In California’s family of diverse regions, the 225-mile-long Central Valley is literally and figuratively a middle sibling. Cradled between the popular coastal communities to the west and the national parks in the mighty Sierra Nevada to the east, the "Big Valley" is among the world's most fertile working lands, filled with orchards, vineyards, and farms. The area also supports myriad bird and other animal species.
The Central Valley encompasses all or part of eight counties. Vineyards, especially in the northern valley around Lodi, and almond orchards, whose white blossoms make February a brighter month, are pleasant sights out motorists' windows. In the towns, historical societies display artifacts of the region's eccentric past, concert halls and restored theaters showcase samplings of contemporary culture, and museums provide a blend of both. Country-music enthusiasts will find a lot to appreciate on the radio and on stages, especially in the Bakersfield area. Summer nights spent at a minor-league baseball park—Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, and Visalia have teams—can be a relaxing, affordable experience. Whether you’re on back roads or main streets, you’ll find the locals proud to help outsiders explore the area.