By Melissa Wynn

Road trippin’ to Chico via Hwy 32 is a tour of unforgettable natural beauty. The mossy hillsides weep and sparkle and rushing Deer Creek winds along side offering world class trout fishing and camping options galore. Enjoy the crisp mountain air, relish the quiet and wet a line.

A detour up to Butte Meadows is the perfect stop for  lunch or even a peaceful night stay with Bill and Stacy Kelso at the laid back and homey Butte Meadows Mercantile & Resort. Take your time, savor the scenery, seize the day.

At the bottom of the hill the forest parts and views of the stunning rugged canyon guide us into Chico, my favorite community to shop ’till I drop. Several galleries offer as many beauties for the eye as there are tastes of the beholder. My favorite by far are the unbelievably realistic hand blown jellyfish of delicate glass at Rick Satava’s Art Glass Studio at 819 Wall St. They look as though if you lifted the glass they would gracefully undulate away. Visitors are welcome not only to shop but also to visit the workshop and watch the glass blowers create amazing works of art from hot, molten glass.

Shopping can really work up an appetite and Chico has a nearly unlimited choice of dining options. My top three pics for 2012 are Original Pete’s at 2495 Carmichael Drive for primo pasta and gourmet pizza. Little bits of Italy are everywhere you look and the hospitality is on the house. Japanese Blossoms at 2995 Esplanade Suite #104 is known for the best sushi I’ve ever eaten. Hand made right before your eyes, every roll is a tongue tingling adventure. 5th Street Steakhouse at 345 W. 5th St. is my top choice for melt in your mouth steaks, mouthwatering treasures from sea and unrivaled service fit for king.

No adventurous visit to the Chico area would be complete without a visit to the amazing Barry Kirschner Wildlife Foundation between Chico and Oroville at 4995 Durham-Pentz Rd. Rescued and adopted wildlife unable to return to the wild for various reasons call this compassionate sanctuary home. Volunteers work tirelessly caring for tigers, lions, bears, birds, snakes and even a wallaby. Visitors are welcome Tuesday-Sunday from nine to five for self guided tours of this wild facility.

Unwind and put your feet up for the night at one of the many motel and B&B options available in Chico. We had a great time at the cozy Oxford Suites at 2035 Business Lane. Holiday Inn at 685 Manzanita Ave offers special rates for patients of Enlo Hospital and their families along with a friendly shuttle service for those patients unable to drive. Contributing writer for Mountain Valley Living Magazine Rick Barlupi suggests the luxurious Hotel Diamond at 220 West 4th Street, his top pick for 2012.

Shop, dine, stay and play. Create your own adventure, checkin’ out Chico.