Bakersfield is a city in Kern County, California, lying around 2 hours north of Los Angeles. It’s known as the ‘Country Music Capital of the West Coast’ for being the birthplace of country music artists, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens, who were pioneers of the Bakersfield Sound. The city is pretty conservative, when compared to the overall political leanings of California as a whole, and is also one of the fastest-growing medium-sized cities in the United States. Bakersfield has a population of around 350,000 people and a pretty diverse spread of races and cultures. The city got its name from a local resident, Colonel Thomas Baker, who was in charge of the design. After looking out across his field of crops one day, he decided to call the town after what he could see. Quite literally.
So, let’s take you on a quick journey and explore all the great things to do in beautiful Bakersfield on your visit.
The Park at River Walk
This 32-acre park is a popular hangout and exercise spot in Bakersfield. It contains two lakes – which are popular for fishing – a large gazebo, and picnic areas. The park is very much a community space, and one of the highlights is the Spectrum Amphitheater. This 4,000-capacity outdoor venue has a range of events throughout the year and is a fantastic place to sit on the lawn and take in a movie with a bottle of wine on a hot summer evening. If you’re in town when there’s an event on, it’s one of the most fun things to do in Bakersfield.
Buena Vista Museum of Natural History
This museum is the only one in the Central California area that covers all the main branches of science and natural history under one roof. There are numerous fossils and animal mounts covering a huge time period and ranging from America to Africa to Australia and beyond. The museum is a great thing to do in Bakersfield with kids as it focusses on giving kids a place to enjoy themselves while also learning about the world around them today, and historically. It’s a really enchanting museum to visit and, as well as the day to day offerings, it has a great program of events and summer camps that children can get involved in. It’s a great day out for all the family.
Tickets required, available from the entrance, $20-$75 for annual memberships
California Living Museum
CALM is a museum that focusses on plants and animals native to California and has been open to the public since 1983. It’s an excellent thing to do in Bakersfield for kids and adults as it’s quite the eye-opener. We had very little idea about just how many flowers, plants, and animals actually live in California, but it’s a LOT. One of the purposes of the museum is to rehabilitate animals and grow plant species that are unable to survive on their own in the wild. There are currently 400 species of plant and animal looked after at the 14-acre site. The Black Bear who lives there is the only one in the whole of California, and we wanted to give it a giant hug in case it was lonely. We didn’t, though, because, you know…it’s a bear.
Tickets required, available at the entrance, $5-$10
Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace
Owned by and named after the legendary artist, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a live country and western music venue. The singer used to perform there himself, but now it hosts various artists across the genre. Although it’s primarily a music venue, the Crystal Palace also has a nightclub, bar, and restaurant on-site, so visitors can enjoy dinner, drinks, and music. Often simultaneously. As the Palace belonged to Owens, there’s memorabilia on display and fans can enjoy the museum pieces that detail the timeline of his career. It’s a good thing to do in Bakersfield for adults on a weekend.
Kern River Parkway Trail
Located just next to The Park at River Walk is the Kern River Parkway Trail. This is the perfect area for those of you who are feeling slightly more energetic on your vacation or need a break from kids who are extra hyper because they’re on holiday. We know the way to stay sane is to take some time out every so often. Going for a run along the trail is certainly a healthier option than what we do, which is to head to the nearest local bar. The Parkway Trail runs for around 20 miles in total and is a paved route, used mostly for walking, running and cycling. It’s a popular area with local residents and a good thing to do in Bakersfield to get a sense of the local area and have a look at the beautiful scenery.
Murray Family Farms – The Big Red Barn
Murray’s Family Farm is an operational farm and animal center where you can pick your own fruit, interact with the birds and animals, and jump around on the Bounce Pillow (yes, please). The farm educates children and adults about agriculture and ensures you’re all having fun while you learn. With the excellent California weather, every season offers different products to pick, and there’s usually a special event or two on the go during the month. They also host days when you can take your best friend along (dog, not human). We can’t think of what could possibly be more adorable than that. We’re unsure if pooches are also allowed to jump around on the Bounce Pillow, but we think probably not. Murray’s is a really fun thing to do in Bakersfield for adults, kids, and fur babies.
Tickets required, available online or at the entrance $7.99
Dewar’s Candy Shop
Dewar’s Candy is a Bakersfield institution, and it’s been producing high-quality treats for more than 100 years. Specializing in chocolate and taffy, it’s not a cheap option, but you get what you pay for. Such is the quality and reputation of the candy makers; they’ve been featured on Food Network had their treats available on the Oscars red carpet. Not sure how much they’d have managed to give away there as we’re fairly sure no one eats ANYTHING before the Oscar. However, we bet it was an impossible task to walk by and not take a little something for the post-awards party. We’d have been all over that. As well as all the chocolate and taffy, Dewar’s makes home-made ice-cream, which is sold at their retro 50s style store on Eye Street. Dewar’s also has a second location on Calloway Drive. A visit to either (or both) is the best thing to do in Bakersfield with kids who love candy. Which is all of them.
Off-beat things to do in Bakersfield
So, there’s aren’t as many weird things to do in Bakersfield as there are in LA, but the city isn’t totally normal, either. California is home to several giant ‘Muffler Men,’ which were built from fiberglass and scattered across the state back in the day. Luckily for us, and you, obvs, there’s one in Bakersfield. The Giant Indian, aka The Indian Warrior, sits along Alfred Harrell Highway. The man’s hand is raised in a Native American greeting, and he stands at more than 20 feet high. If you’re more in the mood for something to get your heart racing and your brain working overtime, hit up the Bakersfield Escape Room. It’s not for the faint-hearted and has some pretty interesting twists. It’s a great thing to do in Bakersfield for couples or groups of friends looking for something a little bit different.
FAQs About Bakersfield
We’ve compiled answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the city and things to do in Bakersfield. These will help your research, planning, and general education about all this sunny Californian city has to offer.
What is Bakersfield known for?
Bakersfield is known for the Bakersfield Sound, which was pioneered by Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and others. The country music produced in Bakersfield earned it the nickname ‘the Country Music Capital of the West Coast.’ The city is also pretty famous for its agriculture. Did you know Bakersfield produces 90% of the carrots consumed in California and has two of the largest carrot producers in the world?
Is Bakersfield safe?
As with any other major city, there are safe and no so safe areas. Overall, crime in Bakersfield is higher than the average for the state, but that doesn’t mean you’ll fall victim to crime if you visit. Any kind of travel has its risks, so keep your wits about you and always take the sensible approach to anything you do.
What is there to do in Bakersfield for free?
Head to the California Living Museum, the Kern County Museum or the Buena Vista Museum of Natural Science and History. Once you’re all museum-ed out, take a trip out to the California Fruit Depot or go for a walk to see the beautiful peacocks at Hart Park.
Things to do with kids in Bakersfield when it rains
It doesn’t rain a whole lot in Bakersfield, to be honest. The average rainfall is barely worth mentioning, and the city has an average of 38 days see rain throughout the year. However, that doesn’t mean the good people of the city don’t have lots of indoor activities for you to enjoy with the kids. The Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science is always a winner, as is the ever-popular Camelot Park Amusement Center.
Bakersfield is a medium-sized Californian city; the eighth largest in the state. It has a rapidly growing population, and its soil is perfect for a range of agriculture. Due to this, some of its largest companies are in the farming industry. Bakersfield also has several leading medical companies and state-of-the-art healthcare providers. The city is also known for its love of sports and the plethora of team who are based there, covering all most popular US sports.
Bakersfield is served by Meadows Field Airport, which is used by United and American Airlines. The city has a great mix of accommodation to suit a range of budgets. We hope we’ve convinced you about all the great things to do in Bakersfield on your next vacation.