Visit Redding, California
Visit Redding, California
The Cascade Theatre in Redding, CA.
The Cascade Theatre in Redding, CA.

A Visitor's Guide to Downtown Redding

By Redding CVB | 02/22/2019 | Art & Culture, Between Games, Cultural District, Downtown Attractions, Empty Nester Activities, Family Friendly , Food and Drink, Fun and Free, Nightlife, Parks & Gardens, Things to See and Do, Top-Sights

It’s no secret that Redding, California, is well known as a world-class outdoor destination, drawing active types from all over to hike in the surrounding Shasta-Cascade mountains, raft and fish in crystal-clear rivers, and spend lazy summer days on the lakes. But Redding is also a thriving cultural hub of Northern California, brimming with eateries, theaters, galleries, boutiques, and shops, plus nearly 70 public art displays. In fact, Redding’s downtown district is one of only 14 official California Cultural Districts in the entire state—and only one of three chosen from predominantly rural areas—boasting a level of art and sophistication that may surprise visitors who only know this region of NorCal for its natural beauty.

In addition, Redding is remarkably pedestrian — and bike-friendly. Its extensive cultural offerings — more than 50 bars, restaurants, and cafes, not to mention museums and other attractions — are easily accessible on foot or by bike thanks to an extensive trail network. The result? The charm and convenience of a small town, complemented by the vast cultural offerings of a much larger city. Here’s what to do, see, and experience in downtown Redding.

An Iconic Bridge, Artistic Offerings, and Gold Rush History

The Sundial Bridge is one of Redding’s most famous sights. This architectural marvel is a glass-decked, cable-stayed cantilever suspension bridge that stretches more than 200 feet into the sky and spans 710 feet across the Sacramento River. The sundial itself nods to a striking “bird in flight” design, symbolizing the power of overcoming diversity. Its design also forms a working sundial that you can see in action. The tip of the soaring, 217-foot pylon forms a shadow that moves at a speed of approximately one foot per minute, so you can actually watch the Earth’s rotation with your naked eye on the large dial plate on the bridge’s north end—a fascinating science lesson that happens all day!

The bridge is also an environmentally conscious structure, with no river footings as a way to keep the salmon-spawning habitat of the Sacramento River beneath undisturbed. And it’s just as beautiful at night since the translucent glass along the deck is illuminated from beneath, creating a stunning aquamarine glow while minimizing the impact on the salmon habitat.

The Turtle Bay Expansion Park features many wildlife exhibits to explore, including one that features colorful lorikeets. (Courtesy of Turtle Bay Exploration Park)

Since the bridge’s 2004 grand opening, it’s become an iconic landmark for Redding — and offers a fitting launching point for exploring downtown. One nearby attraction that’s a must-do for the young (and young at heart!) is Turtle Bay Exploration Park, a 300-acre space brimming with activities. Highlights include the Visible River Aquarium, a museum showcasing Native American history, and interactive exhibits on wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem (be sure to snap a photo with a few colorful birds called lorikeets perched on your head!).

Also on the property is Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp, an educational and fun way to look back on the bygone era of the legendary lumberjack and the “forest camps” that dotted the region more than a hundred years ago, and the largest butterfly house in North America. Meanwhile, the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens includes gardens galore, from a medicinal one to a garden just for kids.

For more on the region’s history, check out the Shasta Historical Society, which was formed in the 1930s to collect stories from then-living pioneers who settled in the area. Learn about the California Gold Rush and other tales from the 19th century that helped shape what Redding is today. Also be sure to step into Bogbean, a store that buys, sells, and trades all kind of media, including vinyl, CDs, DVDs, Blu-Ray, VHS, plus old-school video games. It’s a blast from the past that’s fun to explore.

Redding’s performing arts scene is thriving, too, thanks to its popularity as a stop for regional, national, and international performing artists. Live shows, movie showings, and more are on the schedule at the historic Cascade Theatre, a stunningly restored 1930s-era Art Deco masterpiece that’s listed on both the California and National Registries of Historic Places, and the Redding Civic Auditorium is another cultural icon. Redding is also home to dozens of public art displays, especially in the Carter House Gallery, Old City Hall, and Turtle Bay area.

Dig Into Redding’s Culinary Scene

A thriving component of Northern California’s farm-to-fork scene, Redding boasts a remarkable dining culture that’s the perfect way to fuel up after a long day of urban and outdoor exploration. Be sure to check out foodie hotspots in town like the just-opened Food Trucks at The Park, which transformed the former Carnegie Park into an open courtyard with lawn games like cornhole and giant jenga, live music, free wifi, and firepits. Choose from a half-dozen food trucks, and grab a beer or glass of wine, too.

Other recommended restaurants downtown include Maxwell’s Downtown Eatery, a low-key, local hangout known for comfort food like burgers and its signature totchos (tater tots smothered in nacho fixings), and the Taste and See Creamery, a gourmet ice cream parlor that creates everything in-house. Flavors rotate monthly — grab a few samples to taste and see which one you like best. Plenty more Redding original restaurants fill downtown Redding and the Redding Cultural District.

Enjoy Locally Crafted Libations!

Redding is filled with options for enjoying a locally made beer or craft cocktail including the pictured Final Draft Brewing Company.

Like NorCal in general, Redding has plenty to choose from when it’s time for an adult beverage. The recently remodeled Vintage Public House is a locals’ favorite for taking in excellent live music, with eight rotating taps and a large selection of wine by the glass. It’s a lovely spot to wind down the day with a drink in hand, toasting to the night ahead.

Several local breweries dot Redding’s downtown. Put together a laid-back, self-guided tasting tour by day, or choose one brewery, grab a pint, and settle in for a while. Final Draft Brewing Company has a casual, fun atmosphere and all-around excellent beer selection. Woody’s Brewing Company is known for an expansive selection of suds, from hoppy IPAs to creamy porters to crisp lagers, most of which they brew in house (not to mention their delicious food and loaded tater tots!). Cedar Crest Brewing is the latest brewery to pop up downtown for all things, including local craft beer and wine and a gathering place for the community located just a few steps away from Final Draft.

Indeed, from artistic offerings to culinary pursuits, you’ll never run out of things to do (and see and eat) in Redding—and that’s before you even grab a fishing pole or hit the trails. It’s time to explore this lesser-known—but highly worthy—cultural side of Redding, and there’s no better place to start than downtown.

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