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Spotlight on Bakersfield

Rock to the Bakersfield sound and savor Basque dishes

At the southern edge of California’s Central Valley, Bakersfield has forged its own path through industry and the arts. In addition to a history of successful oil production and agriculture, the city is the birthplace of a singular country-music style known as the Bakersfield Sound. The Bakersfield Sound Museum traces the phenomenon’s roots to the 1950s and 1960s, displaying artifacts from musical legends like Merle Haggard, Red Simpson and Buck Owens.

Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a modern icon of Bakersfield entertainment and the music hall today still offers live music and a museum with memorabilia, guitars and suits from the entertainer’s private collection.

Bakersfield is also home to the largest collection of Basque restaurants in the U.S. Don’t pass up a chance to taste cuisine from this European community. Good luck choosing from the iconic Noriega Restaurant and Hotel, Wool Growers, Pyrenees Café or any other of the half-dozen establishments serving up traditional dishes. Satisfy a sweet tooth at Dewar’s Candy Shop, where taffy has been served for more than 100 years, and where patrons sidle up to an old-fashioned soda fountain for floats and shakes mixed with house-made ice cream.

The city’s early history and the industry that helped it grow are popular exhibits at the Kern County Museum. The museum’s Pioneer Village houses more than 50 historic structures and exhibits on 16 acres, an ideal spot for self-guided learning and discovery. Black Gold: The Oil Experience is an interactive exhibit that invites visitors of all ages to learn firsthand about Bakersfield’s primary industry, while the Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center caters to the youngest of explorers with youth-centric displays like Kid City and Safari Art.

Vega Photography

Vega Photography

Bakersfield Back in Time

Travel further back in time to learn Bakersfield’s prehistoric past at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History. In addition to permanent displays focusing on ancient geology and cultures, the museum hosts fossil digs, rock art tours and geology field trips. View the beauty of the night sky over Bakersfield at the William M. Thomas Planetarium. Located at Bakersfield College, the planetarium offers weekly shows to the public.

Present-day flora and fauna that make their home in Kern County are the residents of the California Living Museum, and Bakersfield’s 14-acre zoo. Native animals such as bighorn sheep, raptors, mule deer and mountain lions are among the dozens of creatures sought out by visitors year-round.

Wind Wolves Preserve is where ecologically diverse habitats merge into one 93,000-acre site. Elk, California condors, kit foxes and other native species make their home here. Visitors can take full-moon hikes and blackout hikes to discover how nocturnal creatures live and thrive in their habitats. The preserve also offers outdoor movie evenings for families to enjoy in the shadow of San Emigdio Canyon.

Despite its roughneck reputation, Bakersfield has built a thriving arts community. The city’s downtown Arts District is home to theater and concert venues as well as organizations that support and encourage production and display of multiple art forms. A clean-air trolley runs through the district, allowing visitors to tour galleries and shops, and stop for a concert or show at their leisure.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art showcases California artists and their work as well as offering community education and opportunities like summer camps and traveling presentations. Innovative twists on classic themes are the focus of many pieces at the Younger Gallery of Contemporary and Functional Art, which is overseen by the Arts Council of Kern. Metro Galleries presents works in pottery, sculpture and mixed media from artists at varying stages in their careers who represent California and the West Coast.

Bakersfield CVB

Bakersfield CVB

Peacocks and More

Treat the younger members of your family to an afternoon at Hart Memorial Park, where resident peacocks wander around and where visitors take advantage of soccer fields, lakes, trails and the Kern River. The Kern River Golf Course, adjacent to the park, welcomes the public to hit a few on its manicured greens nestled against the Southern Sierra Nevada.

Learn more about the region’s agriculture on a stop at Murray Family Farms. The farm invites visitors on group tours that include hayrides and picking your own fruit, as well as a petting zoo and a giant pillow to jump on. Specialty tours share the day-to-day activities that happen on a working family farm. Find some fun inside Camelot Park, a family entertainment center with an arcade, miniature golf, go-karts and bumper boats. Satisfy your need for speed at Kern County Raceway Park, which features regular Saturday night races.

When the water is flowing through Kern Canyon, hop on a raft and experience whitewater thrills, or take a more relaxed trip in a kayak. Pan for gold along the shoreline or soar over the desert landscape on a paragliding adventure. Ernst Quarries, next to Sharktooth Hill, is a prime spot for digging up ancient treasures left by long-ago residents of the region.

For More Information:

Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau
California Travel and Tourism Commission