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While many tourists know of California's coastal areas, they are missing out on some of the freshest, most delicious and tasteful offerings of The Golden State: its rich agricultural products. A synopsis of some offerings available in the San Joaquin Valley along or near California State Route 99 follows.
(Discussion is oriented from south to north)
Bakersfield offers several places connecting agricultural products and culture to people. Dewar's is an old fashioned family owned ice cream and candy parlor, where quality fresh ice cream and candy produced onsite are served in many different varieties. If you are looking for what the term "ice cream social" means, this is where to experience it! The Basque people have settled here and have served as shepherds in area ranches for generations. Experience what it's like to eat their food their style - communally - and get filled up (bring an empty stomach) at Wool Growers restaurant Closed Sundays. To work off all those calories you've taken in, work it all off dancing while listening to the home of "The Bakersfield Sound" style of Country Music - and other styles of Country & Western music as well - at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace Closed Mondays.
Tulare plays host to an annual week long agriculture convention in February. Tulare County, one of the most agriculturally productive and innovative of California's 58 counties, houses a large array of historical farm equipment at the Tulare County Museum in Tulare. A new History of Farm Labor and Agriculture museum is housed onsite. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Hanford is a very family friendly small town atmosphere place that offers several sights to see in its historic downtown core, besides eating farm fresh ice cream at family run http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant... One scoop is much larger than what you'd think. . . you are forewarned! The courthouse downtown has spacious lawns and a merry go round for the young and the young at heart. Historic Fox Theater across the street offers live stage entertainment and movies. The Civic Auditorium and Carnegie Museum, as well as the Museum at China Alley round out some of the architectural and cultural highlights available in this friendly smaller sized city. Downtown Hanford
Kingsburg near Fresno provides fruits and nuts to passersby through the Sun-Maid Store (CA Route 99 to Exit 114; go northeast on Bethel Avenue about a half mile). More than just their well known raisins. . . larger size and moist dried fruit of several varieties in foil packages, as well as bulk boxes are to be had - including larger sized almonds and walnuts than typically shipped to supermarkets. All these fresh and delicious products are packaged and processed here at the packing shed, and made available at the store. The company orchards adjoin the shed and store. Open Monday through Friday. Traver nearby to the south of Kingsburg produces quality gourmet cheese in small batches at Bravo Farms Cheese factory tours are Monday through Friday, and the Shoppe is open seven days a week. Cheese tasting of all varieties, plus a choice of sixteen varieties of gourmet ice cream are included on the free tour.
The Fresno area itself has many choices for the food traveler. Wiebe Farms in Dinuba invites travelers to walk through a modern olive mill - how olive oil is made - from late October to early February (subject to production scheduling). Gift shop and tasting room onsite and open year round. Many year round fruit and nut stands are in and around Fresno, including:
Livingston between Merced and Turlock not only processes chicken and turkey at its Foster Farms plant, but cooks 'em up, too at the Foster Farms Cafe. The Cafe is adjacent to the Foster Farms headquarters and plant, and not many outside the local area know of the existence of it. Open to the general public, besides Foster Farms' own employees. Fresh chicken - never frozen - is the main entree of its Fried Chicken Dinner meal, which includes "down home" mashed potatoes and thick homestyle gravy the way Col. Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame envisioned his franchised restaurants providing for their customers. It's tough to beat fresh! Not up to date in decor. . . but the food and decor evokes dining with your Grandmom. Breakfast served daily, as well as lunch and dinner. Thursdays are all you can eat chicken nights, open until 9:00 PM those nights. Prices are more than reasonable, and drinks and desserts are available. Closed Saturdays.
Hilmar just south of Turlock is home to a large family owned feedlot and cheese (and ice cream) production facility: Hilmar Cheese Company. Free guided tours of the visitor center are at 10:00 and 11:00 AM weekends from December 26 through October 31 (tours from November 1 to Christmas requires a reservation), and at 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM weekdays during the Summer (June 6, 2011 through August 26, 2011). See and touch real dairy cows that make the cheese! Learn about dairies and cheesemaking up close. Great for kids. "Moooovie" explains what it takes to become a great cheese. Self guided tours are always available year round - free. Wide variety of cubed cheese in bins for cheese tasting, with crackers. Cafe features fresh deli sandwiches, chips and drinks, as well as salads. Gift shop onsite. Upscale products and sparkling clean facility with restrooms near cafe tables.