Difference between revisions of "Bakersfield"
Revision as of 20:36, 21 July 2009
Bakersfield is one of the fastest growing large cities in the United States. Bakersfield has a population of approximately 323,000 and a metropolitan area of approximately a half million. Bakersfield is famous for being the home of country music singers Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and has the nickname "the country music capital of the West Coast." Bakersfield has also produced its share of football players such as Joey Porter, Frank Gifford, and David Carr. Bakersfield is a very conservative, religious city compared to most of the state.
Bakersfield is located at the juncture of California State Routes 99 and 58, about 25 miles north of the town of Wheeler Ridge at the juncture of CA-99 and Interstate 5.
Amtrak  also serves Bakersfield, with a nice main terminal downtown. Bakersfield is the southern terminus of Amtrak's San Joaquin  route, which travels north through the Central Valley to either Sacramento or the Bay Area. Bakersfield is also served by a number of Amtrak bus routes, which connect San Joaquin passengers to many southern California cities, as well as Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bakersfield is a car-based city with poor mass transit options, so driving your own car or renting one is probably wise. The Golden Empire Transit (GET) bus system is fairly limited (especially in the Rosedale area), and taxis are expensive and uncommon.
This city will never be a tourist destination, but there are things to do. The Kern County Museum is a great place to visit, with 56 historic exhibits in a lush shady 16 acre setting. The historical exhibit buildings include everything from an 1800s log cabin to a 1936 gas station, with jails, one-room school, Victorian era homes and everything in between. The Lori Brock Children's Discovery Center is great fun for the kids. Outstanding special events are offered all year. Just a short hop from Highways 204, 99 or 58 this is great stop just north of downtown Bakersfield. Check out the website at www.kcmuseum.org for more information on current exhibits and special event offerings. Admission is charged, but $8 for adults is a bargain. Picnicking is welcome on regular admission days, and some events offer free admission. Car shows, an annual antique show, and Clock Tower Holidays are all worth the visit.
For entertainment there are many cultural and sporting opportunities. The Rabobank Arena hosts sporting events, concerts, circuses, and other shows throughout the year, and the downtown Fox Theater schedules standup comedy and musical guests. Each May the CSU Bakersfield campus is home to the popular weekend Jazz Festival. Ethnic food and culture festivals--including Scottish, Indian, Basque, and Greek--occur in the spring and summer as well. Cinema fans enjoy year-round showings of award-winning international films at the downtown Fox Theater. 
Large shopping centers and strip malls are abundant. The Marketplace, near the CSU Bakersfield campus, is relatively upscale, while the Promenade area on Rosedale Highway is a sprawling collection of major retailers and restaurants. Two indoor malls also serve shoppers: the larger and more popular Valley Plaza at 2701 Ming Avenue in the southwest, and the East Hills Mall in the northeast off of Highway 178 between Mt Vernon Ave & Oswell St. Small, locally-owned antique shops are found in the Downtown and Old Town areas.
There are numerous chain restaurants throughout the city and in its shopping centers, but there are also plenty of delicious local places to sample. Good Basque food is easy to find. Bakersfield has what is most likely the largest single cluster of Basque restaurants in California. --try Maitia's, Benji's, Narducci's, The Pyrenees or Woolgrowers. Italian food fans might enjoy Joseph's, Rosa's, Luigi's, or Uricchio's. Cafe Med is known for its Mediterranean flair and excellent wines. There are several Thai restaurants that have opened in the last couple of years, while Japanese and Indian cuisines are popular as well. More unusual offerings include Mama Roomba's (Caribbean) and Flames & Skewers (middle eastern), both downtown. Of course, hearty American food is everywhere, especially at the 24th Street Cafe (a favorite breakfast spot) and Mr. Tibbs Ribs (a local barbecue institution). Bakersfield is also home to Dewar's Candy Shop, a local ice cream parlor and candy shop that has been featured on the Travel Channel on several occasions. Make sure that you try one of their famous black and whites and don't forget to buy a box of Dewar's chews on your way out!
Bakersfield is a relatively safe city with a murder rate that has been on the decline since 2005. However, property theft and drug activity have seen a sharp increase within the city and there are certain parts of the city that are dangerous even during the daytime. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive (formerly named Lakewood Ave, and turns into Cottonwood Rd), parts of East Bakersfield and areas surrounding the Kern County fairgrounds and South High School are plagued by gang violence and can be very dangerous. The Bakersfield suburb of Oildale (which shares its borders with Bakersfield at the Kern River) has a bad reputation for racism and poverty. However, attitudes towards minorities have improved significantly over the years in Oildale, and the town is relatively safe (although not a tourist attraction).
About an hour's drive east of town on Highway 178, the Kern River/Lake Isabella area is popular for fishing, kayaking, camping, and boating activities, and in winter there is downhill skiing at Alta Sierra-Shirley Meadows.
Wasco, just north of Bakersfield, hosts an annual spring Rose Festival that attracts visitors from all over southern California.
Los Angeles the second biggest city in the United States is less than a two hour drive south of Bakersfield on Highway 99 then Interstate 5.
Pismo Beach is also a short drive from Bakersfield, and is the closest beach to the city.