#47 Education, Architecture, & Park-like Grounds

CAMPUSAlong with education, activities, and live performances, this campus (located adjacent to Chico’s downtown) is also known for its beautiful grounds and its architecture. Laxson Auditorium, along with Kendall Hall and Trinity Hall with its bell tower, was built of red brick in the early 1930’s in a lovely Romanesque style similar to that of Mediterranean cultures. True beauties.

The new Bell Memorial Union is home to a huge bookstore (including clothing and gift items in addition to the books,) the Union Express, and the Associated Students offices, and 12 conference and assembly rooms, plus auditorium seating for 1,000 people.

Meriam Library, named after Ted Meriam, who was a former university trustee and Chico mayor, is the largest library north of Sacramento and serves as a resource for all of Northern California.

Thanks to General John Bidwell, who was an amateur horticulturist, the grounds of the campus contain hundreds of varieties of trees and plants that he introduced to the area. You’ll note, as you walk through the campus, many huge trees; some of these date back to when Bidwell planted them. The plantings, along with Big Chico Creek running through the middle of the campus, make it a nature lover’s dream. Spring is especially gorgeous with the azaleas in bloom and the creek running strong. A tour of the grounds and buildings is well worth taking since it is informative, entertaining, and just plain beautiful.

California State University,
Chico Office of Admissions

Tours/Pre-Admission Information
West 2nd & Hazel St.
(800) 542-4426 (530) 898-4428
Bookstore: 898-5222
Box Office: 898-6333
Chico Symphony: 898-4607
Athletic Events: 898-4658
Conference Services: 898-6414
Continuing Education: 898-6105
Recreational Sports: 898-5170


#48 Begin at the Beginning

Born in 1819, John Bidwell led the first overland expedition to California when he was 22. When he struck gold on the Feather River near Oroville,he bought 26,000 acres beside Chico Creek, and in 1860 founded Chico.

In 1868, after having served two years as a Washington congressman, he and Annie Kennedy were married with President Johnson attending.

Soon the Bidwells moved to Chico and worked in many causes including Indian education and women’s suffrage. Mr. Bidwell was also an amateur horticulturist, and planted many varieties of trees and shrubs on his vast land holdings and around the community.

The Bidwells entertained prominent Americans, including Susan B. Anthony and John Muir, until Bidwell died in 1900 and Annie in 1918.

In 1887 Bidwell donated the land for the state teacher’s college that later became CSUC; and Bidwell Park, about a mile east of the mansion, was donated to the city by Annie in 1905.

The three-story mansion is furnished with Victorian pieces, many having belonged to the Bidwells. The carriage house stores four of Bidwell’s carriages.

The mansion is home to many annual events including a Christmas Open House each December. Next to the mansion is a visitor center offering displays, a gift shop, and a 25-minute movie of this generous, progressive couple.

Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
525 Esplanade • 530-895-6144
Sat.-Sun. 11-4, Mon. 12-4


#49 One of U.S.A.’s Largest City Parks

Bidwell Park

Donated to the city by Annie Bidwell in 1905 were the original 2,238 acres, and in 1995 the city purchased and added an additional 1,380 acres, making it the third largest urban park in our nation. As per Bidwell’s designation, no alcohol, or hunting is allowed.

These over 3,600 acres offer picnicking, swimming, equestrian and bicycling trails, golf, archery, pistol ranges, playgrounds, baseball/softball fields, and organized recreational activities year round. It was seen nationally in 1937 when the original Adventures of Robin Hood was filmed among the towering oaks and sycamores. The park has been designated as an official California Watchable Wildlife site. California Watchable Wildlife.

Because of its large size, the park is divided into two sections: Upper Bidwell Park is a wilderness section along both sides of Big Chico Creek Canyon. It contains more than 35 miles of hiking trails, 25 of which are open to equestrians and bikers. The canyon of Big Chico Creek has many beautiful swimming holes. The two major trails are North Rim and South Rim.

North Rim Trail (for hiking, biking, and horseback riding) starts at Wildwood Avenue, close to the entrance to Upper Park. Beautiful vistas are the reward for this sometimes steep trail. South Rim Trail is used less and is pretty rugged. It begins where Centennial Avenue deadends into Chico Canyon Road and runs above Bidwell Golf Course and into the newly acquired south side of the canyon.

Upper Bidwell Park also contains Hooker Oak Recreation Area (this part of Upper Park was originally called Middle Park), three softball diamonds, playgrounds, and picnic areas. You might view some kite flyers here. To get to Hooker Oak, take Vallombrosa Avenue, turn left on Manzanita Avenue.

You’ll spot it on the right. Five-Mile Dam Recreation Area includes a large natural swimming hole plus good picnic spots with tables and grills. To find it, take Vallombrosa to the end, turn right on Manzanita, and then left on Centennial—the recreation area is on the left. The Horseshoe Lake area is a great area for fishing and is the site of the annual Fishing Derby.

Lower Bidwell Park is about a fourmile long area following Big Chico Creek from downtown to Manzanita Avenue with footpaths and bicycle paths that run through shady oak groves.

The One-Mile Dam Recreation Area includes Sycamore Pool, a softball field, horseshoe pits, and picnic areas with grills. Very near downtown, it can be entered from Fourth or Fifth Streets. Just next to the One- Mile playing field is Caper Acres, an imaginative fairy-tale themed playground featuring just about everything to keep small children busy. (My favorite is the castle, but I think the treehouse thingy is more popular with the youngsters.)

Cedar Grove, entrance off East Eighth Avenue, is lovely year-round with its gorgeous cedar trees. Chico Creek Nature Center is also located in Lower Park, and we think deserving of its own listing in “101 Things to Do. ”Please see item 71 to learn about it.

Detailed park maps are available for the asking at the Chico Visitor Center, corner of Main and 5th Streets.

Bidwell Park
(530) 896-7800
4th Street and Cypress Avenue (click Park Dept.)


#50 Step Into Another Era

Stansbury Home

Built by Dr. & Mrs. Oscar Stansbury in 1883, this home was designed in the Italianate Victorian style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is one of the most original and unaltered homes in California. Because family members lived here until 1974, it contains many of the family’s original pieces.

Visiting here is a step into another era.

Stansbury Home
307 West 5th St. (530) 891-0585
Special Tours: (530) -343-6611
Sat & Sun 1-4 • Adults $4
Students $2, Under 10 Free

Laxon Hall

#51 Ballerinas, Saxes, Comedy & Drama

Blue Room Theatre offers theatrical works for children, young adults, and adult audiences. They’ve done extensive upgrading. Increased seating capacity, enhanced sound and visual presentation, a three-quarter thrust style stage, and a new color scheme have added greatly to the ambiance.

Chico Theatre Company opened in 2003 in the 244-seat former Eaton Road Opera House location and has staged nearly 700 performances since opening, and has earned the great reputation it now holds. The theatre includes nine shows a year ranging from classics to new shows, both musical and nonmusical.

Laxson Auditorium celebrated her 80th birthday in 2011. Always a grand architectural treasure of Romanesque style (can’t imagine the campus without that building just as it’s sat from the beginning), its national and international entertainment offerings seem to only get better every year!

Blue Room Theatre
139 West First St. (upstairs)
(530) 895-3749

Chico Theatre Company
166 Eaton Rd.
(530) 894-2CTC • Thurs.-Sat.

Rogue Theatre
@1078 Gallery 820 Broadway
(530) 343-1973 • Thurs.-Sat.

Laxson Auditorium’s Performances
Office: Second & Chestnut Streets
(530) 898-6333 • Mon.-Fri.,10-4