Bakersfield is located in Kern County near the southern end of California’s Central Valley. It’s a metropolis based atop a rich heritage of oil, agriculture, and country music.
Much of this heritage blends with current attractions today, including a developing art and cultural scene supported by a creative community. This plus a rich cultural past make Bakersfield The Country Music Capital of the West Coast.
The soundtrack for visiting would have to be the Bakersfield Sound, a sub-genre of country music popularised in the 50s and 60s by local performers like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Visitors currently experience the Bakersfield Sound at venues like Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace and the Kern County Museum, where visitors walk through Merle Haggard’s boyhood home.
Bakersfield is also a gateway to the great outdoors. The massive Kern River winds directly through the city, paralleled by the pedestrian-only Kern River Parkway Trail. This paved route joins other picturesque open areas in the city, giving outdoor leisure for the normally sunny forecast of the region.
Hart Memorial Park is the crown-jewel open area of Bakersfield. It’s set along the banks of the Kern River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, roughly a 20-minute drive northeast of town. And within its 370 acres are numerous ways to spend the day.
Picnic tables, playgrounds, and paved walking pathways punctuate the whole park. It’s also home to two fishing lakes stocked with rainbow trout, bluegill, and bass. And the entire park is sprinkled with shade owing to several old trees throughout. For these reasons, the park is regularly filled with hikers, family picnickers, and fisherman eager to land something.
Hart Memorial Park is also popular for disc golf enthusiasts. The park contains two disc-golf courses flowing around varied terrain. A rather level 18-hole course navigates the groomed lawns along the river. The other course, known as Shark Tooth Mountain Disc Golf Course, is a tough 18 holes crossing the mountainsides.
Hart Memorial Park is part of the much larger Kern River County Park. This huge county park also contains regional attractions like the adjacent California Area Living Museum (CALM) and Lake Ming. It’s also home to a larger regional soccer complex.
Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a concert venue, restaurant, and museum all in one. It’s one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions and is devoted to preserving the Bakersfield Sound alive and thriving.
The Crystal Palace is possibly best known for its modern and traditional country western performances and dancing. The roster generally includes many acts each week. Bring some western clothing to these popular weekly events. For supper and a play, the Crystal Palace menu extends from appetiser opening acts through main stage meals.
The on-site Buck Owens’ Museum is also a stand-alone incentive to come. It displays artefacts and interpretative information about the local musician’s career, as well as the wider growth of country western music in the United States. For greater insight into the Bakersfield Sound, the Kern County Museum has a dedicated display describing the musical craze.
Address: 2800 Buck Owens Boulevard, Bakersfield, California
The Kern County Museum is a family favourite educational adventure just north of downtown. It immerses visitors into the legendary history of Kern County with costumed people and well-preserved relics and structures.
Over 60 antique houses form the museum’s outdoor Pioneer Village, a living-history museum encompassing over 16 acres. These buildings range from train prison cells to homesteading huts and basic businesses. Many of these structures are only visible from the outside, while others offer plexiglass windows to peek inside.
Within the town, an indoor interactive exhibit gives insight into the city’s oil history, illustrating how black gold propelled growth in Kern County. Also on-site is the Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center, mixing science teaching with hands-on learning.
Buck Owens is on full display in the museum and the “Bakersfield Sound” exhibit honours many of the influential musicians who formed their voice in Bakersfield. Visitors may discover more about the local legend, Merle Haggard, through the exhibit, as well as at the Haggard House on the museum’s grounds–the original home where Merle was born and reared.
Address: 3801 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield, California
Head to downtown for the densest experience of Bakersfield culture. This big downtown sector flanks Chester Avenue, and runs east and west many city blocks. Here, hundreds of eateries entice with local cuisines and chic boutiques. This is also the spot to visit in Bakersfield for shopping, whether for the current fashion trends or unique antiques.
A few noteworthy downtown gourmet establishments are The 18hundred and Locale Farm to Table Eatery. Other local favourites include the Woolworth Diner and the Padre Hotel. And for a nice date night or celebratory supper, come to the Horse in the Alley antique steakhouse, nestled in one of the oldest downtown buildings, dating to the 1890s.
Shopping might easily take up the entire day in downtown. The sector is home to local stores with current fashions, although the city is likely best known for its antiques section. Several of these antique vendors located between 19th and 20th streets off Chester Avenue.
Here, establishments like 19th Street Antique Mall and Merry Go Round Antique Mall store uncommon gems waiting to be uncovered.
Opened on Christmas day in 1930, the Fox Theater is a historical theatre in Bakersfield famed for its elegant decor and great acoustics. It was initially a silent-movie house and later displayed some of the earliest “talkies” to touch the screen. Today, live music performances take over the stage at the Fox Theater, offering a terrific soundtrack to appreciate the gorgeous interior.
This architectural jewel nearly evaded the wrecking ball throughout the 1980s. It was saved by community efforts, and the Fox Theater Foundation created and re-invented the theatre in 1994.
Address: 2001 H Street, Bakersfield, California
The Kern River Parkway Trail links with The Park at Riverwalk, southwest of downtown. This lovely municipal park contains two duck-laden lakes joined by a picturesque cobblestone brook that cycles the water. The creek linking the lakes meanders across the rest of the 32-acre park, featuring lovely footbridge crossings throughout.
The two linked lakes are famous for fishing, with bass, carp, and crappie caught year-round. The park is also a favourite site for family picnics and leisurely strolls, and the space tends to truly sparkles around dusk.
Within the park, the Dignity Health Amphitheatre is one of the largest outdoor venues in the county, presenting live music festivals and events throughout the year. This magnificent outdoor venue often puts on performances with thousands in attendance.
Address: 11298 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, California
The Kern River Parkway Trail is a non-motorized walking trail that follows the banks of the picturesque Kern River across the whole city. It’s a free and entertaining way to spend the day and links numerous natural places and outdoor attractions. A few parks along the route are Panorama Park, Beach Park, and The Park at Riverwalk.
This picturesque corridor is popular for strollers, runners, and bikers. The Kern River itself is a drainage from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Often, it’s entirely dry by the time it reaches the city. Still, this desert ecosystem gives plants around the trail and a magnificent route to follow.
The California Living Museum (CALM) is part of the larger Kern River County Park northeast of downtown, near Hart Memorial Park. It provides a home for wounded and non-releasable California native species and is accredited by the Zoological Association of America.
CALM aspires to link the community to local fauna via education, inspiration, and hands-on experience. Animals in the care of CALM include black bears, bighorn sheep, and a variety of birds.
Also within Kern River County Park and a short drive from CALM, Lake Ming provides extra scenic charm and a campsite to spend the night. Picnic tables and shade locations border this man-made recreational lake, excellent for fishing or enjoying a picnic near the beach.
The Kern River Campground is on the lake road and offers tourists to spend the night in a tent or RV with adjacent flushing facilities and showers.
Address: 10500 Alfred Harrell Highway, Bakersfield, California
The Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMoA) was established in 1956 and has given a window into the creative Kern County community for almost 60 years. The museum’s permanent collection contains 20th-century California painters. BMoA periodically rotates this collection in and out of exhibition and offers visiting national exhibits, offering something fresh to view with each visit.
The best-represented mediums at BMoA are paintings, sculptures, and photography. Approximately three galleries comprise the core of art on exhibit, as well as a nicely illuminated lobby. The museum also offers the outdoor Tejon Ranch Sculpture Park, where it’s wonderful to admire the art in bright weather.
The museum fills its event calendar throughout the year. A few popular programmes are Yoga at the Museum and First Fridays Free Admission. Educational programmes for children and adults also occur throughout the week.
Adjacent to the Bakersfield Museum of Art, the visually beautiful Mill Creek Park and pathway gives a fantastic area to take a break in the day. It boasts a unique covered bridge and considerable green area. this linear park is also home to playgrounds, park benches, and a picturesque trail that follows a former irrigation canal.
Address: 1930 R Street, Bakersfield, California
Panoramic Park lies on the north side of the city, atop a cliff overlooking the Kern River. It’s a great site to spend any time of the day, particularly sunset. It’s largely a linear park with a paved hiking track connecting two parks and parking areas on both ends. Visitors may do a full loop in the park with a two-mile trek.
Ample parking is provided along Panoramic Drive near to the park. Bring some binoculars or a zoom lens to focus on the plentiful landscape at the canyon’s brink. Alongside the riparian corridor along the Kern River, tourists may also observe the massive oil fields that Bakersfield is constructed upon.
Below Panoramic Park and on the other side of the Kern River, the rest of Panorama Vista Preserve provides other paths to explore.
Thanks to community initiatives and enormous replanting operations, this natural place is regenerating back into the beautiful wooded environment it once was. It’s currently popular for low-impact trail activities including hiking, bicycling, and horse riding.
Address: 901 E Roberts Lane, Bakersfield, California