In all my years traveling California, the north end of the Sacramento Valley is a place I have seldom visited. Chico is the hub in this area, and many friends from the north had spoken fondly of the town. Now I know why. Not only does it have a true college-town atmosphere, but its history has been kept in place with a strict downtown architectural plan.
Chico immediately reminded me of several college towns in the south. Auburn, Alabama, might be a sister city. Both have tree-lined streets with comfortable homes surrounding a downtown college campus that dominates the local activity. Like Auburn you probably could leave for 20 years and come back to find it almost the same.
The vibrant college campus supports blocks and blocks of restaurant and shopping areas, all keeping to the historic feel of the town. Chico State, once known as the party capital of college campuses, is more known for its Agricultural Department these days.
On this visit we stayed in the Holiday Inn Chico, just a five-minute drive to downtown and right off Highway 99. The hotel has been remodeled recently and offered excellent value for this stay. The rooms were very nice, and the lobby area includes a bar and restaurant to pass any spare time in.
When you are on a long drive, Chico lies between Santa Barbara and Oregon, for instance, you want to make sure that you will have comfortable accommodations at day’s end. This Holiday Inn fills that need and more. The staff goes out of their way to make sure each guest gets what he or she wants, which is not always the case in this price range. The pool area and fitness center were updated as well and a visit was relaxing. See the hotel’s website here for complete details.
Bidwell Park is as important to this town as the university. The third largest municipal park in the country has something for everyone. Think of Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and you get an idea of the size. The Bidwell name is very important here as it was John Bidwell who founded the place. As one of California’s earliest settlers, he wound up here as a general in the California Militia, and the town started as an important fort.
There is something for everyone here, and Bidwell Park is about a 15-minute drive from the downtown area. The park sits in a canyon and will remind you of Northern Arizona with its topography. Big Chico Creek flows through the park and creates a variety of leisure activities with its swimming holes, both large and small, and fishing areas. The park also has one of the best public golf courses in the state: the Bidwell Park Golf Course. This course is all nature with abundant views of the canyons and creeks surrounding.
To Fly or Drive?
Something to ponder these days with all the airport delays is, would you be better off driving? If you can’t fly nonstop from Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, or San Luis Obispo, you might want to think out the time involved. Let’s say you are going to the Bay Area. By the time you leave your home, reach the airport early, and get on the plane, it will be close to two hours, not including flight delays. Then, upon arrival, you have to get your baggage and secure a rental car. Again there will be delays. Even with a nonstop you can probably drive faster to any California destination as opposed to commercial transportation.
You really want to fly when you are going to go to another state such as Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. While you can drive to Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Southern Oregon, it is the return trip that is likely to wear you out. A lot of county residents may not know that Allegiant Airlines offers nonstop service from Santa Maria to Las Vegas at very attractive pricing. Phoenix and Portland are well served from SBA, and if you plan ahead, the fares will beat the costs of driving.