Bakersfield may not have the spotlight that shines on a lot of other cities in California, but it has a homely feel about it and is a particularly good place to go on a family break. Bakersfield has been one of the fastest growing cities in the west of the States for the last few decades and is often referred to as the country music capital of the West Coast, with singers including Merle Haggard and Buck Owens hailing from the city. A large community of Basque people adds to the diversity of this fun and lively location.
Here are 10 of the best things to do on a visit to Bakersfield.
Buena Vista Museum of Natural History
Located in the arts district of Bakersfield, Buena Vista Museum of Natural History was founded in 1995. A large collection of taxidermy animals from Africa is one of the top exhibits at the museum, which is also home to the Mary Ernst Collection of Miocene fossils, from Sharktooth Hill. An interactive section of the museum – which is known as the Oh! Zone – is great for kids, while there is also a model of Yosemite Valley and a replica of a yokuts Indian village. A lot of the exhibits at Buena Vista Museum of Natural History are on long-term loans to the site.
Kern County Museum
Kern County Museum is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Bakersfield. With more than 56 historic buildings across a large site of 16 landscaped acres, the museum has an awful lot to see and do. The Beale Memorial Clock Tower is one of the most famous buildings that make up the museum, while the historic Chamber of Commerce building houses the Main Gallery. Among the museum exhibits is Black Gold, which tells the story of the oil industry’s importance to the city. The Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center is really great for kids.
While Kern County Museum and Buena Vista Museum of Natural History are educational and good for learning, Camelot Park is all about fun. With top attractions such as mini golf, go karts and bumper boats, the park has loads to enjoy for all the family. There are also batting cages for those who want to try out their baseball or softball skills, while children will also love the wide range of arcade games there are available to play at Camelot Park. The park also often puts on a special seasonal events, such as for Easter and Halloween.
California Area Living Museum
California Area Living Museum is one of the best zoos in the state, specifically focusing on local animals and plantlife. The zoo – commonly known as CALM for short – has a special interest in injured and orphaned wild animals who can never be released back into their natural habitat. An open black bear exhibit is one of the highlights of a trip to the California Area Living Museum, which also has mountain lions and bobcats, as well as birds such as hawks, owls and eagles. CALM’s underground reptile house is also fascinating, while the location also puts on events such as birthday parties and even weddings.
Murray Family Farms
This family-owned and operated Bakersfield area farm is a great stopping point for anyone driving in the Bakersfield area during a California break. Visitors have the chance to pick their own fruit, with the farm specialising in cherries, berries, peaches and plums. Murray Family Farms also hosts a farmers’ market, while the little ones will enjoy the small petting zoo housed at the site. Murray Family Farms is also one of the best places in the Bakersfield area to enjoy the scenic surroundings of the San Joaquin Valley.
Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a music hall built by and named after the most famous Bakersfield musician, Buck Owens. Opened in 1996, Crystal Palace is primarily a music venue and is one of the top places in the city to see live country bands. The museum side of the venue features a lot of country music artefacts, many of them relevant to Buck Owens himself, and is well worth exploring for those planning to take in a show. Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is also regarded as one of the best steakhouses in the city of Bakersfield, so head there for a bite to eat as well.
Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center
Found downtown at the corner of Truxtun Avenue and N Street, Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center is one of the primary cultural attractions Bakersfield has to offer. Originally known as Centennial Garden, the main area is a 3,000-seat theatre that hosts events such as the California Interscholastic Federation High School State Wrestling Championship Tournament. Rabobank Arena is also the home of the Bakersfield Condors, an ice hockey team that play their games in the American Hockey League. The Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame can also be found at Rabobank Arena, Theater & Convention Center.
The Gaslight Melodrama Theater and Music Hall
Visitors looking for a top night out during their break in Bakersfield should look no further than The Gaslight Melodrama Theater and Music Hall. Opened in 2005, the Gaslight has fun for all the family. Food such as Hebrew National hot dogs and pulled BBQ pork sandwiches is also served at the venue for those looking for something to eat before the show. No matter what type of play you go to see at the Gaslight Melodrama Theater and Music Hall, it will be followed by the Gaslight’s own highly entertaining Vaudeville Review.
Bakersfield Museum of Art
Bakersfield Museum of Art is far from the biggest art gallery in the state, but it is one of the most interesting places to while away a couple of hours or so during a break in Bakersfield. A range of local and international artists are showcased at the museum, which also boasts well-kept gardens featuring sculptures. California artists from the 19th century to the present are showcased at Bakersfield Museum of Art, while the facility can also be hired for special events such as birthdays.
McMurtrey Aquatic Center
McMurtrey Aquatic Center is unbeatable on a hot summer day in Bakersfield, with the swimming, diving, and recreational facility located close to Rabobank Arena. Combined with the Bakersfield Ice Sports Center, the site has a heated Olympic-sized competition pool, while there is a huge array of activities to try out, from aquatic fitness to water polo. The largest underwater wedding ever performed, marrying Stuart and Misty Rex, also took place at McMurtrey Aquatic Center. Various local high school swim meets also take place at the facility.
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