Act Naturally in Bakersfield

At the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley and the heart of the Mojave Desert, you’ll find country music and a noteworthy luncheonette.
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Evening view of the Fox Theater along H street in the downtown district of Bakerfield, California

Evening view of the Fox Theater along H street in the downtown district

South of Yosemite, you’ll find Bakersfield, a bustling metropolis of 540,000-plus people. It’s a hub for oil production, agriculture and birthplace of Bakersfield Sound, a twangy genre of country music that was influenced by rock and electrical instruments. Framed in the distance by the Tehachapi Mountains to the east and Temblor Range to the west, Bakersfield has a number of local attractions worth experiencing.

For a lively family-oriented show and meal, head to Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. Country singer Owens helped popularize Bakersfield Sound with his 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country music charts during the 1960s. His 1963 hit Act Naturally was covered by the Beatles. Peruse the museum on site that showcases Owens’ memorabilia. Tip: make advanced reservations.

Antique fanatics will love exploring two antique malls, which are conveniently located across the street from one another. The three-story Merry Go Round Antique Mall has a 1930s replica movie theater that you can peer through glass to see on weekends. Across the street is Five & Dime Antique Mall housed in a former three-story Woolworth building. Don’t miss the old-fashioned luncheonette, Woolworth Diner, on the ground floor. Its 1950s decor includes 22 counter seats, Formica countertops and black-and-white tiled floor. The menu itself is as 50s as it gets — chili dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and French fries, along with milkshakes and root beer floats.

Woolworth Luncheonette in Bakersfield, California

The Woolworth Building in Bakersfield has been converted into an antiques collective. The luncheonette is still operated.

Kern County is the most productive oil-producing county in the nation, so stop by Kern County Museum to learn more about it and to explore Pioneer Village composed of 60-plus original buildings from the past. On your way out of town, stop at California Fruit Depot for amazingly fresh fruit, including navel and valencia oranges, dates and nuts. Don't miss out on the free samples.