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Bakersfield

Tasty produce and twangy country tunes set the tone for this California town

The fertile land of central California has brought life to the San Joaquin Valley and its southern community of Bakersfield, California. Bakersfield is the seat of Kern County, the top oil-producing region in the state as well as a prime player in California agriculture. This abundance of prized commodities has allowed Bakersfield to become a city with a unique character and culture worth checking out.

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Vega Photography

The Bakersfield Sound

California’s musical reputation might be built on the peace-loving, freewheeling music of Berkeley and San Francisco in the 1960s, but before the summer of love emerged, Bakersfield was building its own unique sound. Country greats Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Tommy Collins traded in slick Nashville numbers for a honky-tonk feel that is the hallmark of the Bakersfield Sound. With influences from rockabilly and Western swing, artists like Owens made Bakersfield a popular stop for country music lovers throughout the mid-20th century.

Today, the musical movement is preserved and celebrated at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace and Trout’s Nightclub. Many more musical styles get equal billing at Bakersfield venues such as the Bright House Networks Amphitheatre and the Fox Theater.

Ancient Adventures

Amateur fossil hunters flock to this region of Southern California for the opportunity to dig up the past. Staff members at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History use their expertise in paleontology to help fossil enthusiasts search for and recover specimens from the Miocene period in nearby bone beds through a Paleo Digs workshop. Many of those same specimens wind up on display at the museum, which also features lifesize dinosaur casts, a collection of gems and minerals, and artifacts from dwellings of the Native American peoples who once inhabited the region.

The Outdoor Experience

The expansive Sierra Nevada Mountains rise around Bakersfield and call to outdoor enthusiasts who crave an afternoon in the fresh air. South of the city in Grapevine Canyon, Fort Tejon State Historic Park offers trails such as Wind Wolves Preserve Trail, a loop trail where hikers of all skill levels can enjoy wildflowers in spring. Travel east to the southern edge of the Sequoia National Forest, where Breckenridge Mountain towers above forests of ancient trees.

The many municipal parks around Bakersfield provide opportunities for more leisurely strolls in the Southern California sunshine, as well as myriad outdoor activities. Two 10-acre lakes at Hart Memorial Park provide fishing for licensed anglers. Cast a line for trout, catfish and bass here. As you hike along the Kern River, see if you can spot native wildlife such as kit foxes, blue heron or beavers.

From Swap Meets to Storied Architecture

Bakersfield doesn’t shy away from shopping experiences; in addition to offering the standard malls and boutiques you might find in any other mid-sized city, Bakersfield welcomes visitors and residents to dig for hidden treasure at the Kern County Swap Meet on the Bakersfield Fairgrounds.

Wander outdoors on a sunny day through 22 acres of booth and tables, where vendors display all the cute, quirky and collectible merchandise. This year-round venue is open Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays and includes food and snack vendors to help you stay energized for a day of fun and discovery.

If you’re a fan of architecture, be sure to explore the many unique churches and businesses that populate the city. Bakersfield is home to several grand and historic houses of worship. Let Sing Gong Temple is a holdover from the age when Bakersfield boasted not one, but two Chinatowns. Many buildings in Bakersfield still maintain the charm of their construction eras; the Baker Street Library is a stunning example of the Italian Renaissance version of the Greek Revival design.

Crash Course in Culture

As the city continues to grow, Bakersfield manages to keep an eye on preserving its history at Kern County Museum. This expansive facility’s Pioneer Village contains more than 50 historic structures and exhibits scattered over 16 acres. The region’s petroleum history is told in a nearly 10,000-square-foot exhibit that illustrates how oil is extracted and developed. There’s also a special children’s area that allows little visitors to explore grown-up jobs as bankers and firefighters. Kids can even perform experiments in a mad-science lab.

Take a walking tour through Historic Union Cemetery and learn more about the city’s early residents, many of whom rest in the Pioneers Section. Among the residents is Col. Thomas Baker, the founder of Bakersfield. He planted an alfalfa field in the mid-1800s, inspiring settlers to follow his example and stake claims in fertile soil. The founder and his alfalfa farm are immortalized in the town’s name.

Like so many towns west of the Rockies, Bakersfield earned a place in Wild West lore when it became the site of legendary gun battles between desperados on the run and the city’s lawmen. The city’s rowdy heritage is honored with re-enactments and demonstrations during Wild West Days each spring at the Kern County Museum.

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Bakersfield CVB

Bakersfield Beauty

The Bakersfield Museum of Art celebrates California artists and their work along with community education programs, fun summer camps and unique traveling presentations. The Younger Gallery features offbeat twists to classical themes, while the Metro Galleries showcase works in pottery, sculpture and mixed media from West Coast artists.

For More Information

Bakersfield Convention and Visitor Bureau

866-425-7353

www.visitbakersfield.com

 

California Travel and Tourism Commission

877-225-4367

www.visitcalifornia.com