Founded on the gold rush
On Hwy-99, 91 miles North of Sacramento. A small university town, Chico was founded by John Bidwell, who made a fortune from the gold rush but whose liberal attitudes – which would not be out-of-step with present-day Chico – stood in the way of the power-crazed rush into politics that was the path chosen by many of his peers. During the 1860s, in the heart of his fledgling town, Bidwell built an Italianate villa, a handsome three-story pile now preserved as the Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, 525 Esplanade Avenue, and justifying a visit.
Also bearing the name of Chico’s founder, Bidwell Park runs for 10 miles into the Sierra Nevada foothills: a picnic on its periphery gives a chance to contemplate the oak trees around which Errol Flynn played the part of Robin Hood in the 1937 film. A major event by local standards, the film is duly noted among the collections of the Chico Museum (www.chicomuseum.org), corner of Second and Salem Streets. Perhaps more interestingly, the now popular Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is brewed here and there are popular brewery tours several times a day, seven days a week, worth a tour – www.sierranevada.com.