Stops on the Way

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.

As you drive to or from Yosemite from the Los Angeles or Las Vegas, you’ll enter Bakersfield, the ninth largest city in California. It’s a hub for oil production, agriculture and birthplace of the 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 brewery trail with seven breweries, eight restaurants included on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, an Indian food truck, Punjabi Dhaba, that was featured in The New York Times and a Mexican restaurant, Nuestro Mexico, hailed by to have one of the best tacos in the country. There are also more Basque restaurants here than any other place in the country. 

For a lively family-oriented show and meal, head to Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace. Country singer Owens helped popularize the 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.

Dine at the last Woolworth diner in the nation, which is housed in a former three-story Woolworth building. 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.Flickr/David Brossard

Then stop by the California Living Museum to see more than 250 native California animals, including mountain lions as well as endangered desert bighorn sheep and California condors,  who can no longer live in the wild because they were orphaned or have physical disabilities. At Kern County Museum, explore Pioneer Village composed of 60-plus original historic buildings, plus country singer Merle Haggard’s childhood home.

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.

For more information:
Visit Bakersfield