Connecting Kids with Their Food in Central California’s Farm Country


Family Fun in Central California’s Farm Country
By Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, Love Your Parks Tour 



“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the cornfield.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every year, well over a million people travel through San Joaquin Valley and up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to experience the grand magnificence of the giant sequoia trees that grow in California’s Sequoia Country. Home to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, Giant Sequoia National Monument, and Sequoia National Forest, it’s a popular family destination with easy and accessible trails, waterfalls, wildflowers, and all kinds of birds and wildlife. This kind of outdoor experience is crucial to a child’s development, boosting curiosity, a sense of wonder, and imagination. After all, who doesn’t want a family portrait of everyone trying to hug the General Sherman tree? It’ll take about twenty people joining hands to completely hug this world record-breaking giant sequoia that stands 275 feet tall and spreads out over 36 feet in diameter at the base.

The giant sequoia trees aren’t the only thing growing in this region. Tulare County is a major agricultural hub that leads in the production of dairy, citrus and stone fruits, nuts, and berries. Local farmers grow over 200 different major crops with products being shipped to more than 75 countries worldwide. The farm communities that make up Tulare County are family-friendly, community-centric, and deeply committed to teaching kids of all ages where their food comes from. It’s an important farm-to-table connection that’s often missed in our fast-paced digital lifestyle. Taking kids on a Tulare County adventure is a fun way to teach them about the farmers who grow and raise their food, the many challenges they face, and how agriculture and farm life have changed over the last century.

We’ve been visiting Tulare County for over ten years now. The region continues to maintain its charm with historic down towns, small ‘Mom & Pop’ shops and eateries, farm stands and farmers markets, down home friendliness and warm hospitality, great community parks, public art, and a plethora of attractions and activities to enjoy. It’s perfect for a family vacation!

To help plan your trip, here’s an overview of some of the fun farm activities you can experience in each community, along with some family-friendly lodging and dining recommendations. For a taste of the local bounty be sure to visit the local roadside farm stands and farmers markets.

Settled in 1852, Visalia is the oldest permanent inland settlement between Stockton and Los Angeles. The downtown district is a fun area to stroll and take in the numerous murals, public art pieces, and historic sites. Here you’ll find the state-of-the-art ImagineU Children’s Museum that features interactive exhibits that range from the farm-focused ‘Grove Pick & Pack’ to DIY building fun at the ‘U-FIX-IT Garage.’

Tulare County Museum of Farm Labor and Agriculture in Mooney Grove Park houses artifacts of the pioneer era, agriculture equipment, restored buildings, and exhibits that showcase each local cultural group and their contributions to farm labor and agriculture. Just up the road is Naturally Nuts, purveyors of local nuts, nut butters, dried fruits and vegetables, and other sweet treats and confections.


Known for its leadership in dairy production, Tulare is home to the International Agri-Center where the World Ag Expo and California Antique Farm Equipment Show are held. Here you can visit the AgVentures Learning Center and the Antique Farm Equipment Museum which are both fun and educational attractions for the whole family.

Showcasing the region’s Native American, pioneer, and agricultural history, the Tulare Historical Museum in the downtown district is a fascinating place to visit. Be sure to take the kids to eat at the nearby Flying Taco, a fun eatery housed within a 1951 Convair T-29A airplane!

Next to the Galaxy 10 Theatre at the popular Tulare Outlet Center, Bravo Farms serves up fresh California cuisine, and features locally made gifts and tasty treasures in its gift shop. Nearby, the La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Tulare is a newly renovated family-friendly lodging option, with the fun, western-themed Cool Hand Luke’s Steakhouse just steps away.

One can’t leave Tulare without a visit to Rosa Brothers Milk Company, a local family-owned creamery serving glass-bottled milk, flavored milk, amazing ice cream, and regional culinary products like honey, nuts, olive oil, and chocolates.

This All-America City boasts a vibrant historic downtown district with boutique shops, restaurants, and galleries.

The Porterville Historical Museum showcases the region’s Native American, pioneer, and agricultural heritage which is rich in citrus farming. Every April, the family-friendly Iris Festival celebrates Porterville’s official flower, the purple iris. Another family event that showcases the area’s farm and ranch culture is the Porterville Fair, held annually in May.

A must-do for families of all ages is Stafford’s Chocolates in downtown. Their Ooey Goey bars are out of this world! More family-style dining includes Black Bear Diner, and El Tapatio Restaurant.

Local lodging options include the Best Western and Holiday Inn Express.

  • Ag-Ventures at the International Agri-Center
    Ag-Ventures at the International Agri-Center

Along with a history of cattle ranching, Exeter is a quaint art and agricultural community known for its abundant supply of citrus, deciduous fruit, and table grapes. One of the best ways to get a glimpse of the area’s ranching and agricultural heritage is to go on a self-guided tour of the over 30 murals in the downtown district. Each mural has a “hidden treasure” to look for. Visit the Exeter Chamber of Commerce for a mural map.

Next to the Exeter Courthouse Gallery, the Exeter Historical Museum displays historic artifacts and photographs featuring sports figures, outlaws, community parades, agricultural history, the railroad, Native American heritage, and more.

For breakfast visit the fun railroad themed Exeter Whistle Stop Diner, and for lunch be sure to stop by Hometown Emporium, or the Wildflower Cafe. For authentic Mexican food, check out Vallarta or El Nuevo Tlaquepaque.

Surrounded by a citrus orchard, the Best Western Inn & Suites is family-friendly and has an outdoor pool.

Along with cotton, nuts, some vegetables, and a wide selection of fruits including grapes, plums, peaches, and citrus, Dinuba is known for its raisin production. Every September the community and visitors come together to celebrate Raisin Day with a parade, family-friendly activities, and entertainment.

If you want a true farm experience, Naylor’s Organic Family Farm grows over 30 different varieties of stone fruit along with blackberries. Mike and Nori Naylor offer a Bed & Breakfast style farm stay in their house and cottages, and during the season (May-September), you can book farm tours and participate in their u-pick opportunities.

Another Dinuba treasure is the Alta District Historical Society Museum & Cultural Center which covers local history including pioneer family life and local agriculture. Nearby in Traver, Bravo Farms is a popular destination for families offering cheese-making demonstrations, an award-winning treehouse for kids to climb, farm animals, a shooting gallery, plus, local ice cream and fudge, Tex-Mex cuisine, California wines, and a gift shop.

Other great dining options in Dinuba include Me & Martha’s Mexican Restaurant, New York Pizza & Grill, and Three Fingered Jacks at Ridge Creek Golf Club. Family lodging options include the Best Western Americana which has a great outdoor pool, and the Holiday Inn Express.

Woodlake is a small agricultural community, especially regarding cattle ranching and citrus. One of the town’s highlights is Woodlake Botanical Garden. Maintained by Manuel & Olga Jimenez and Woodlake Pride youth volunteers, the garden showcases San Joaquin Valley’s agricultural bounty with fruit trees, row crops, and vegetable patches, along with ornamental shrubs, roses, and flower beds. It is wheelchair accessible, and right next to Bravo Lake and the Woodlake Rose Garden.

Grab a bite at Dora’s Restaurant, it has outstanding Mexican food.

Nestled in the heart of Lindsay’s olive groves and orange orchards, Ford Farms is dedicated to giving kids an experience with pets and farm animals such as goats, pigs, ponies, chickens, dogs, and more. It’s set in on a historic location that was once a 1950s movie prop set for western movies, and there’s even an old landing site that was used by aircraft during WWII.

Local lodging is the Super 8 by Wyndham which has a giant olive sculpture near the parking lot entrance, plus, an outdoor swimming pool.

Plan your Tulare County Farm Adventure at


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