By Ryan Ritchie
June 24, 2012
About 55,000 people call Hanford, Calif., home, but the town is filled with enough history to accommodate a city of millions. Downtown is a must-see thanks to the Hanford Civic Auditorium (1924), the Kings County Courthouse (1896), the Hanford Fox Theatre (1929) and a 1920s ice cream parlor named Superior Dairy Products Co. There's also the China Alley Historic District from 1882, as well as a 1922 building now used as the Temple Theater. This history gives visitors a glimpse of the past, as Hanford's slow pace of life exemplifies the way things used to be.
It's not everyone's cup of tea, but with amenities such as pull-chain toilets, pedestal sinks and clawfoot bathtubs, the Irwin Street Inn (522 N. Irwin St.;  583-8000,) gives visitors an authentic Victorian experience with a modern twist. Guests check in at the main house, built in the 1890s, which is also the location of its dining room. The bed-and-breakfast also features an outdoor area often used for weddings.
The staff at Toshiko Japanese Cuisine (258 N. 12th Ave.;  772-4774. No item more than $21) serves dishes such as miso soup, sashimi and shrimp tempura while suggesting local hot spots to visit after dinner. But if it's a classic Hanford eatery you want, head to La Fiesta Restaurant Bar (106 N. Green St., Hanford;  583-8775. No item more than $15.95.) for a menu inspired by the flavors of Colima and Michoacán, Mexico.
At the Clark Center for Japanese Art & Culture (15770 10th Ave.;  582-4915), guests encounter about 1,600 works, including ceramics, sculptures, folding screens, hanging scrolls and a library featuring nearly 7,000 titles on Japanese art. The center also features a changing display of more than 20 bonsai trees.
The lesson learned
The best way to see Hanford's history is to put on a pair of sneakers and walk the neighborhoods just north of downtown. You'll not only get to experience the city as a local, but you'll also appreciate the attention and detail that have been put into an array of Victorian, Tudor, American Bungalow, Shingle Style and Arts and Crafts homes.
For slightly less than $40, my traveling companion and I stuffed ourselves at Toshiko with edamame, a tofu salad, the vegetarian roll, a cucumber roll, an avocado roll and a bottle of cold sake. The vegetarian burrito (doused with scrumptious salsa) at La Fiesta for less than $7 was more than enough for one. One night at the Irwin Street Inn is about $79 on weekdays and $89 on weekends. Admission to the Clark Center is $5 for adults and $3 for students, with no charge for children younger than 12.
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