San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley is the southernmost portion of the Central Valley. Like its northern neighbors, it is filled mostly with agricultural pastures and bedroom communities. Even so, the towns of Atwater and Fresno are worth a look; each offers activities for the whole family to enjoy.
The Castle Air Museum is the place to visit in Atwater, a city of about 30,000 people that's best known as a driving stopover point in between Monterey Bay and Yosemite National Park.
The Castle Air Museum, like Castle Air Force Base before it, is named for General Frederick W. Castle. He led a 2,000-strong aircraft bomber formation over Europe in December 1944, when he was just thirty-six years old. He died as the assault squadron passed over Belgium, where his plane lost an engine and was attacked by German fighters.
A group of enthusiasts opened the museum following the closing of the Castle Air Force Base in 1994. There's an indoor section full of exhibits as well as an outdoor area where you can look at several dozen World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War–era aircraft. There's a hangar where additional aircraft are on display because some of the older planes have fabrics that don't hold up well in the open elements.
The museum is open year-round, though hours vary by the season. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children between six and seventeen years old, and free for children five and younger. More information is available at
Art is the name of the game in Fresno, which is California's sixthlargest city. As with most metropolitan hubs, you'll find museums here that are much higher in quality than those of the surrounding towns. Two fine examples are the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science and the Fresno Art Museum.
Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science
This museum's fantastic mission statement is to “serve the community of the curious.” It opened in 1984 and has since welcomed more than 2 million visitors in person, plus countless others online at
Look to this museum for exhibits featuring everything from dinosaurs to the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. Hours are 11
Fresno Art Museum
Not to be confused with the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art and Science, the Fresno Art Museum places a special emphasis on Mexican artwork and artifacts. It's a modern art museum that offers exhibits, films, concerts, lectures, tours, and more. A couple of times each year, the museum hosts “family days” with free admission. For seasonal hours, admission rates, and upcoming exhibitions, check out