It’s a Date: 5 Fresno-Fab Date Night Ideas

Fresno is for lovers, too, you know. We’ve had the last two years to narrow-down our favorite local date spots so that when Danny gets a rare evening off, we know right where to go. I don’t know about you, but we’re often looking to maximize the fun while keeping our pocketbooks full enough for weekend getaways. Here are our top five Fresno picks…

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1. Dinner and A Movie – I was once told that Fresno sells more movie tickets per capita than any other city in America (and that’s saying something). Go anti-establishment and pick up your own projector for an outdoor movie night. We absolutely love our projector, and there’s nothing better than cozying up in a hammock with your sweetie. The Fault In Our Stars was one of my favorite reads from last year and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie version was just as lovely.

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As for dinner, we found ourselves ducking into the local’s favorite Italian joint: DiCiccio’s last Friday for the very first time – but, certainly not the last! If you’re craving mama’s Italian served on the classic vinyl checkered table cloths, then DiCicco’s is where it’s at. Actually, let me literally tell you where it’s at, because there are about 12 locations across Fresno but only one offers $7 wine “tastings” to guests on Friday nights. I emphasize “tastings” because the resident wine buff will be bringing you ample pours of three local wines (and will then entertain you with details about the Central Valley wine scene). As if you still needed convincing, they throw in an appetizer as well. I left feeling all warm and fuzzy toward this local eatery. Check it out: 2221 W. Shaw Ave. Fresno

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2. Gimme S’more Lovin’ – Since Dan practically lives at the hospital, I’m often left wanting more time with him. Last Saturday I reluctantly spent the day away from him to attend a professional development, but came home to find he had set up the fire pit and gathered the marshmallows. Sweeter than sweet. It’s the simple things… a long talk by the fire on a fall evening is my idea of the perfect date night!

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from Tasting Room's FB page

3. Wine Tasting – Napa Schmapa (just kidding, I love their wine too). But we’ve got quite the scene right here in the Central Valley: wine bars, local tasting rooms and vineyards.

Wine Bars: I’ve stopped into many (well, all) of the wine bars in Fresno, but only one has really knocked my socks off – The Tasting Room. I love their cozy decor, regularly rotated flights and amaaaazing small bites. If you’re gonna call yourself a wine bar, ya gotta have some nosh. Just sayin’ (Plus they have a really great local musician there every 1st and 3rd Saturday that you just don’t want to miss.)

Tasting Rooms: I love packing a picnic and meeting some friends at ApCal off of Avenue 12 in Madera. They have free live music every Friday night through the summer, plus about every local wine open for pours.

Vineyards: Paso Robles is only a quick 2 hour drive on 41 and offers several dozen vineyards and cellars to satisfy even the most serious oenophile. My favorite is Tobin James. Their atmosphere is friendly, their staff is knowledgeable and the experience is just downright fun. No fee for the tasting. Take that Temecula.

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photo by bestofclovis.com

4. Peruse Your Local Bookstore – While we typically find ourselves scanning shelves at the big box bookstore (and surreptitiously loading our Amazon carts with the very same titles), our favorite spot for snagging some spine is the Book Barn in Clovis. Their selection of gently used books is amazing and so well organized, we often leave contemplating whether we should finally just build that new bookshelf.

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from Gazebo's FB page

5. Food TrucksGazebo Gardens & the Old Town Clovis Farmers Market are our favorite weekend-evening haunts. Both are kid friendly and feature local entertainment and food trucks. Since moving into the Tower District, we’ve been frequenting Gazebo (Shields and Van Ness) a few times a month – it’s open Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Our strategy is to grab small bites from 2-3 trucks for dinner and then hit up Summertime Pies for dessert. Our 30 minute walk home almost makes us feel less guilty about the cinnamon-sugar coated, deep-fried handpies á la mode. Almost.


While it’s nice to have some old standbys, we’re always excited to try out new spots! Any suggestions?!

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Sky Harbor Day Hike

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Fresno’s main claim to fame is that it is “close to everywhere you want to be” – 3 hours from San Fran or LA, 90 minutes into Yosemite or Sequoia Kings Canyon, 2.5 hours to the coast – this catchphrase is certainly true. However, I couldn’t help but note the irony that a being close to everywhere you want to be implies that one would not so much want to be there exactly.

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Local hikes like Sky Harbor put this notion to the test by offering a stunning birds-eye-view of the San Joaquin, Table Mountain and the snow-capped Sierras beyond. SAMSUNG CSC

This morning was gorgeous – a crisp 65 degrees. One of my favorite hiking buddies came along for the trip.SAMSUNG CSC

Sky Harbor is a bit off the grid… through a cow pasture actually. Watch where you step.
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Like nearly every Sierra Nevada hike I’ve done, the first quarter mile is where most of the elevation gain happens.

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Even then, it only takes about 30 minutes of moderate hiking to reach the top. Even with the drought, the San Joaquin was glittering green, winding below the Table Mountain it slowly sculpted.

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As you can see, this branch of the river has dried up entirely. Gov. Brown declared the water shortage a state of emergency in January, and I’ve been telling my students that I’m doing my part to ease the water crisis by not washing my car… truth is, I’m lazy.

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Directions: Take 41 to Friant Road and continue on Friant past River Park toward Millerton Lake. Continue on Millerton Road toward Table Mountain Casino and turn left on Sky Harbor Road as though you are entering the casino parking lot (only don’t, your wallet will thank me). Follow Sky Harbor about 10-15 minutes beyond the casino until the road ends at Finegold Recreation area. The gate is often closed, but the locals know to save the $10 registration fee by parking along the road. 

To enter the trail, walk down toward the picnic area and follow the trail to the right. Technically part of the San Joaquin River trail, Sky Harbor is about 2.5 miles round trip, but can be extended.

Destination: CA-1, Garrapata State Park Hike

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This weekend we returned to one of our favorite coastal destinations: Garrapata State Park. As one of the northernmost parks in Big Sur, Garrapata’s understated entrance leads to many a visitor speeding right on past (which is quite fine by us). This hike features stunning coastal panoramas, cactus-studded hillsides, Redwood canyons and ethereal cloud banks. This was our very first road trip destination as California residents and it holds a special place in our hearts.

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On our several visits since, we’ve repeated the same path through the non-native cactus and into Soberanes Canyon. But this time, we ventured up Rocky Ridge trail to catch some of those legendary coastal vistas.SAMSUNG CSC

We’ve yet to make the full loop, but have never been disappointed by either trail direction. Locals care for this trail as they hike it and keep record of closings and weather. Check out their site: Friends of Garrapata.SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

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We cleaned up a bit and returned to Monterey for lunch. When I was touring the coast with my mom and sisters this summer, we stumbled across Schooners Coastal Kitchen and Bar. I didn’t remember the name, but the view stuck with me, and with a few right turns I stumbled right back to this delicious eatery.
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Located on the lower level of the Monterey Plaza Hotel, guests will appreciate the contrasting woodwork that stretches across the floor and up the walls, porthole style windows and all the other design choices that make you feel as though you’re walking through a million-dollar yacht.

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But much more importantly: the food is delicious. Dan ordered the Seabass B.L.T. with a spicy remoulade that almost made me regret my choice of clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Their chowder is devine, though, and it’s criminal not to order this specialty at least once when you’re on the west coast. Honestly, they’ll pull you over and test your blood for levels of cream and clam.

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And who doesn’t want to enjoy this view while they dine?

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Waiters double as gull-chasers, but when all else fails a stare-down works marvelously.

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garWith all that fresh air, I had certainly worked up an appetite… for shopping. Ocean Avenue in Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts hundreds of boutiques and galleries with endless charm. Get ready, because the cute factor on this post is about increase exponentially.

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Ducking in and out of little shops like this is something that my mom and I love to do, but Danny was kind enough to humor me. It barely took any bribing at all…
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Even the alleys are darling in Carmel. The European influence is felt even in the smallest of details.
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This hallowed display beckoned us in from the street and to my delight I found my favorite fall treat: pumpkin ice cream! It’s always comforting to discover experiences that I imagined were exclusively midwestern out here in the west. It’s no Covered Bridge, but it’ll do!SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC

As we traced our way down Ocean Avenue, we glimpsed the first signs of fall. But the feeling of fall was as familiar as an old friend beneath the close grey skies. There’s a certain quiet pause that only seems to happen in this season – a breath held as though its release would trigger a cascade of any remaining leaves and then winter would be upon us.

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Not that I have much to fear from winter in the Central Valley… but the instinct to nestle in and cook soups and roasts hits me whether the temperature reads 50 or 90. As they say, you can take the girl out of the Midwest…