If you and your family are planning a move down south, you wouldn’t be alone in having the idea of California dreaming. Sure, you have heard of San Francisco and San Jose in the Bay Area. Bakersfield, however, might be an unknown mystery to you, especially if you’re considering jobs and a major move out in the sunny California town. It helps that Bakersfield job market has been flourishing, especially if you’re in the oil industry (look out, Texas).
The town is a unique mix of oil country tradition and California cool—though, of course, it’s easy being chill when you’ve got some of the country’s best weather. Not to mention that Bakersfield’s prime position right in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley (“the food basket of the world”) means you’ve got the prime pick of the best produce and freshest veggies. The area has plenty of the unusual and the out-of-the-ordinary to keep newcomers busy, and even more local favorites and timeworn haunts that you’ll soon call your own. Everyone in the family will find something to love about Bakersfield, and no shortage of things to do in the area. Here are a few of our top reasons why you should pack a bag.
You’re close to miles of parks and green space
Besides a 30-mile bike trail and hundreds of more miles of paths, Bakersfield has parks and green space aplenty. Roughly 60 parks dot the town, and you’ll find no better park than the California Area Living Museum, or CALM. During the holiday season, you can see the park lit up beautifully (with a cup of hot cocoa in hand for chillier nights). There is plenty of incredible wildlife to see, and you’ll almost certainly want to gather up the family to go and visit the peacocks at Hart Park.
You’ll have plenty of fresh & local food
There is definitely a reason why the San Joaquin Valley is called the world’s food basket. Bakersfield is wholly representative of the area’s fresh foods, with farmer’s markets chock-a-block full of local vendors.
It’s driving distance from the Sierra Nevada Mountains (and other sights)
It doesn’t hurt that Bakersfield is close to some of California’s most magnificent sites. It’s just four hours from San Francisco, an hour and a half from Los Angeles, and less than an hour from the edge of the Sequoia National Forest (and only four hours to Yosemite, too). For a weekend adventure, you and your family can easily hop into the car and drive out to see California landmarks.
You’ll go to a honky-tonk
One holdover from the town’s abundance of former Texans? Honky-tonks. Bakersfield is even known for its own unique brand of country music, grown out of a reaction to the over-produced Nashville sound in the early 1950s. Although you won’t find the club that started it all still standing, you’ll find plenty in the way of town pride. And more importantly, you’ll find Trout’s, the largest—and last—of Bakersfield’s honky-tonks.
Don’t forget affordability
Let’s face it—California living is expensive. Luckily, Bakersfield keeps it on the cheaper end, offering affordable living in a centralized area. It’s a boon for families especially, given Bakersfield’s housing market is among the most affordable markets in the state, according to real estate experts.
Bakersfield has unbeatable California weather
We wouldn’t be surprised if one of the main things that drew you to the unassuming town is the weather. Winter temperatures typically hover around 50 degrees, while summer weather sticks to the 80s, even though it can get a bit chilly during the coldest months. The weather is perfect for weekend family trips and outdoor activities nearly year-round.
You’ll try Basque cuisine
Bakersfield’s claim to fame rests not only on the “Bakersfield Sound,” but in Basque cuisine. You’ll find family-style Basque dining at Bakersfield staples such as the Noriega Hotel and Wool Growers, restaurants that are even staffed by folks descended from the town’s original Basque immigrants. You’ll dine on hearty helpings of roasted lamb and roast tri-tip, that comes with delicious cabbage soup and some freshly baked bread. At Noriega’s, one of the favorite choices of Brazos Minshew Arizona, you can even play a round of pelota (otherwise known as Jai alai) on the Hotel’s remaining courts if you dare. Get your Basque cuisine in on one weekend at the Kern County Basque Festival, or order oxtail soup at one of Bakersfield’s many restaurants. You’ll almost certainly want to try the area’s most unusual specialty—pickled tongue. But we’d recommend passing on Koolickles—a Bakersfield fair food composed of pickles dunked in Kool-Aid.
There’s no shortage of historic sights and sounds
From the Kern County Scottish Highland Games, a festival celebrating Scottish heritage featuring kilts, haggis, and a Scottish Athletics Competition, to the Crystal Palace Museum, a theater and museum commemorating the life and career of country star Buck Owens, Bakersfield has a number of unusual sights. Many of their museums are historic sites in of themselves.