Attention fans of art, history, and things that are just cool: The Greater Fresno Alliance of Museums and Educational Sites is hosting a free museum day on Saturday, Oct. 28, and it’s basically your chance to museum hop. The variety of museums participating is broad: from fossils to friendly turtles to fine art, there’s something to interest pretty much anyone.
Here’s the scoop on 10 local museums that are opening their doors for free this Saturday.
1. African American Historical & Cultural Museum of the San Joaquin Valley
Location: 1857 Fulton Street, Fresno
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Here’s where to find local artifacts and objects celebrating the accomplishments of local African Americans such as broadcaster Woody Miller, Fresno’s first black radio station owner. This museum also has a focus on building community, so this Saturday is a great time to jump in.
2. Central Sierra Historical Society & Museum
Location: 2642 Tollhouse Rd, Shaver Lake
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This museum is nestled in the mountains by Shaver Lake, so head this way for fresh air and pine needles. A “museum without walls,” there is an indoor and an outdoor portion. The outdoors include old railroad cabooses and a steam donkey engine (maybe even a deer if you’re lucky). Inside you can participate in crafts and learn about indigenous peoples.
3. Fossil Discovery Center of Madera County
Location: 19450 Avenue 21 1/2, Chowchilla
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It’s worth the short drive to Chowchilla to see a dire wolf, right? Game of Thrones fans and budding paleontologists alike will enjoy the mementos from the middle-Pleistocene era. These include fossils of mammoths, camels and… GIANT SLOTHS. So there’s that.
4. The Fresno Discovery Center
Location: 1944 N. Winery Ave., Fresno
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Dinosaur fans will also find plenty to roar about at Fresno’s Discovery Center, which will unveil two new dinosaur models this weekend. Donated by NASA Ambassador Susan Morrison, these will be near the sandbox of dinosaur bones that toddlers go nuts for. Even if dinos aren’t your jam, odds are high you’ll see a turtle which is an automatic win in my book. I’m a bit obsessed with the Discovery Center, as you can see from my past article here.
5. Fresno County Historical Museum & Big Fresno Fair Museum
Location: 1121 S. Chance Ave., Fresno
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Here’s the place for fire engines and fair history. Head to this museum for local icons like the Fresno Motel sign. You can also visit the goddess of justice statues that once stood on top of the Fresno Courthouse.
6. Henry Madden Library at Fresno State
Location: 5200 N. Barton Ave., Fresno
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Full disclosure, I thought I had been here, having attended Fresno State and all, but then I realized I am old and this is the new building that wasn’t ready when I was a young collegian. And it has a Starbucks. This isn’t why you should visit it, but I had to mention it because now I’m a bit bitter. These young kids get all the perks in life, you know? Anyway, you might not have realized that besides books (and Starbucks), there are collections to enjoy—such as the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.
7. San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust River Center
Location: 11605 Old Friant Road, Fresno
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
8. Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden & Clark Bonsai Collection
Location: Woodward Park, Fresno
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fresno is one of only three locations to host a public collection from the Golden State Bonsai Federation. These tiny trees are exhibited based on the season, so head there now to see what fall foliages are on display. As a bonus, koi ponds and tranquil landscapes set a peaceful mood. And of course, there are cool bridges to cross. Read more about it here.
9. Tulare County Museum at Mooney Grove Park
Location: 27000 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Part of the oldest county park in California and within an oak preserve, this museum is geared toward Tulare County history. This includes agriculture, naturally, but it also includes one of the largest collections of Native American baskets.
10. Fresno Art Museum
Location: 2233 N. First Street, Fresno
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Besides a stellar permanent collection, you can find great exhibitions when you visit the FAM. Currently, panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt are on display as well as art from Maurice Cohen and Joan Schulze. This is a great time to visit if you like your art to have texture.
And there you have it, folks—ten museums and what to expect when you visit. Who knew you had an opportunity to visit a steam donkey engine AND a dire wolf on a Saturday?
For more information on Free Museum Day, including maps to the locations, check out the Greater Fresno Alliance of Museums website here. Although admission is free, parking is not, so bring a couple dollars and some change with you, just in case. Enjoy!