA, Luponic Distortion, Modelo, Blue Moon and Guinness.

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. Sequoia Brewing Company

Multiple locations

Water Park

1. Wild Water Adventures

11413 E. Shaw Ave., Clovis

(559) 299-9453

There’s a common understanding once summer hits the Central Valley: stay indoors. But Wild Water Adventure Park enthusiasts have come to a different conclusion. If you can’t beat the heat — why not find a way to enjoy it?

The family-owned water park is the largest in California, filling its 52 acres with an impressive 38 slides, 20 attractions, fishing lakes, sports fields and barbecue areas for families to take advantage of. And after celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2018, Central Valley residents have experienced first-hand how Wild Water Adventure Park’s grown from the humble picnic area, Serena Vista Lakes, to Clovis Lakes’ single Olympic-sized pool in 1977, and finally into the ultimate summer playground it is today.

Thrill-seekers can find their match in its plunging Drop Zone, Ghostslider and Sidewinder slides while attractions like Thunder Falls and The Blue Wave provide more family-friendly fun for all ages to enjoy. One of its most recent additions, the Kaleidoslide, combines the gaming obsession of today with some good old-fashioned adventure — a true melding of the virtual and reality. Riders aim for various targets while rushing down the waterslide, with top-scorers earning recognition on its leaderboard throughout the day.

During the summer, Wild Water Adventure Park transforms into the main stage for its annual Star Spangled Revue, which features patriotic music, a laser light show and fireworks to help celebrate the Fourth of July. It’s become a staple of the park since debuting in 1989 — so much so that it’s now the Central Valley’s No. 1 Independence Day celebration with encore performances on multiple weekends.

Wild Water Adventure Park remains the only water park in the state that allows visitors to bring in their own gear, food, beverages and games — helping to make guests’ experiences more affordable and uniquely their own. Season passes are available online.

2. Island Waterpark

6099 W. Barstow Ave.

(559) 277-6800

3. Blackbeard’s Family Entertainment Center

4055 N. Chestnut Diagonal

(559) 292-9000


1. Solitary Cellars

32749 Avenue 7 B, Madera

(559) 481-1150

Before starting Solitary Cellars Wine Company, Greg Bergersen and Rick Quesada came from careers in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In 2014, they decided to combine their knowledge of and love for wine to create Solitary Cellars Wine Company.

“We work very hard to bring a high-quality and flavorful wine to your glass,” Bergersen says.

The North Block Tasting Room is located on Avenue 7 in Madera; the winery is located on Lockeford Street in Lodi. It harvests fruit under the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing Certification Program. It also sources fruit from the Central Valley, as well as Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Lodi, Napa County, Sonoma County and the Santa Lucia Highlands.

“We offer single varietals such as pinot noir, old-vine zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, barbera and merlot, but our blends lead the way,” Bergersen says.

The Lifer is a combination cabernet sauvignon, merlot and zinfandel grape varieties. Code Three, a blend of Grenache, syrah and Mourvèdre grape varieties, will be released in the spring. Bergersen says the most popular blend is “the wedding wine” called Ball and Chain.

2. Fresno State Winery

2360 E. Barstow Ave.

(559) 278-4867

3. Engelmann Cellars

3275 N. Rolinda Ave.

(559) 274-9463