Bakersfield, a city nestled in California’s southern Central Valley, may not bear the renowned fame associated with other Golden State destinations. Nonetheless, this rapidly developing city is chock-full of unique surprises, making it a gem worth exploring. Once primarily known for its oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is now morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, all while preserving glimpses of the region’s past. With around 350,000 inhabitants, this city offers a plethora of activities that can cater to diverse interests. Here’s a comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Bakersfield, whether you’re a local resident or a visitor.
1. Exploring Downtown Bakersfield
Bakersfield’s downtown area is a charming blend of history, culture, and entertainment. Here are some highlights that you shouldn’t miss:
- Kern County Museum: This museum offers an educational experience, showcasing artifacts that trace the cultural and historical evolution of Kern County. The Pioneer Village, an outdoor exhibit featuring more than 50 historical houses, is particularly intriguing.
- Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace: For music lovers, particularly fans of country and rock music, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a must-visit. It continues to keep the Bakersfield Sound — a sub-genre of country music — alive with frequent musical events.
- Bakersfield Museum of Art: Home to a permanent collection of paintings, sculptures, photography, and drawing, the Bakersfield Museum of Art features regularly rotating exhibits throughout the year.
- Big Shoe Repair: Located on Chester Avenue, this unique shoemaker’s workshop, shaped like a giant shoe, has been a local landmark since 1947.
- Fox Theater: Opened on Christmas Day in 1930, the Fox Theater has been the prime venue for major Hollywood films, serving thousands of people across its 1,500 seats. Today, it hosts a variety of live music performances and shows.
Established in 1956, the Bakersfield Museum of Art serves as a window into Kern County’s innovative community. With four galleries brimming with stunning artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and photography, the museum is a treat for art enthusiasts. The museum also hosts workshops, guided tours, yoga sessions, and art classes for kids, ensuring an immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
3. Kern River County Park
Situated on the Sierra Nevada Mountains’ foothills and along the Kern River, the Kern River County Park spans 370 acres. This expansive public space offers fishing lakes stocked with rainbow trout, bluegill, and bass. The park’s amenities include picnic facilities, playgrounds, two disc golf courses, and paved walking trails, providing a perfect retreat for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
For motorsport enthusiasts, a visit to the Kern County Raceway Park is an absolute must. The oval speedway hosts a variety of racing events, including stock car racing and dirt track racing, providing a thrilling experience for spectators. The raceway also promotes a sense of community and social engagement among like-minded individuals who share a passion for racing.
5. McMurtrey Aquatic Center
Located in downtown Bakersfield, McMurtrey Aquatic Center offers a refreshing escape from the city’s heat. The center features an Olympic-sized pool, diving facilities, slides, and shallow areas for younger visitors. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a leisurely swim, practice your diving skills, or just cool off, this aquatic center offers a fun and enjoyable experience for all ages.
6. Fox Theater
The Fox Theater, officially known as the Historic Bakersfield Fox Theater, opened its doors on Christmas Day in 1930. It quickly became one of the city’s prime venues for feature films, operas, and orchestras. Today, the theater hosts a variety of performances, including concerts, ballets, movie screenings, and comedic acts. With its vintage charm and decorative interior, the Fox Theater offers a memorable experience for every visitor.
The California Living Museum, or CALM, offers a home for injured and non-releasable native animals who cannot survive in their natural environment. From black bears to foxes and bobcats, the museum showcases a wide range of local wildlife. Visitors can also enjoy a train ride through the park, get up close and personal with dinosaurs, and participate in various educational programs.
The Kern County Museum, located just a little north of downtown Bakersfield, is a premier destination for history buffs. The museum features over 60 preserved historical structures and numerous artifacts spread across 16 acres. Visitors can explore homesteading cabins, general stores, a one-room school, and railcar jail cells, offering a unique peek into the county’s past.
9. The Park at River Walk
The Park at River Walk is a beautifully landscaped public park that offers a wonderful place to relax, exercise, and enjoy the outdoors. The park features two lakes connected by a stream, a spacious amphitheater, and a wide variety of trees and plants. The park’s walking trail, which meanders along the Kern River, provides a peaceful setting for a leisurely stroll or a brisk jog.
The Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame is a tribute to the city’s rich musical heritage. The venue celebrates local musicians who have made significant contributions to the music industry. With its state-of-the-art acoustics and intimate setting, the hall hosts concerts, album release parties, and other music-related events. It’s a must-visit destination for music lovers.
Bakersfield’s rich tapestry of cultural, historical, and recreational attractions makes it a city worth exploring. Whether you’re a history buff, an art lover, or an outdoor enthusiast, there’s something for everyone in this bustling California city. So why wait? Start planning your Bakersfield adventure today.