Hit the Road - Page 3

Hot-spot stops for time travelers on a California road-trip getaway
Hit the Road
Fulton Mall's water sculptures.
Hit the Road
Dine at the Madonna Inn's Gold Rush Steak House.

Central California

It takes a lot to convince the average Californian to head into the often-sweltering Central Valley for a vacation. But Fresno's got a lot, in the form of the Fulton Mall. But it may not have it for long.

Created more than 50 years ago by landscape architect Garrett Eckbo and architect Victor Gruen, the mall turned a main downtown street into a sculpture-strewn walkway for six blocks, complete with a sculptural river running through it.

The combination of high modernism, a wide variety of art, and beautiful early 20th century office buildings, created a magical place—until business shifted north and the mall grew dilapidated.

If you're a fan of modern design, it's worth a visit. The city plans to return cars to the street while shifting some sculptures onto the sidewalk. A preservationist battle to save the mall appears doomed.

Back on the coast, there is nothing dilapidated about the Madonna Inn, once described by a stupefied reporter for the New York Times as "delightfully vulgar—gable piled on gable, furbelow on furbelow—in some dizzying blend of a Swiss Alpine village, an ice cream pie, and Disneyland."

Designed by Alex Madonna, the inn opened in 1958. His wife, Phyllis, designed the interiors. Every bedroom is different, ranging from 'Cave Man' to 'Oriental Fantasy.' Many guests come back year after year to try different rooms—though it took until 1977 for the first fan to be able to brag that she had slept in all 110 rooms.