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Chico, California
City of Chico
Kendall Hall, Chico State (cropped).jpg
Senator Theatre Building, Chico, in fall 2020 (cropped).jpg
Entrance of the Diamond Hotel on 4th in Chico (cropped).jpg
ChicoSquare (cropped).jpg
201 Broadway Street - Chico, California - DSC03037.JPG
Clockwise from top left: California State University, Chico; Senator Theatre; Diamond Hotel; shops in Downtown Chico; Chico Plaza.
Official seal of Chico, California
"City of Trees", "City of Roses"
Location of Chico in Butte County, California
Location of Chico in Butte County, California
Chico, California is located in the United States
Chico, California
Chico, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Butte
Founded 1860
Incorporated January 8, 1872
Founded by John Bidwell
 • Type Council–manager government
 • City 34.62 sq mi (89.67 km2)
 • Land 34.45 sq mi (89.23 km2)
 • Water 0.17 sq mi (0.45 km2)  0.52%
243 ft (74 m)
 • City 101,475
 • Rank 75th in California
318th in the United States
 • Density 2,945.57/sq mi (1,137.24/km2)
 • Metro
Demonym(s) Chicoan
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
95926–95929, 95973, 95976
Area code 530
FIPS code 06-13014
GNIS feature ID 2409447

Chico ( CHEE-koh; Spanish for "little") is the most populous city in Butte County, California. Located in the Sacramento Valley region of Northern California, the city had a population of 101,475 in the 2020 census, reflecting an increase from 86,187 in the 2010 Census. Chico is the cultural and economic center of the northern Sacramento Valley, as well as the largest city in California north of the capital city of Sacramento. The city is known as a college town, as the home of California State University, Chico, and for Bidwell Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world.


Bidwell Mansion 2006 11 IMGP0863
Bidwell Mansion

The original inhabitants of the area now known as Chico were the Mechoopda Maidu Native Americans.

The City of Chico was founded in 1860 by John Bidwell, a member of one of the first wagon trains to reach California in 1843. During the American Civil War, Camp Bidwell (named for John Bidwell, by then a Brigadier General of the California Militia), was established a mile outside Chico, by Lt. Col. A. E. Hooker with a company of cavalry and two of infantry, on August 26, 1863. By early 1865 it was being referred to as Camp Chico when a post called Camp Bidwell was established in northeast California, later to be Fort Bidwell. The city became incorporated January 8, 1872.

Chico was home to a significant Chinese American community when it was first incorporated, but arsonists burned Chico's Chinatown in February 1886, driving Chinese Americans out of town.

Historian W.H. "Old Hutch" Hutchinson identified five events as the most seminal in Chico history. They included the arrival of John Bidwell in 1850, the arrival of the California and Oregon Railroad in 1870, the establishment in 1887 of the Northern Branch of the State Normal School, which later became California State University, Chico (Chico State), the purchase of the Sierra Lumber Company by the Diamond Match Company in 1900, and the development of the Army Air Base, which is now the Chico Municipal Airport.

Several other significant events have unfolded in Chico more recently. These include the construction and relocation of Route 99E through town in the early 1960s and the establishment of a "Green Line" on the western city limits as protection of agricultural lands.



Chico is at the northeast edge of the Sacramento Valley, one of the richest agricultural areas in the world. The Sierra Nevada mountains lie to the east, with Chico's city limits venturing several miles into the foothills. To the west, the Sacramento River lies 5 miles (8 km) from the city limits.


City Plaza in Chico

Chico sits on the Sacramento Valley floor close to the foothills of the Cascade Range to the north and the Sierra Nevada range to the south. Big Chico Creek is the demarcation line between the ranges. The city's terrain is generally flat with increasingly hilly terrain beginning at the eastern city limits.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 27.8 square miles (72 km2), of which 27.7 square miles (72 km2) is land and 0.04% is water.

The city is bisected by Bidwell Park, which runs 5 miles (8 km) from the flat city center deep into the foothills.

The city is also traversed by two creeks and a flood channel, which feeds the Sacramento River. They are named Big Chico Creek, Little Chico Creek, and Lindo Channel (also known as Sandy Gulch, locally).

Street system

The downtown area of Chico is located generally between Big Chico Creek and Little Chico Creek. The downtown has a street grid offset 49.75° from the four cardinal directions. There are numbered streets and avenues, which generally run east-northeast to west-southwest. Blocks are usually addressed in hundreds corresponding to the numbered streets and avenues. While the east-northeast to west-southwest streets and avenues are numbered, streets running north-northwest to south-southeast are generally named after trees. The part of the "tree" streets that intersect the Chico State campus spell the word "CHICO" at Chestnut, Hazel, Ivy, Cherry, and Orange streets.

The main thoroughfare running northwest–southeast through the city is State Route Business 99, not to be confused with Highway 99. Business 99 has several common names. From Northwest to Southeast, these are Esplanade, Main Street/Broadway (these are one-way southeast and northwest, respectively, in downtown Chico), Main Street/Oroville Avenue (similarly one-way), Park Avenue, and Midway. The city streets are designated as "east" or "west" by their relation to this street.

There are numbered streets and avenues both of which flow east–west. This fact can cause confusion. The "streets" are south of the Chico State campus through downtown, while the "avenues" are north of campus through The Esplanade. There are no left turns permitted onto any odd numbered avenue from The Esplanade, in either direction, with the exception of West 11th Avenue.

In the numbered streets and avenues and most other streets that intersect The Esplanade, Main, and Park, the west addresses are all numbers whose last two digits are 00 through 49 and the east addresses are all numbers whose last two digits are 50 through 99. There are few exceptions.

On most Chico streets odd addresses are on the south side of the street.

Standing at the bridge over the Big Chico Creek—where Main Street changes to The Esplanade—and facing north, the odd addresses are on the left. (Bidwell Mansion is 525 The Esplanade.) This convention holds for all the numbered avenues. However, while facing south the odd addresses are still on the left (i.e., the convention has switched). This convention holds throughout the numbered streets.

Many streets in Chico, most notably Nord Avenue/Walnut Street, change street names after small bridges. When the city was being built, these streets were on the outskirts of town and did not require bridge building. Modern residents of Chico use these streets frequently, and the name changes can cause confusion.


The Senator Theater, completed in 1928 for $300,000, was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger for Michael Naify and the Nasser Brothers.

Downtown Chico – This is the main commercial district in Chico. It is located generally between the Big Chico Creek and Little Chico Creek between Wall Street and Salem Street. The Downtown Chico Business Association represents the interests of the downtown to the community. Main Street and Broadway are the two main thoroughfares bisecting the downtown. Ringel Park is the triangular-shaped area immediately north of downtown. The Chico City Plaza is the central point of downtown, between Fourth and Fifth Streets. The area of West Ninth Street where Main Street and Oroville Avenue converge is known as The Junction, the southernmost part of the downtown. "The Junction", as the confluence of Humboldt Road and the old Shasta Stage Road (now Main Street and The Esplanade), got its name in the early 1860s when John Bidwell and partners established a company that created a stage line between Chico and Susanville, ultimately leading to Ruby City, Idaho, and the rich gold strikes there. This is the place where Humboldt Road began; it is now called Humboldt Avenue until it reaches the Highway 99 freeway, then regains the Humboldt Road name on the eastern side as it continues into the foothills. "The Junction" was for some years a business district unto itself, providing goods and services to people arriving at and departing from the stage depot.

South Campus – The South Campus neighborhood is the area bounded by West Second Street, Salem Street, West Ninth Street and the western city limits (which is called "The Green Line"). Historically, this area was the first residential area established in the city. Currently, it is the most densely populated area of the city. The South Campus Neighborhood Association represents the interests of the neighborhood to the community. South Campus is a dynamic residential neighborhood consisting overwhelmingly of young renters under thirty-five, and specifically Chico State students. The intersection of Fifth and Ivy streets is a neighborhood commercial core sometimes referred to locally as "Five and I." There are many fraternity and sorority houses in the area, and the city has designated a "Fraternity/Sorority Overlay Zone", largely contiguous with the neighborhood. South Campus is home of Craig Hall and Depot Park.

Barber – The Barber neighborhood is a working class residential neighborhood generally south of Little Chico Creek and west of Park avenue. The Barber Neighborhood Association represents the interests of the neighborhood to the community. This neighborhood was originally built to house the employees of the adjacent Diamond Match Factory. The neighborhood was named after Ohio Columbus Barber, president of the Diamond Match Company. Today, the Diamond Match property is designated for a future development called Barber Yard.

Chapmantown – This is a working-class residential neighborhood entirely surrounded by area inside the city of Chico, but which itself is not a part of the city. Rather, it is under the jurisdiction of the County of Butte. Chapmantown is currently known as the area bounded by Little Chico Creek, Boucher Street, Guill Street and East Sixteenth Street. The neighborhood south of East Twentieth Street to the east of Fair street is also referred to as Chapmantown. Historically, Chapmantown referred to everything east of Mulberry street, but that is no longer the case. Due to not being within city limits, there are no sidewalks, sewers, or any other city services. However, there are also none of the regulations associated with the municipality either (prohibition on chicken coops, burn permits, etc.) The neighborhood is home to The Dorothy F. Johnson Neighborhood Center, a facility of the Chico Area Recreation District. The neighborhood is named after Augustus Chapman.

The Avenues – A relatively new name that refers to the area north of Big Chico Creek historically known as Chico Vecino (Spanish for 'neighbor'). This area includes the numbered avenues that intersect The Esplanade. This residential neighborhood is adjacent to the northern boundary of Chico State campus and is south of Lindo Channel. The neighborhood also is home to Enloe Medical Center. The Avenues are known for their beautiful older homes, mature trees and walkability.

Mansion Park is the high end residential neighborhood adjacent to the Bidwell Mansion, and immediately between the northeast corner of the Chico State campus and Chico High School. This neighborhood is notable for its being a preferred parking zone for residents with permits only, located in an area of the city with very impacted parking. This neighborhood is home to the Albert E. Warrens Reception Center (formerly the Julia Morgan House), and the Bidwell Amphitheatre. Originally, home to mostly university professors and staff, other professionals and upper-middle-class families now also call it home.

Chico State's Kendall Hall
Kendall Hall at Chico State

Doe Mill is a developing "new urbanist" residential neighborhood generally north of East Twentieth Street and East of Bruce Road. Cheerful, colorful homes, welcoming porches, mixed home sizes, and narrow streets that encourage pedestrian rather than vehicular traffic characterize this charming neighborhood.

Nob Hill is the developing residential neighborhood west of Bruce Road and north of Highway 32.

California Park is the developing residential neighborhood east of Bruce Road and north of Highway 32. This area contains a smaller area known as Canyon Oaks,.

Aspen Glen is the residential neighborhood east of the Esplanade and north of East Shasta avenue. Many streets there are named after things associated with Colorado.

Cussick Area Neighborhood is an assortment of different housing types on the northwest end of town. It is flanked by orchards, the Esplanade, and West East Avenue.

Big Chico Creek Estates is a middle class development in the southwest area of town, Backed by Big Chico Creek, and very close to Chico's newest elementary school.

Little Chico Creek Estates generally referred to as "Chico Creek Estates", is a middle-class development that is bordered to the north by Little Chico Creek, to the west by Bruce Road, to the South by a seasonal flood control channel and Doe Mill neighborhood and bordered to the east by Stilson Canyon. Prior to its development in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Little Chico Creek Estates was an olive orchard. As a result, the streets in the neighborhood are named after olive varieties.

Connors Neighborhood is a very small neighborhood squeezed between East East Avenue and Rio Lindo and between the Esplanade and Highway 99. Connors Neighborhood is made up of Connors Ave and White Ave, along with a couple of courts and circles. This neighborhood was incorporated into Chico in 2003; the state plans to add sewers in Q1 of 2011.

Other neighborhoods include South Park, North Park, Vallombrosa, Baroni Park, Heritage Oaks and Hancock Park.

Chico also is home to several large new urbanist neighborhoods, either planned or under construction, including Doe Mill, Barber Yard, Meriam Park, The Orchard and Westside Place.

The above-mentioned "neighborhoods" do not include large sections of Chico. There are numerous other areas that each have unique characteristics and attractions. While some of these areas were not so long ago outside of city limits, they have always been a part of the Chico community. Most of these areas are well established with a high percentage of residents who have lived there for more than 20 years. In the older areas of the outlying neighborhoods, it is not uncommon to find households that have been there for fifty or even more years.

Parks and creekside greenways

Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park
  • Verbena Fields: This site is a former quarry that is currently being restored into a natural park. The project will expand and improve seasonal wetlands, increase the floodplain width, restore native plantings, establish Mechoopda cultural planting areas, construct a walking trail loop, and provide public education.
  • Baroni Park
  • Bidwell Park
  • Children's Playground
  • Depot Park
  • DeGarmo Park
  • East 20th St at Notre Dame Park (undeveloped)
  • Hancock Park
  • Henshaw Park (undeveloped)
  • Hooker Oak Recreation Area
  • Ceres Park (undeveloped)
  • Humboldt Park (Humboldt at Willow)
  • Nob Hill/Husa Ranch Park
  • Peterson Park
  • City Plaza
  • Ringel Park
  • Skateboard Park
  • Wildwood Park
  • Martin Luther King Park
  • Chapman Park
  • Oak Way Park
  • Rotary Park (Wall Street)
  • Rotary Park (Sixteenth and Broadway)
Creekside Greenways
  • Little Chico Creek
  • Mud Creek
  • Sycamore Creek
  • Commanche Creek
  • Sandy Gulch (Lindo Channel) Greenway
  • Bear Hole (in Upper Bidwell Park)
  • Alligator Hole (in Upper Bidwell Park)
  • Salmon Hole (in Upper Bidwell Park)


Chico and the Sacramento Valley have a typically Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa). Temperatures can rise well above 100 °F (38 °C) in the summer. Chico is one of the top metropolitan areas in the nation for number of clear days.

Winters are fairly mild and wet, with the most rainfall coming in January. July is usually the warmest month, with an average high temperature of 94 °F (34 °C) and an average low temperature of 61 °F (16 °C). January is the coolest month, with an average high temperature of 55 °F (13 °C) and an average low temperature of 35 °F (2 °C). The average annual rainfall is 27 inches (690 mm). Tule fog is often present during the autumn and winter months.

Climate data for Chico, California (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 77
Average high °F (°C) 55.1
Average low °F (°C) 35.4
Record low °F (°C) 12
Precipitation inches (mm) 4.86
Source: Western Regional Climate Center


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 3,300
1890 2,894 −12.3%
1900 2,640 −8.8%
1910 3,750 42.0%
1920 9,339 149.0%
1930 7,961 −14.8%
1940 9,287 16.7%
1950 12,272 32.1%
1960 14,757 20.2%
1970 19,580 32.7%
1980 26,716 36.4%
1990 40,079 50.0%
2000 59,954 49.6%
2010 86,187 43.8%
2020 101,475 17.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
St John-Baptist Catholic Church, Chico, USA - panoramio (cropped)
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.

The 2010 United States Census reported that Chico had a population of 86,187, which represents an increase of 43.8% since 2000 and a continuation of steady population increase since 1940. The population density was 2,604.2 people per square mile (1,005.5/km2). The racial makeup of Chico was 69,606 (80.8%) White, 1,771 (2.1%) African American, 1,167 (1.4%) Native American, 3,656 (4.2%) Asian, 210 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 5,437 (6.3%) from other races, and 4,340 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13,315 persons (15.4%).

The Census reported that 83,009 people (96.3% of the population) lived in households, 2,591 (3.0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 587 (0.7%) were institutionalized.

There were 34,805 households, out of which 9,222 (26.5%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 11,745 (33.7%) were heterosexual living together, 3,975 (11.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,729 (5.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 2,806 (8.1%) unmarried heterosexual partnerships, and 295 (0.8%) same sex married couples or partnerships. Ten thousand four hundred nineteen households (29.9%) were made up of individuals, and 3,100 (8.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38. There were 17,449 families (50.1% of all households); the average family size was 2.97.

The population was spread out, with 16,771 people (19.5%) under the age of 18, 20,622 people (23.9%) aged 18 to 24, 22,360 people (25.9%) aged 25 to 44, 17,256 people (20.0%) aged 45 to 64, and 9,178 people (10.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.8 males.

There were 37,050 housing units at an average density of 1,119.5 per square mile (432.2/km2), of which 34,805 were occupied, of which 14,878 (42.7%) were owner-occupied, and 19,927 (57.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.8%. Thirty-six thousand eight people (41.8% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units, and 47,001 people (54.5%) lived in rental housing units.



The Chico Museum first opened in February 1986 in the former Carnegie Library building in downtown Chico. It currently features the only circus exhibit of its kind in the Western United States. The museum has two main galleries, which host a variety of temporary and traveling exhibits. In addition, the museum has two smaller, permanent galleries displaying the diverse history of Chico. The Chico Museum is run by the Far West Heritage Association, which also runs the Patrick Ranch Museum. The museum is free and donations are graciously accepted.

F-86 Mama Inez at Chico Air Museum (2)
Chico Air Museum

The Chico Air Museum is an aviation museum, which opened in 2004. Several aircraft and exhibits are displayed in and adjacent to an old hangar, one of the few remaining from World War II.

The National Yo-Yo Museum is the country's largest collection of yo-yo artifacts, which also includes a 4-foot (1.2 m) tall yo-yo that is dropped with a crane every few years, the world's largest functional yo-yo. Classes are available as well for those new to yo-yo and those who just want to get better. An art museum, the Chico Art Center, is also located in the city.

Two other historical buildings are also museums. Bidwell Mansion is a Victorian house completed in 1868, and the former home of John and Annie Bidwell. Bidwell Mansion is a California State Historical Park. Stansbury House, former home of physician Oscar Stansbury, is a museum of 19th-century life, completed in 1883.

The Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology on the Chico State campus presents temporary exhibits researched, designed and installed primarily by students. The museum was renamed November 18, 2009, by the Chico State Board of Trustees in honor of professor emerita Valene L. Smith, whose contributions and commitments to the museum have totaled over $4.6 million. The grand opening was held on January 28, 2010. The museum is across from the main entrance of the Miriam Library, next to the Janet Turner Print Museum.

Construction started on the Gateway Science Museum (formerly the Northern California Natural History Museum) in 2008 and was completed on February 27, 2010. In the works for more than 10 years, the Gateway Science Museum is the leading center for science education and Northern California's local history, natural resources, seacoast, Sacramento Valley, and surrounding foothills and mountains.

Art and theatre

About 40 murals and several galleries can be found in the city, including Chico Paper Company, 1078 Gallery, Avenue 9, The Space, 24-Hour Drive-By and numerous other galleries. The theatres in Chico include Blue Room Theatre, Theatre ETC, Chico Cabaret, Chico Performances, Chico Theater Company, and Theatre on the Ridge. The California State University, Chico Theatre Department also offers a variety of entertainment throughout the school year. In 2003, author John Villani named Chico one of the top 10 Best Small Art Towns in America.

Points of interest

Bidwell Park Chico
Chico, CA is home to Bidwell Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

Chico is the site of Bidwell Park, the ninth-largest municipally-owned park in the United States, Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park, the Chico University Arboretum.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the second-largest craft brewer in the country, is based in Chico.

Chico has the tallest building north of Sacramento in California: Whitney Hall, a nine-story dormitory on the Chico State college campus.

The Meriam Library on the Chico State campus is named after Ted Meriam. The building has more square footage than any other building in California north of Sacramento.

The State of California, Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development defines Enloe Medical Center as a General Acute Care Hospital in Chico with a Level II Trauma Center and Basic emergency care as of August 22, 2006. The facility is located at 1531 The Esplanade at (NAD83) latitude/longitude 39°44′33″N 121°51′00″W / 39.74250°N 121.85000°W / 39.74250; -121.85000.

The Hooker Oak, formerly the largest Valley Oak in the world, was located at Hooker Oak Recreation Area in Bidwell Park.

Located in urban Chico, the Mechoopda Maidu Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria is at 125 Mission Ranch Blvd.

Bidwell Municipal Golf Course, United States Department of Agriculture Plant Introduction Garden, Canyon Oaks Golf Course, Diamond Match Factory, Chico Museum, Chico Municipal Center, Dorothy F. Johnson Neighborhood Center, Veterans Memorial Building, Craig Hall, Stansbury House, Scrappy Dog, Madison Bear Garden, Chico Creek Nature Center, Chico Community Observatory, Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, Chico Area Recreation and Park District, Bidwell Amphitheatre, Honey Run Covered Bridge, Senator Theatre, A. H. Chapman House, Allen-Sommer-Gage House, Patrick Ranch House, Silberstein Park Building, Pioneer Days.


Almonds are the number one crop in Chico and the surrounding area, only recently edging out rice. Other crops in the area include walnuts, kiwis, olives, peaches, and plums.

The city is bounded on the west by orchards with thousands of almond trees, and there are still a few pockets of orchards remaining within the contiguous city limits. The trees bloom with a pink/white flower in late February or early March. Millions of bees are brought in for the pollination. The nuts are harvested in late August.

Walnuts are also a major agricultural production in the area north and west of town. Unlike the almond crops of the area, walnuts do not have the same appeal as they do not bloom but they grow much larger and live much longer than almonds, but similar to the almond crops, walnuts are harvested in early September.

There are several farmers' markets held in Chico:

  • Saturday mornings, May through November 7:30 am to Noon at the North Valley Plaza;
  • Thursday night market with a street-fair atmosphere is sponsored by the Downtown Chico Business Association from 6–9 p.m. each Thursday night during warm months in downtown Chico on Broadway, between 2nd and 5th Streets;
  • Chico Certified Farmer's Market every Saturday morning (year-round) from 7 am until 1 pm at the Wall Street public parking lot on 2nd and Wall Streets.

In June 2014, the Thursday night Chico farmers market was named one of the top 9 farmers markets to eat at in Northern California.`


Chico station-00769
Chico station is served by Amtrak.

Amtrak operates the Chico Amtrak station at Fifth and Orange Streets for the Coast Starlight service. The terminal is partially wheelchair accessible, has an enclosed waiting area, public restrooms, public payphones, free short-term and long-term parking. Trains run between Seattle and Los Angeles with a northbound and a southbound train departing from the station daily. The Greyhound bus station is also located at Fifth and Orange Streets.

The B-Line (Butte Regional Transit) serves the Chico Urban area with eight routes operating Monday through Saturday and two shuttle routes for Chico State students during the academic year.

Chico is a gold level bicycle-friendly community as designated by the League of American Bicyclists. Chico was also named "America's Best Bike Town" by Bicycle magazine in 1997. Pedicabs are commonly available downtown during the evenings.

California State Route 99 and California State Route 32 intersect in Chico.


Chico Municipal Airport serves the area and is north of the city limits. It was served by United Airlines' United Express flights operated by SkyWest Airlines nonstop to San Francisco (SFO). Commercial passenger flights were discontinued by SkyWest on December 2, 2014, due to nonviability, as indicated by United Airlines in June 2014. The city administration is trying to restore air service, which would be provided by alternate airlines. On July 31, 1961, the first-ever aircraft hijacking on United States soil occurred at the Chico Municipal Airport. Two men were critically wounded, and the hijacker was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison.

In the early 1980s, the airport was the home base and headquarters for Pacific Express, a scheduled passenger airline that served Chico with British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven twin jets. From 1962 to 2010, the airport was also home to Aero Union, a company that refitted and operated surplus military aircraft such as the Lockheed P-3 Orion turboprop as fire fighting aircraft for state and federal agencies until their move to McClellan Airfield, near Sacramento.

Another local airfield is Ranchaero Airport, surrounded by orchards on the west edge of Chico.

An altitude record for unmanned gas balloons was set in Chico in October 1972 (51.8 km or 32.2 mi). The record was broken on May 23, 2002.

Sister cities


Chico was designated to be the provisional capital of California, in the event that a disaster occurred that would cause evacuation of Sacramento after a Civil Defense exercise named Operation Chico was deemed a success.

No person shall produce, test, maintain, or store within the city a nuclear weapon, component of a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapon delivery system, or component of a nuclear weapon delivery system under penalty of Chapter 9.60.030 of the Chico Municipal Code.


Chico State Science Building in March 2022-02699
California State University, Chico Science Building.

Much of the local economy is driven by the presence of Chico State. Industries providing employment: educational, health and social services (30.3%), retail trade (14.9%), arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services (12.6%).

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, the largest craft brewer in the U.S., is based in Chico.

Chico has always been a regional retail shopping destination. Chico's largest retail district is focused around the Chico Mall on East 20th Street. In the two decades since the Chico Mall was constructed, many national retailers have located nearby, including Target, Kohl's, Forever 21, Best Buy, and Walmart. In January 2008, plans were unveiled to remodel the Chico Mall by demolishing the westernmost portion of the mall (previously home to Troutman's) and constructing an open-air "lifestyle" shopping center that will connect the mall with the Kohl's shopping center nearby. This has since been amended as Dick's Sporting Goods has renovated both the interior and exterior of the space formerly occupied by Troutmans and officially opened on July 10, 2013.

Hotel Diamond, Chico, CA USA - panoramio (cropped)
Businesses in Downtown Chico.

Chico is also home to the North Valley Plaza Mall, the city's first enclosed shopping center. Construction on this mall began in 1965, and it was the county's largest shopping center until the Chico Mall was completed in 1988. For a few years, the "old" mall and the "new" mall competed against one another. The North Valley Plaza Mall was dealt a blow when JCPenney, one of the old mall's anchors, moved to the Chico Mall in 1993. The "old" mall slowly declined with increasing vacancies. After several failed attempts at revitalization, the North Valley Plaza Mall was overhauled in 2002, with the center of the mall demolished. Several large retailers, such as Trader Joe's, and Tinseltown Theater, are operating at the mall plus several restaurants. Mervyn's anchored the mall at the west end, filling the spot vacated by JCPenney, but declared bankruptcy in 2008 and liquidated its entire stock by the end of December of that year. The entire Mervyn's chain ceased operations just before the end of the year. A portion of the space is now being utilized by Goodwill. Other North Valley Plaza spaces include a dollar store, a 99 cent only store, a U.S. Navy recruiting center, and many smaller boutiques.

Chico's downtown is a thriving area for unique, independent retail stores and restaurants. Farmers markets attract crowds on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings. City Plaza hosts free concerts regularly during the summer. Performance venues large and small, bars, coffee shops, bookstores, and city offices contribute to a lively and flavorful experience.


Sierra Nevada Brewery, April 2021
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

Almonds are the number one crop in Chico and the surrounding area, only recently edging out rice. Other crops in the area include walnuts, kiwis, olives, peaches, and plums.

The city is bounded on the west by orchards with thousands of almond trees, and there are still a few pockets of orchards remaining within the contiguous city limits. The trees bloom with a pink/white flower in late February or early March. Millions of bees are brought in for pollination. The nuts are harvested in late August.

Walnuts are also major agricultural products in the area north and west of town. Unlike the almond crops of the area, walnuts do not have the same appeal as they do not bloom in the spring. However, the trees themselves grow much larger, live longer, and are far more resilient to harsh weather than almond trees, which are known to be sensitive to frost and can be felled easily in winter storms. In the area, Walnuts are harvested following the almond harvest season, beginning in mid to late September and stretching well into October. The walnut variety Chico is named after the city.

Top employers

Trinity Hall, Chico State, April 2020
Trinity Hall at Chico State.
Chico Museum - Chico, California - DSC03158 (cropped)
Chico Museum. (as of April 2013) was named as No. 81 on Internet Retailer Magazine's Top 500 List of online retailers. According to Zippia, the Top 10 employers in Chico are below.

# Employer # of Employees
1 California State University, Chico 2,000
2 Enloe Medical Center 2,000
3 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 1,050
4 Tri Counties Bank 1,011
5 Victor 930
6 K*Coe Isom 420
7 Fifth Sun 240
8 Joy Signal Technology 175
9 Miller Buick Oldsmobile 175
10 The Terraces Retirement Community 175


Laxson Auditorium - California State University, Chico - DSC03133
Laxson Auditorium at California State University, Chico.

Chico is home to Nettleton Stadium (also called The Net) baseball stadium on the California State University campus. It is the home field for the Chico State Wildcats baseball team, in NCAA Division 2.

Chico is also home to the Silver Dollar Speedway, a race track at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds used for sprint car racing.

Chico is one of few cities to be home to two championship baseball teams in two different leagues simultaneously. The Chico State Wildcats were champions in both the 1997 and 1999 Division II College World Series. The Chico Heat were also champions in the Western Baseball League in 1997. The Chico Outlaws were founded with the Golden Baseball League in 2005, where they also won the championship in 2007 and 2010. Starting in the summer of 2016, the Chico Heat returned as a part of the Great West League, a collegiate summer wood-bat league, until 2018 when the league folded due to financial issues from several other participating teams.

Chico has also gained a reputation as being a bicycle-friendly city. In 1997, Chico was ranked as the number one cycling city in the nation by Bicycle Magazine and also hosts the Wildflower Century, an annual 100-mile (160 km) bike ride throughout Butte County every April, put on by Chico Velo Cycling Club. The city is in the process of creating a network of bicycle paths, trails, and lanes.

Chico is the former home of the Chico Rooks (soccer), the Chico Heat (baseball – Western Baseball League), and Chico Outlaws (baseball - Golden Baseball League).


California State University, Chico - panoramio (6)
Kendall Hall at Chico State.

The Chico Unified School District serves all of the greater Chico area, including areas not within the city limits. Public high schools include Chico High School and Pleasant Valley High School.

In 1998, city voters approved a bond to build a third comprehensive high school that was to be called Canyon View High School. However, after a long search for a suitable site, the school district opted not to build the new high school, a decision based largely on declining enrollment figures. The money from the bond is now planned to improve the Chico and Pleasant Valley high schools.

Higher Education
  • California State University, Chico (Chico State)
  • Butte College
  • Cal Northern School of Law

Notable people

  • Emily Azevedo, Olympian, world champion in bobsled
  • Annie Bidwell, civil rights leader
  • John Bidwell, pioneer and founder of Chico
  • Big Poppa E, slam poet
  • Joseph Bottom, swimmer, Olympic silver medalist, NCAA and world champion
  • Lisa Butts, national team player, women's rugby
  • Brian Cage, professional wrestler
  • Bill Carter, documentary filmmaker, author
  • Raymond Carver, writer
  • Eugene A. Chappie, politician
  • Pat Clements, professional baseball pitcher
  • Edwin Copeland, botanist, founder University of the Philippines Los Banos College of Agriculture
  • Clay Dalrymple, professional baseball catcher
  • Leslie Deniz, Olympic silver medalist in discus
  • Amanda Detmer, actress
  • Ashley Everett, dancer, lead backup dancer, and dance captain for Beyoncé
  • Pat Gillick, executive in Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Ken Grossman, founder, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
  • Jerry Harris, sculptor
  • Russell Hayden, actor
  • Joseph Hilbe, Chico State University graduate, author, professor, statistician
  • Marty James, musician
  • Mat Kearney, musician
  • Lisa Kelly, radio personality
  • Adnan Khashoggi, billionaire businessman
  • Kurt Kitayama, professional golfer
  • Janja Lalich, author, professor, sociologist
  • Harold Lang, dancer and actor
  • Major Ted W. Lawson, U.S. Army Air Forces pilot
  • Kyle Lohse, MLB pitcher, 2011 World Series champion
  • Pat Mastelotto, musician
  • Michael Messner, notable author, sociologist
  • William Morris, glass artist
  • The Mother Hips, musical artists
  • Joe Nelson, professional baseball player
  • Matt Olmstead, writer and producer
  • Elena Orlando, professional ice hockey player
  • Andranik Ozanian, Armenian general and activist
  • Pete Parada, professional musician, drummer for The Offspring
  • Kathleen Patterson, politician
  • Michael Perelman, author, economist, professor
  • Jackson Pollock, abstract expressionist painter
  • Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Super Bowl champion and 4-time NFL MVP
  • Jordan Rodgers, SEC Network sportscaster
  • Ed Rollins, political consultant
  • Jason Ross, TV writer
  • Rigoberto Sanchez, professional football punter
  • Mike Sherrard, professional football player, Super Bowl XXIV champion
  • Carolyn S. Shoemaker, astronomer
  • Robert C. Stebbins, herpetologist and illustrator
  • Gentry Stein, world yo-yo champion and performer
  • Jeff Stover, professional football player
  • Mike Thompson, politician
  • Douglas Tilden, sculptor
  • Niki Tsongas, politician, widow of Paul Tsongas
  • Muddy Waters, coach in College Football Hall of Fame
  • Bill Wattenburg, scientist, radio talk show host
  • Don Young, politician

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