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11 Best Things to Do in Bakersfield, California

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Nestled in the heart of central California, about 100 miles north of Los Angeles, Bakersfield is home to the famous Kern River and many historical landmarks. Depending on weather preferences, it is a great place to visit any time of year, from scorching hot summers to cool, mild winters. 

With easy access to California’s Interstate 5, traveling to and from Bakersfield is a breeze by car, train, or bus. Most visitors fly into LAX or the local Meadows Field Airport.

Bakersfield Canal

With more vacations and trips that offer outdoor adventures with a small-town feel, Bakersfield is a noteworthy spot to explore. Keep reading for the best things to do for families, groups, and solo travelers.

TL;DR

  • Most significant landmarkFox Theater
  • Park to visit – Hart Memorial Park
  • Free activity – Kern River Parkway Trail
  • Activity for kids – Kern County Museum
  • Activity for adults – Prohibition at 1933
  • Place to eat – Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
  • Nightlife – Kern County Raceway Park
  • Place to stay – Murray Family Farms

Things to Do in Bakersfield, California

1. California Area Living Museum (CALM)

Bear in California Area Living Museum
image by DrHickenlocher/TripAdvisor

Address: 10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93306, United States

For animal lovers, the California Area Living Museum (or CALM) is a local zoo and wildlife rehabilitation center in Bakersfield, California.

The California Area Living Museum is home to many interesting creatures, from mallards to porcupines, bears, bald eagles, foxes, and screech owls; they’ve got options to suit various interests. CALM is ideal for families (children three and under are free) eager to find exciting, local adventures in the area without spending an arm and a leg.

There is also a children’s railroad that tours the entire CALM grounds on weekends. Tickets are $2 for unlimited rides. CALM’s gift shop has an aquatic touch tank and a jellyfish aquarium featuring stunning views of underwater creatures.

There’s a reptile house with cool snakes, frogs, and invertebrates, as well as a children’s park featuring several domestic and petting zoo animals. Both kids and parents will have a blast at the California Living Museum!

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2. Kern County Museum

Kern County Museum, Bakersfield
image by Mistoffeles is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: 3801 Chester Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301, United States

For history buffs, the Kern County Museum in Bakersfield is a local gem dating back to 1941. The museum began in 1929, with residents donating historical documents and artifacts to the local Chamber of Commerce. 

Kern County Museum’s outdoor Pioneer Village includes 16 acres and 50 buildings, including a Children’s Discovery Center, Aera Energy Gallery, and the historic Chamber of Commerce. Exhibits at the museum include a trolley train, the original General Store, and the iconic Merle Haggard’s childhood home.

The Kern County Museum has over 400,000 photographs donated from the 1860s to the present day. These include early ranches, the scenic Kern River, canals, and mining operations.

The Kern County Museum hosts local community events throughout the year, including a music festival, Halloween activities, exercise classes, and more. Whether driving through or visiting, this Bakersfield spot is worth seeing.

With a Discovery Center dedicated to educational programs for children, tours, exhibits, and historical collections, you won’t regret spending a day at the Kern County Museum, learning about California’s rich heritage and history. You can find more information and tickets right here.

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3. Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science Entrance

 Address: 2018 Chester Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301, United States

Located in the heart of Bakersfield, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science is a must-see for families with children. Exhibits at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History include the Miocene, which has wildlife from 15 million years ago, and the Native American Lifeways, which study the Yokuts, one of the earliest groups of people to live in central California.

Take the kids on a historical exploration through the geology of Earth’s rocks and minerals and get up close and personal with specimens of over 50 African animals. With a large collection of artifacts and learning opportunities for all ages, this museum is a must-see for families visiting Bakersfield.

The Buena Vista Museum of Natural History is open Thursday through Sunday. Adult tickets are $10; children two and under get in free. The museum offers several discounts, including Family Day, where two adults and up to 6 children get in for $20 and $2 admission on the third Thursday of each month.

For deals like these, it would be a waste not to visit the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science! Don’t forget to get tickets and learn more information about this terrific museum of natural history. And for a side trip, join a Bakersfield Scavenger Hunt.

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4. Murray Family Farms

Murray Family Farms
image by Missvain is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Address: 6700 General Beale Rd, Bakersfield, CA 93203, United States

In Bakersfield, California, tourist attractions may differ from big cities, and you’ll get a taste of the lifestyle. If you’re visiting Bakersfield in the spring and summer, a stop at Murray Family Farms and the Big Red Barn is essential on any family vacation. Located east of Bakersfield along Highway 58 at the General Beale exit, the Big Red Barn is home to seasonal events and pick-your-own fruit.

Murray Family Farms offers various fruit picking, including raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, and oranges.

Tour the farm on a hayride, admire the beautiful flowers, and shop at the General Store. If you’re there in the fall, don’t miss the annual October Fun Fest or the Sunflower Festival every weekend in November.

The Big Red Barn sells farm-fresh fruit, honey, pies, fudge, and more. It participates in farmers’ markets across central California; before going to the market, you must know the schedule. If you can’t reach the Big Red Barn, they have a Farmer’s Market storefront called the Little Purple Barn at 9557 Copus Road in Bakersfield.

Whether you visit for the day or stop for a quick bite and fill the car with gas, Murray Family Farms offers a unique taste of Bakersfield farming and allows visitors to support local farmers and their families.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Bakersfield, California, to get the family outside, we highly recommend adding Murray Family Farms. For U-Pick information, other seasonal events, and updates, visit the Murray Family Farms website!

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5. Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace

Buck Owens' Crystal Palace

Address: 2800 Buck Owens Blvd, Bakersfield, CA 93308, United States

Experience one of country music’s legendary venues and dance halls in Bakersfield, California. Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a local hot spot created in honor of Buck Owens, the great American country musician who spent much of his adult life and musical career in Bakersfield, California.

Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace is a premiere steakhouse and live entertainment venue where country western music artists perform for the public Thursday through Saturday.

Featuring a dinner menu with items like Mo’s Steak Salad, Texas chili, baby back ribs, and Buck’s chicken fried sandwich, make sure you come to Crystal Palace with an appetite! They’ve got tasty cocktails, beers on tap, and an impressive wine list.

Along with a delicious dinner menu, live entertainment, and dancing, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace has a museum where fans can see Buck’s guitars and purchase memorabilia.

While Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace’s website says that the whole family is welcome and kids eat free, we recommend grabbing dinner and drinks and enjoying the country music without the young ones in tow. Don’t forget to make reservations or explore upcoming events on their calendar.

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6. Fox Theater

Fox Theater
image by Bobak Ha’Eri is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Address: 2001 H St, Bakersfield, CA 93301, United States

For a family-friendly theater located in the heart of cultural downtown Bakersfield, look no further than Fox Theater. Fox Theater opened to the public on Christmas Day in 1930. Built by famous architect S. Charles Lee, the iconic building featured the first “talkie” movies, and many live performers graced the stage until its closing in 1977.

The Fox Theater Foundation saved the theater from being destroyed in 1994, with donors and community members contributing financially to save the building from destruction.

Since its reopening, Fox Theater Foundation has continued restoring the classical structure and ensuring its history, glamour, and culture remain intact.

The foundation aims to enrich Kern County with artistic design, music, and history. Design-wise, Fox Theater is a stunning blend of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco.

Today, the historic Bakersfield Fox Theater is home to musicians, bands, comedians, and symphonies. Upcoming performers include Chelsea Handler, Legends of Motown, and Aaron Lewis.

If you love experiencing the history and culture of Hollywood movies and music, we recommend visiting Fox Theater on your trip through Bakersfield, California. You’ll be dazzled by its enchanting architecture and history.

Children are welcome to attend with their families; any child under 2 is free. Your older children may love to experience the history and culture of Fox Theater; otherwise, it’s a better date night. Don’t forget to purchase tickets or see what’s on their calendar.

See Related: Best Museums in San Diego

7. Kern County Raceway Park

Kern County Raceway Park
image by Rickybassman  is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: 13500 Raceway Blvd Interstate 5 and, S Enos Ln, Bakersfield, CA 93311, United States

For car fanatics and thrill seekers, Kern County Raceway Park is a hot spot for fast cars, adrenaline rushes, and family fun. The raceway is a 120-acre multi-use facility that opened in 2013. It’s located off Enos Lane and Interstate 5.

Kern County Raceway Park features a 1/2-mile paved oval track, a 1/3-mile clay oval, a 1/8-mile Professional Speedway track, and an MX track. From custom truck shows to flat-track motorcycle races, professional speeds, and NASCAR races, there is always an exciting race to catch at the Kern County Raceway Park.

Along with visiting for the day, KCRP also offers three dry camping areas, which include Trackside RV and General RV spots, so you can stay for the weekend and enjoy all the festivities. While they are closed for the summer, the Kern County Raceway Park opens in September for its first race of the season.

Visit their website for tickets and event information. If you’re looking for a place to stay near the raceway park or Bakersfield, check out Booking.com, Hotels.com, and VRBO to find great deals.

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8. Kern River Parkway Trail

Kern River Parkway Trail
image by Ernie MDO/TripAdvisor

Address: Kern River Ave, Choctaw Valley, CA 93308, USA

One of the top places to visit in Bakersfield, California, is the Kern River Parkway Trail. The Trail, which spans the east-west length of Bakersfield, is mutually loved by locals and tourists. Whether you prefer biking, walking, or running, the Kern River Parkway Trail is a great way to spend a few hours in solitude or with family and friends.

The Kern River Parkway Trail runs alongside the Kern River, which flows from the Sierra Nevada into northeast Bakersfield. If you crave wild and scenic rivers, experts recommend navigating to the western part of the trail to experience nature and rural serenity. The eastern part of the trail showcases more of the city’s urban areas, including many large developments and residential communities.

Those who enjoy birding or experiencing wildlife in its natural habitat expect to see roadrunners, hawks, rabbits, and many other birds. A noteworthy landmark you will pass on the eastern end is the Kern River Oil Field, California’s third-largest oil field.

For those who seek hiking trails, the Kern River Parkway Trail offers paved walking trails with restrooms and stunning views of central California. Bring your dog, kids in strollers, and anyone in between. Kern River Parkway Trail’s hiking trails and bike paths are fantastic for free things to do in Bakersfield, California.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, click here for information on biking and walking trails in Bakersfield.

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9. Bakersfield Museum of Art

Bakersfield Museum of Art

Address: 1930 R St, Bakersfield, CA 93301, United States

If you love art, look no further than the Bakersfield Museum of Art (BMoA) for a stimulating exploration of art through time, including pieces created by Bakersfield locals. It features the outdoor Tejon Sculpture Garden, with eight sculptures currently on display, and its gallery has been home to unique artwork since 1956.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art hosts exciting community events, including Art After Dark, which features live music, community projects, and performances. They also host a Concert in the Garden several times a year.

The museum offers creative workshops and programs for children and teens to keep students and visitors engaged in the visual arts. They offer Saturday art classes, workshops, and more to keep the younger generation inspired by art.

Bring the whole family to see the Bakersfield Museum of Art; kids five and under are free. The museum is closed on Sunday and Monday. For more information about the museum and upcoming events, click here!

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10. Hart Memorial Park

Hart Memorial Park
image by VickNJohn/TripAdvisor

Address: Hart Park, Bakersfield, CA 93308, United States

We’ve got the perfect park for you if you’re looking for free things to do. Hart Park is located north of Bakersfield in Kern County and features 370 acres, two lakes, and three canals. It was dedicated in 1929 as the Kern River Park and was renamed in 1947 for Kern County Supervisor John O. Hart.

Residents and visitors love Hart Memorial Park for its amenities and activities. Ten acres of the park comprise two lakes filled with fishing, including trout, catfish, and bass. Grab your rod and get out on the water!

Spend the day with family and friends by reserving a picnic table, packing or ordering lunch, and enjoying time together. Hart Park offers individual and group picnic areas with tables and grills.

Take the kids to the playground, run around on the sports fields, or start a pickup game of your favorite sport. If you’re interested in local wildlife, keep your eyes open for blue herons, white egrets, beavers, skunks, and more! For more information on Hart Park, check out their website straight from the horse’s mouth.

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11. Speakeasy Bar & Grill at 1933

Speakeasy Bar & Grill at 1933
image by Speakeasy Bar & Grill at 1933/Facebook

Address: 7900 Downing Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93308, United States

To taste Bakersfield’s nightlife, spend an evening at Speakeasy Bar & Grill in 1933. It’s a new restaurant, nightclub, and event space that offers brunch, lunch, dinner, and cocktails from 11 am til 2 pm. They also open at 8 am for breakfast on the weekends!

Grab dinner and drinks, or enjoy a delicious brunch, which includes bottomless mimosas and tons of tasty breakfast foods. During football season, you can spend your Sunday watching all the NFL games here.

With a dinner menu offering burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads, tacos, salads, and more, you’ll be more than satisfied with your meal and the top-notch ambiance.

If you’re looking for a night out, the club Prohibition is a great place to get drinks and dance the night away. It’s open from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. and features live DJs and a huge dance hall.

For a night out on the town, visiting the Speakeasy and Prohibition nightclub is one of the best things for adults in Bakersfield, California. 1933’s Facebook page has more information on events and menus.

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Best Places to Stay in Bakersfield

1. SpringHill Suites Bakersfield Top Recommendation

SpringHill Suites Bakersfield is an all-suite hotel in downtown Bakersfield, California. Located 4.8 km from the Rabobank Arena Theater & Convention Center, the hotel features a hot breakfast buffet and guest suites with microwaves, refrigerators and free Wi-Fi.

2. Holiday Inn Express & Suites Bakersfield Airport, an IHG Hotel

Holiday Inn Express Bakersfield Airport is located at the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 99/170 in Bakersfield, CA. The hotel is less than 2 miles from downtown Bakersfield and only minutes from area attractions including the Rabobank Arena and Convention Center, the Fox Theater, The Music Center of the California Ostrich Festival, and Golden Hills County Club.

3. DoubleTree by Hilton Bakersfield

DoubleTree Hotel Bakersfield offers an ideal location and is in the center of Bakersfield. Guests can take part in a variety of activities such as shopping, dining, and entertainment that are within walking distance of the property. Local businesses and corporations such as Rabobank Arena, Rabobank Theater, Lafayette Theater, The Forum Club, Country Financial Office Tower and many more are all minutes from the hotel.

How to Get Around Bakersfield

Navigating the city is best done by car; you can quickly get from one place to another. Bakersfield also has a city bus route powered by the Golden Empire Transit District. Check out the city bus maps and schedule.

Travel by Car

Aerial view of a busy downtown with cars of  Bakersfield, California
Matt Gush / Adobe Stock

If you are traveling with family or a group, a rental car is your best bet to see the sights efficiently and cost-effectively. To find the best deals on car rentals in Bakersfield, you can try Kayak and Rentalcars.com.

Rideshare Options

Different cars in downtown Bakersfield, California
sheilaf2002 – stock.adobe.com

Uber and Lyft both operate in Bakersfield and offer simple, quick rides for affordable prices. Plan your trip with Uber or Lyft and eliminate stress about getting around town.

Best Way to Get Around as a Solo Traveler

Trains at Bakersfield, California Train Station
Pi.1415926535 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

As a solo traveler, entering and leaving Bakersfield by Amtrak is easy and affordable. Passenger trains are available, with routes heading to San Francisco and Sacramento. The bus has many routes to Los Angeles, leaving daily. Also, Check out Amtrak’s transportation in and out of Bakersfield.

Best Way to Get Around for Groups or Families

Nighttime  aerial view of downtown  Bakersfield, California
Matt Gush / Adobe Stock

For families and groups, renting a car is the most economical way to see Bakersfield. From the city limits to downtown Bakersfield, the Bakersfield Convention Center, museums, restaurants, parks, hiking and biking trails, a car is the most convenient way to see the city.

What is Bakersfield Known For?

Aerial view of downtown  Bakersfield, California
Matt Gush / Adobe Stock

Bakersfield is known for creating the country music genre. Bakersfield Sound inspired many famous musicians. There are music venues and dance halls in Bakersfield where you can experience the culture. Top tourist attractions in Bakersfield center around country music and the genre’s culture, lifestyle, and rich history, mainly Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace.

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