50 Things to Do in Butte County
Whether you live here, are coming for an afternoon, or are staying for a week, there’s plenty to explore in Butte County. Enjoy your favorites or discover something new with our list of 50 Things to Do in Butte County!
Take a Walking Arts Tour
Slip on your tennis shoes and explore Butte County on foot with a walking arts tour. Discover the modern-mixed-with-historical paintings and installations throughout Chico, Gold Rush-themed murals in Oroville, and testaments to the Ridge’s resiliency in Paradise. Get ready to find some picture-perfect backdrops to fill your Instagram feed with!
Spend the Day Wine Tasting
With about 20 wineries and vineyards, wine enthusiasts will find high-quality Northern California wines paired with reasonable tasting fees, relaxed and inviting tasting rooms, and easy access to the winemakers across Butte County. Discover four wineries within six miles in the Durham Wine District, explore south county wines in the Bangor Wine Region, or enjoy a few glasses after lake adventures at one of the several wineries in the foothills of Oroville.
Tee Up at Fun Fairways
Hit the greens and the links with your choice of traditional golf or the disc kind at a variety of courses. At the Bidwell Park Golf Course, you play through 18-holes in the heart of Chico’s favorite park, while the ridge location of Peregrine Point Disc Golf Course serves up epic views of the valley. And those with kids in tow (or those just looking for a fun way to practice their short game) will find an 18-hole mini golf course at Funland Chico.
Catch a Live Show
From plays to musicals to concerts of all genres, there is no shortage of live shows and performances to enjoy. Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium puts on more than 100 annual professional and student-led performances, while the El Rey Theater is particularly known for its live gigs. Up in Paradise, the Theatre on the Ridge stages six shows a year, and Oroville’s State Theater showcases a variety of performing artists, often accompanied by its Wurlitzer Pipe Organ.
Discover Downtown Charm
For a little bit of the best of everything, a stop at any of the major downtown areas is a must. Downtown Chico hosts some of the most popular events in the county throughout the year, including Thursday Night Market, while in Downtown Oroville, monthly First Friday events showcase the downtown business district and the annual Feather Fiesta Days is a hometown celebration of all things Oroville. For small-town downtown charm, explore Paradise during its Gold Nugget Days or Gridley during its Red Suspenders Days.
Learn About Regional History
Gold Rush roots abound across the county, and the cities love to showcase their respective stories at local history museums. In Oroville, a tour along the Greenline will highlight not only the city’s Gold Rush founding but also the histories of the local Native American tribes and role of agriculture. Paradise’s Gold Nugget Museum celebrates its pioneer past, while in south county, the Gridley Museum showcases the families that helped found the city as well as its growth through the 20th century. Learn all about Chico at the Chico History Museum or discover mircoregional history at the Centerville Schoolhouse-Colman Museum.
Paradise is particularly known for its antiquing, and you can spend an afternoon exploring Skyway Antique Mall, Treasures from Paradise, and Attic Treasures for antiques, vintage goods, and even contemporary locally made items. In Chico, Eighth & Main Antiques is one of the largest antique malls in the west, while out in Oroville, Well Worn is great if you’re looking for unique décor and furniture pieces.
Fall in Love with Northern California Art
There’s no need to drive to a big city to see great art when there’s plenty of artistic spaces, big and small, right in Butte County. At the largest of the bunch, Chico’s Museum of Northern California Art (monca) shines a spotlight on the talents of Northern California artists. Nearby 1078 Gallery is a gallery and performance space for artists of cultural and geographic diversity. Up in Paradise, the Paradise Art Center houses work from artists on the Ridge, while Brushstrokes Art Studio and Gallery in Oroville is both a gallery display and space for creative classes.
Check Out Our Farmers Markets
Taste the freshest produce around from a local farmers market. With the year-round Wednesday and Saturday Chico Certified Farmers Markets, you’ll always find something delicious no matter what time of year. From May through September, though, you’ll have even more opportunities as seasonal farmers markets in Oroville, Paradise, and Gridley open with the bounty of summer.
Pick Fresh Fruit Year-Round
If you want to get hands-on with your produce, you can pick fresh fruit (and vegetables) year-round at several Butte County locations. From May-October, you can pick a variety of fresh-from-the-vine produce at Johnson U-Pick Farm in Gridley, and sometime in late June, Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm opens for a short week or two for people to pick buckets of blueberries. The California State University, Chico’s University Farm offers an annual u-pick peach event in August, and in late summer and through October, Paradise’s Noble Orchards bursts with different types of apples (and peaches) that you can try throughout the season as they reach peak ripeness each month.
Taste the Best of Butte County
Boasting a wide array of restaurants, from farm-to-fork to upscale to fast casual, and everything in between, Butte County is an under-the-radar and growing California foodie destination waiting to be experienced. And every year in January, dozens of restaurants across the county take the opportunity to showcase their best during Butte County Restaurant Week. Featuring pricing specials, food and drink pairings, or new menu items, Restaurant Week is the tastiest time of the year!
Bike 100 Miles
Cyclists will want to add an April visit to Butte County at the top of their list for the annual Chico Velo Century Wildflower. Explore 100 miles across the county on the class route or choose from half a dozen other routes between 12 and 125 miles. Whatever route you choose, you’ll enjoy a beautiful and scenic springtime ride.
Get a different perspective on the world with a night stargazing. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, head to the Chico Community Observatory for a free view through high-powered telescopes and to learn more about the wonders of the night sky. In Oroville, the Forebay Aquatic Center offers summertime Moonlight Paddles, where you can enjoy a guided kayak ride under the full moon (check the website for the current season’s schedule). And up in Paradise, the Paradise Recreation and Parks District offers the opportunity to paddle Paradise Lake and learn about the cosmos with their Astronomy on the Lake program (check the website for dates and times).
Take a Self-Guided Cross-County History Tour
History abounds in Butte County, with dozens of historical buildings, museums, and structures. If you’re interested in some of the more obscure pieces of history, we recommend hopping in the car for a self-guided history tour of the 81 historical markers and war memorials that can be found in towns big and small across the county. It’s a great way to learn more about the area and see a variety of sights along the way.
Cast a Line
With two major rivers, one of the state’s largest reservoirs, and countless other creeks and lakes, Butte County is a great place for Northern California fishing. Lake Oroville is one of the best bass fishing spots in the country and also for catching landlocked king salmon. River fishers will find the Feather River one of the best places for boat or bank fishing of California and King salmon and steelhead. For quieter spots, you can check out Butte Creek, Lake DeSabla, Paradise Lake, Philbrook Reservoir, or the Sacramento River.
Catch an Outdoor Seasonal Concert
Celebrate summer with a free outdoor concert! On Friday nights, Chico’s City Plaza comes alive during the Friday Night Concerts series, a seasonal favorite since 1978. In Paradise, Wednesdays come alive during the Party in the Park with live music and a variety of vendors. In Oroville, enjoy spring Friday night Spring Concerts in the Park and Saturday afternoon Fall Concerts in the Park in Riverbend Park, where you can hear great performances while dipping your toes in the Feather River.
Come November, it’s time to bundle up and practice your spins on one of Butte County’s seasonal outdoor skating rinks. Up in the foothills, Paradise on Ice is an annual Ridge winter tradition. The rink nestled among the pines at the Terry Ashe Recreation Center offers winter ski chalet vibes—the only thing missing is snow! You can also stay in the valley at the Chico Ice Rink in the Plaza. With its location right in the heart of Downtown Chico. it's a great spot for making an evening of skating, shopping, and dining!
Celebrate the End of Summer at the Butte County Fair
For more than 75 years, the Butte County Fair in Gridley has been the unofficial send-off to summer. Every August, the Butte County fairgrounds come to life with a carnival, vendors, livestock shows, exhibits, and more, and families spend hours making memories that will last until next year’s fair.
Go Birding at Gray Lodge
Bust out the binoculars and get ready to be wowed by migrating birds stopping in Gridley. From November through February, the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area comes to life with hundreds of thousands of birds touching down during their flight from Alaska to South America along the Pacific Flyway. With an easy trail taking you to two enclosed blinds as well as an observation deck with high-powered telescopes, Gray Lodge is arguably the best spot in the county to see snow geese, herons, and other waterfowl during the migration season.
Picnic Among the Pines at Paradise Lake
Paradise Lake is a postcard-perfect picture of a serene lake surrounded by a gorgeous conifer woodland. The 244-acre lake in Magalia is perfect for cooler kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or boating adventures, or you can stay shoreside and enjoy the shady, flat, 9-mile out-and-back hiking trail that wraps around the lake. With shaded picnic areas, a playground, and horseshoe pit, you can enjoy a full day at this Butte County gem.
Taste Chocolate from Paradise
Since 1969, Joy Lyn’s Candies has been crafting sweet treats for Paradise and the rest of Butte County. The Hartley family, owners since 2000, now operate the confectionery out of its new location on Pearson Street after the original location was destroyed in the Camp Fire in 2018. Despite the change in address, the “heavenly candies made in Paradise” remain as sweet as ever and are still hand-crafted in store—you can even watch while you shop! It’s impossible to leave without a bagful of treats, so get ready to indulge!
Stop at the Mini Grand Canyon
A roadside vista stop on the westbound side of Skyway Road leaving Paradise, the Butte Creek Watershed Overlook offers up great views of the "Mini Grand Canyon.” Enjoy the interpretive displays to learn more about the watershed's ecological role and take in the expanse of the ridge.
Pan for Gold
Dive right into Butte County’s gold rush past by visiting the Forks of Butte Creek Recreation Area just north of Magalia. At this Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area, you can reserve a slice of Butte Creek and try your hand at panning for gold and other minerals just like the Gold Rushers did in 1849, or a hike amidst the beautiful forest.
Walk Across the Nation’s Tallest Dam
At 770 feet, Oroville Dam is the country’s tallest dam as well as California’s second largest reservoir by volume. It really is a sight to behold in person, where you can get a true appreciation for its scale and power. Running across the dam itself, Oroville Dam Road offers both vehicle and pedestrian access, providing the perfect vantage point to see the dam and the lake it creates up-close and personal. Enjoy a walk across or even pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the day use areas as you take in the sights.
Enjoy Unique Camping Opportunities
Those who prefer pitching a tent to room service will find no shortage of spots to set up camp, but you’ll find some fun and unique camping opportunities at Lake Oroville. Water enthusiasts can spend a few nights camping right on the lake and under the stars on the only floating campsites in the state as well as several boat-in campsites. Those more interested in staying on dry land should check out the new glamping campgrounds at Loafer Creek.
Celebrate the Salmon Run
Salmon are something special in Butte County, but especially in Oroville. With the Feather River running through the city, the salmon’s yearly fall migration is an annual celebration. Visitors can go nose-to-nose with the Chinook at the Feather River Fish Hatchery, while Downtown Oroville celebrates all things salmon on the 4th Saturday of September for the Salmon Festival.
Hike Table Mountain
Situated above the city of Oroville, the North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, more commonly known as simply Table Mountain, offers a chance to hike through a truly unique natural area. Open for hiking year-round, Table Mountain comes to life with waterfalls in late winter and then with wildflowers in early- to mid-spring. It’s a trip worth making at least once in your life—just make sure to pay for a lands pass before you arrive and follow all regulations and leave no trace when you visit.
Hit the Slots
Boasting two casinos, there’s plenty of opportunity to hit the jackpot in Oroville. Located just minutes from Lake Oroville, Gold Country Casino has table games and over 900 slots as well as three restaurants and an event center, making it a perfect addition to a day on the lake. In the south part of the city, Feather Falls Casino features over 800 slots (300 of them in a smoke-free gaming area), table games, and an award-winning brewing company and restaurant on site with live music on Fridays and Saturday, perfect for beer enthusiasts and those looking for fun weekend entertainment.
Have Fun at Lake Oroville
If you’ve never visited Lake Oroville, you’re missing out. Of course there’s the practically endless water recreation opportunities, from boating to kayaking to fishing to even camping (yes, on the water!). But there’s also miles of lakeside hiking trails to discover for those looking to stay on shore. And of course, no trip is complete without a visit to the Lake Oroville Visitor Center, where you can learn about the lake, the dam, the region’s indigenous tribes, and more, including enjoying 360-degree views from atop the 47-foot viewing tower.
Spend an Afternoon at Riverbend Park
Located along the Feather River, Riverbend Park in Oroville is a perfect spot for an afternoon of fun. Across its 210 acres, you can host a picnic at one of four pavilions, take an easy stroll along the Feather River Trail, play a pick-up game on one of the soccer fields, or build a sand castle on a sandy beach. With playgrounds, dog park, disc golf course, and boat launch rounding out all that there is to do, it’s easy to see how an afternoon visit can turn into an all-day experience.
Kayak Down the Feather River
While whitewater enthusiasts will find thrills on the different forks of the Feather River, anyone can, and should, enjoy a calmer adventure on the mellower waters that run through Oroville. Launching from the Feather River Fish Hatchery, you enjoy a relaxing two-mile paddle to Riverbend Park, 7.3 miles to the Thermalito Afterbay outlet, 8.7 miles to the Vance Avenue parking area in the Oroville Wildlife Area, or even 17 beautiful miles to the Gridley boat ramp for the ultimate Feather River experience. However long you choose, you’ll see a variety of wildlife along the way, including salmon during their fall run.
Kid Around at Kid-friendly Museums
Bring the whole family to get hands-on at a kid-friendly museum. At the Chico Air Museum, kids can get up-close and personal with decommissioned aircraft and even hop into the cockpit of a select few. Kids interested in the STEM fields will love the Gateway Science Museum and their slate of hands-on exhibits. And younger children will enjoy a few hours at the Chico Children’s Museum, where they can explore a variety of different play and creative environments.
Tour Sierra Nevada Brewery
A tour at the Sierra Nevada Brewery is a must for anyone visiting Chico. Hop heads can dive deep into the brewing and bottling process on a multi-hour tour (tastings included, of course!), while casual drinkers or even abstainers will find the free tour an illuminating stroll before heading to the Taphouse. Pick the perfect tour for you and reserve your spot today.
Enjoy Child’s Play at Caper Acres
Since 1970, Caper Acres has been a staple of Lower Bidwell Park. Specifically built for those 12 and younger, it is a fantasy playground area where children can visit Humpty Dumpty at the sandbox, swing to their heart’s content, climb into a “treehouse” and slip down its slides, and much more! Remember, this is for kids, so anyone over the age of 13 must be accompanied by someone 12 or younger.
Explore Bidwell Park
At 3,670 acres and with Big Chico Creek running through it, there’s plenty to explore in Bidwell Park. In the more mellow Lower Bidwell, you’ll find picnic sites, calm swimming holes, and flat hiking and biking trails, both paved and unpaved. In the wilder Upper Park, steep terrain and Lovejoy Basalt work together to create a place perfect for mountain biking and more challenging hikes as well as scenic swimming holes. With activities for every ability level, there’s plenty to discover, making Bidwell Park worthy of repeat visits.
Catch a Race at the Silver Dollar Speedway
A quarter-mile dirt track at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, the Silver Dollar Speedway is home to Friday night races, the annual Gold Cup Race of Champions, and other specialty events throughout the year (monster trucks, anyone?). Kids and those young-at-heart will love the thrill of the track races and a different kind of Friday night activity.
Catch a Glass Blowing Demonstration
Fans of blown glass will find Chico an excellent destination to not only buy beautiful pieces but also see world-renowned art made right before their eyes. Orient & Flume Art Glass Co. has work on display in the Metropolitan Museum, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Chicago Art Institute, but you can watch masters in work at their local studio. At Satava Art Glass Studio, you can pick up one of their famous jellyfish pieces and enjoy studio viewing for most of the year. For local budding masters, this glass blowing tradition lives on at G-Town Hot Shop where you can enjoy demonstrations from a tight-knit group of enthusiasts.
Hit the Streets at Thursday Night Market
From April through September, the streets of Downtown Chico come alive during Thursday Night Market. One part certified organic farmers market, one part vendor fair, and one part food truck event, it's the best time to explore local shops, restaurants, and the overall Chico vibe. Whether you come once or once a week, it’s always a good time.
Tour the Victorian Mansion of Chico’s Founder
John Bidwell, famed 19th century statesman, politician, and Chico city founder, looms large in the city. From parks to street signs, his influence remains, and no more so than at his Victorian mansion. At the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, you can tour the three-story testament to all that Bidwell and his wife, Annie, did for Chico. Remember to make your reservation in advance or enjoy a free stroll through the visitor center without any reservations needed.
Tube Down the Sacramento River
A summer in Chico almost isn’t complete without a day spent tubing down the Sacramento River. Starting at the Irvine Finch River Access, you can enjoy a couple of hours lazily floating downstream, ending at Scotty’s Landing, Butte County’s famous riverside restaurant. Those wanting to stay close to shore can still enjoy fishing, wildlife watching, hiking nearby trails, and just splashing around on the riverbank.
Take a Spin at the National Yo-Yo Museum
With the National Yo-Yo Museum located in town, Chico is practically the mecca of yo-yos in the United States. Tucked inside Bird in Hand, a popular Downtown gift shop, the museum features the world's largest public display of yo-yos, yo-yo memorabilia, and contest awards. You’ll also find Big-Yo, 1982’s Guinness Book of World Records World's Biggest Working Wooden Yo-Yo. And if you stop by on Saturday afternoons, you can enjoy free yo-yo lessons from volunteer instructors (and may even get to meet Chico native and two-time world yo-yo champion Gentry Stein if he’s visiting).
Take a Dip in Urban Swimming Holes
From easy and kid-friendly to rugged and remote, there’s a spot for any explorer at Chico’s Bidwell Park’s (best in the state) urban swimming holes. In Lower Park, Sycamore Pool is a concrete pool built into the flowing waters of Big Chico Creek, making it perfect for families, while Five Mile and Upper Park’s Alligator Hole are other other calm and shallow kid-friendly spots. Further up in Upper Park, Bear Hole is the most popular and easiest to get to, with Salmon Hole and Brown’s Hole increasingly remote and beautiful places to take a dip.
Hit the Bars
Enjoy a night on the town at some of Chico’s favorite bars. Riley’s is a longtime favorite among the college crowd and was voted Barstool Sports Best College Bar in America in 2021. Another college favorite is Madison Bear Garden (more affectionately known as simply The Bear), which has famous burgers and is practically on campus at Chico State, making it a popular spot. Those looking for bars with more of a “locals” vibe should check out Duffy’s to catch a game or a live show. For something a little more upscale, Argus Bar + Patio features some of the best craft cocktails in town. Whatever you’re looking for, there’s a bar for you in Chico.
Get Educated at Chico State University
Education and fun combine at Chico State University, where you can learn almost as much outside the classroom as you can in it. A campus tour is a great way to explore the second oldest campus in the California State University system, and with Downtown Chico literally across the street, you can really enjoy a student-like experience. As you explore campus, make sure to explore the variety of museums, galleries, and performance spaces that are both spaces for students and pros to showcase their talents as well as top-notch attractions for visitors.
Explore Early Pioneer Towns
Throughout Butte County, you’ll find small towns that stand as reminders of the early pioneers that flocked to the region during the Gold Rush and subsequent logging boom. Founded by miners, Inskip today is a ghost town with only its hotel remaining as a testament to the thousand who once lived there. In Cherokee, home to the indigenous Maidu before gold miners set up camp, all that remains is a museum and cemetery. Nearby Oregon City, founded by a party of Oregonians in 1848, is home to the Oregon City School, now run as a museum by the Butte County Historical Society. While in Oregon City, enjoy a drive through a covered bridge that, while built in 1984, transports you back in time with its period design, complete with wooden trusses.
Hike to the Highest Point in the County
Up in Butte County’s high country, hikers can tackle a 12-mile stretch of the famed Pacific Crest Trail and stand atop the highest point in the county at the same time. If you’re not quite ready to undertake all 12 miles at once, you’ll want to start near Humbug Summit at Cold springs. From there, it’s only 4.8 miles to a short spur trail that leads to the highest point in Butte County at 7,140 feet, where you can take in panoramic views of the mountains below.
Snowshoe Through a Winter Wonderland
What Butte County lacks in terms of ski slopes and extreme winter sports, it makes up for with more low-key yet fun experiences in the high country, which turns into a winter wonderland once the snow season begins. At the Jonesville Snowmobile Park, snowmobilers can explore over 60 miles of groomed trails, while the Colby Meadows Winter Recreation Area offers nine miles of ungroomed cross-country ski trails. And both Jonesville and Colby Meadows are great spots for snowshoe explorations.
Take a Scenic Drive on the Feather River Byway
Few California highways feature such natural beauty and diversity in terrain, landscape, wildlife and elevation as the 60-mile Feather River Canyon section of the Feather River Scenic Byway along Highway 70 East through Butte and Plumas counties. Following the North Fork of the Feather River, this area was one of the original rivers designated as Wild and Scenic Scenic under the The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968, protecting its special character. A drive through the canyon showcases spring wildflowers, fall colors, bridges, and more, and is a perfect leg to any road trip adventure.
White Water Raft on the Feather River
With a steady dose of dam-released water from Lake Almanor, the North Fork Feather River holds some of the best year-round whitewater in California. But three to four times a summer, from June to September, the Rock Creek Reach portion of the North Fork contains Class III, IV, and V rapids during recreation high-water flows, making it a must for thrill-seeking and experienced rafters and kayakers.
Rock Climb In and Around the County
With Butte County as your anchor, you’ll find no shortage of nearby crags to climb. For urban climbs, head to Chico to scale the basalt in Upper Bidwell Park or practice ever-changing routes at the indoors Terrain Park Climbing Center. In the Plumas National Forest, you can enjoy Butte County favorite Bald Rock or Grizzly Dome just across the county line. A couple of hours away, you can explore Pigeon Cliff, The Mill, or the Leavitt Training Area for a few hours before returning to Butte County for a night out on the town.