Fresno: Rogue Festival, Shinzen Garden, local beer, and we're outta here!

Since we've spent a lot of our time in California weekend tripping to nearby other cities, I've only done one other post on Fresno. My opinion of the city has improved after seeing specific attractions and experiencing some of Fresno's subcultures, but [Spoiler alert] we still never want to live here. I'll share why, along with our final evaluation of the city next week. Meanwhile, here are some of the better things about Fresno.

Rogue Festival: Having never been to anything similar, we didn't know what to expect from this "fringe festival".=, but it was a riot! Each performer charges $5-$10 and there are a wide variety of acts to choose from: a mock self-help seminar; one-man plays; spoken word; two women fighting like hens; interpretive dance; and a woman standing on a cooler with a dustbuster, eating skittles before rubbing herself with raw steak.

Doesn't quite sound like your style? Lighten up and have some fun seeing something you haven't seen before! Every person living in Fresno should at least check out the teaser showcase that opens the festival. Artists already come from all over to perform, but the more support this festival gets from locals, the more interesting it will be. With a festival like Burning Man selling all of its 38,000 tickets in 45 minutes this year, similar fringe events, like the Rogue Festival, have a lot of potential.

Favorite Rogue Fest moment: Jason (The Voice) Bessard's poetry at the competitive slam. His poetic comparison between Fresno as it could be, and what it is, earned an immediate standing ovation. Not the kind of ovation where a few people stand and everyone else is guilted along; the genuine kind where an entire audience leaps to their feet unprompted.

Shinzen Japanese Garden: One of Lindsay's co-workers saw one of our pictures from this garden on Facebook and (because all our Cali pictures are in the same album) assumed it was a garden in San Diego. Nope! Fresnoians, you have a Japanese Garden worth bragging about! Not that comparisons matter, but I felt Shinzen is better than Chicago's Osaka Garden. Shinzen has four areas themed around each season with water pulled from adjacent Woodward Lake peacefully babbling in streams and down falls. $3 is more than worth the price.

Fresno Hang-Outs: Since returned to the Tower Dsitrict location and visited their other location in downtown Fresno. Teazer Tea Market is definitely worth a visit! With Starbucks quickly deteriorating into an overcrowded fast-food restaurant, most tea cafes still offer the environment Starbucks once provided:  a place to easily find a seat and work or relax. Teazer competes in environment and quality with big name cafes like Argo and Starbuck's Teavana. Not sure if it's as good as Billy Corgan's teahouse north of Chicago, since we never made it, but this is one of the best hang-outs in Fresno.

Every decent city needs a micro-brewery. It's debatable if Fresno is a decent city, but Tioga Sequoa is a great brewery. We recently went on a quest throughout Fresno to find Tioga's temporary release of Rush Hour-- a breakfast stout.  Oddly, their parent brewery, Sequoia Brewing didn't have it and
Spokeasy hadn't cracked open their supply, yet. We found it at Swigg's on Shaw.

With vegetarian restaurants out of business or spaced neighborhoods apart, it can be a hassle to get good vegetarian in Fresno. Organic Fresno, Little Peking, Lucy's Lair, and Sprouts Salad Bar are worth the drive. Loving Hut appears to be the only dedicated vegan/vegetarian and wasn't anything to write home about, but shouldn't be nixed. Me-n-Ed's has a great vegetarian pizza for vegetarians. It's the pizza you'd get if you combined the crispy thin crust of a California Pizza with the bulk and toppings of a Chicago deep dish. Me-n-Ed's is a 60-location regional chain, but each location we went to had its own personality. Chain customers want consistent food and service, a little variety in design and environment make going to these restaurants interesting-- so credit to Me-n-Eds for having more than one design plan.

Neighborhood Thrift: Fresno has a number of independent thrift stores including Neighborhood Thrift that make the Tower District a shopping area worth visiting. Even if you don't like the idea of used clothes, it's fun looking at knick-knacks and games and imagining all the things we'd buy if we weren't moving soon. NT also hosts performances during Rogue Fest.

Millerton Lake: Despite being nearly dry because of the drought, Millerton Lake is the one place I'd like to revistit before leaving Fresno. The park area has a variety of trails that run besides the lake and through the hills and rocks around the lake. There are a number of places to stop on the way to Millerton from Fresno like Sumner Peck Ranch with its indoor/outdoor tasting area and delicious candied nut selection. We never made it to Engelmann Cellars, but heard good things about it as well.

Visalia/Exeter: Visalia with its satellite town, Exeter, isn't something that's good about Fresno, but it's something great that's nearby Fresno. We first went to see Son Lux. I was disappointed to read his/their tour schedule and see they were playing every major city we'd lived in while we were stuck in Fresno. Visalia to the rescue! On another trip to Sequoia National Forest, we stopped in Exeter to try Wildflower Cafe and look at the many murals in Exeter's tiny downtown.

Not much longer in Fresno and we'll be off to our next city! We've really enjoyed having access to all of California's great parks and coastal cities. We might make it back to the state eventually, but for now, we're ready to leave. Next stop-- Denver!