Bakersfield is one of the fastest growing medium-sized cities in the United States. Bakersfield has a population of approximately 350,000 and a metropolitan population of approximately 800,000. Bakersfield is famous for being the home of country music singers Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, and has the nickname "the country music capital of the West Coast." This is a result of the large number of Dust Bowl refugees that settled in the area. Bakersfield has also produced its share of football players such as Joey Porter, Frank Gifford, Ryan Matthews, and David Carr. Bakersfield is a very conservative city, at least when compared to most of the state.
Although Bakersfield is no longer the "country capital of the west", long ago moved to Los Angeles, the Bakersfield country music scene is still a fixture - country musicians and dancing is fairly easy to find. The Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, recording studio, and Concert venue is a good visit. Headliner music and theater entertainers regularly appear at several large venues. An art district has emerged downtown. The food choices are vast - simple to complex, local and international. The Kern River and Sierra Mountains beckon outdoor enthusiasts year round. SoCal and Central Cal coasts are easy and splendid day trips (240km r/t) from Bakersfield. With a complete downtown renovation in the plans, downtown is set to gentrify and accelerate its merger with Los Angeles culture.
Metro population of 800,000 is inflated. Estimates are closer to 450,000. Kern County, of which Bakersfield is located, had a total population of 839,000 in 2015.
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. It is about 120 miles to Los Angeles, 110 miles to Fresno and 280 miles to San Francisco. Arriving by car is the best option when coming from the Central Coast since the transport links are not as developed. From the north or south, bus or train can be taken.
Commercial air service
Meadows Field (IATA: BFL) is Bakersfield's primary commercial airport, which is about 10 miles north of downtown. Currently, the airport is used by United and US Airways. There is service to San Francisco, Houston, Denver and Phoenix.
Meadows Field is also an international airport, although there are currently no international carriers. However, the airport is capable of handling international private planes, both arriving and departing.
Rental car facilities are located at the airport. In addition, there are several other methods of travel from the airport. Taxis are available outside the terminal. The city’s bus system does not provide regular service to or from the airport, although service is provided to the downtown transit center when requested in advance.
Private air service
Private aircraft that are travelling to Bakersfield can land either at Meadows Field, or Bakersfield Municipal Airport (in South Bakersfield). In addition, there are a variety of other general aviation airports in the region. These include: Delano Municipal Airport, Kern Valley Airport, Lost Hills Airport, Minner Field (Shafter), Taft Airport, Tehachapi Municipal Airport, and Wasco Airport.
An alternative is Los Angeles International Airport (IATA: LAX), about 120 miles away in Los Angeles is a major international airport with flights to many parts of the world. United no longer flies between LAX and Bakersfield. LAX is the best option for the distance traveled, but other nearby airport include Burbank, Visalia, Ontario and Fresno.
Airport Bus of Bakersfield provides round trip bus service between LAX and downtown Bakersfield near the intersection of F St. and Golden State Ave. Greyhound provides much cheaper more frequent service between their main downtown LA location and Bakersfield; getting to the terminal will be the tricky part. A trick that people use is Amtrak. Amtrak bus goes to Bakersfield, but requires a train ticket for part of the trip. People will buy a ticket from Los Angeles to Wasco; take the bus from Los Angeles to Bakersfield, and stay there, not taking the train to Wasco.
Amtrak also serves Bakersfield, with a nice main terminal downtown. Bakersfield is the southern terminus of Amtrak's San Joaquins 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. It is the best way to travel around this spread-out town compared to any other method. Most arterial streets are wide and fast with speed limits as high as 55 miles per hour and free parking is abundant.
The Golden Empire Transit (GET) bus system is decent with some notable gaps on the northwest side of town, but not developed enough for a city of this size. You can get around in the city with just the bus, but splurging for a car rental is probably the better option.
Not the first thought that comes to mind, but an alternative way to get around, since most of Bakersfield is on the flat valley floor. A separated bike path goes from Hwy 5 along the Kern River through the southwestern portion and ends in the northeastern part of town. There are many miles of bike lanes in the city, but most of them are on high speed arterial streets that are built for cars, not bikes, so some riders may not feel comfortable on those streets.
Taxis are expensive and uncommon for this city since everyone drives and everything in the city is spread out.
Uber and Lyft are in the city. If you are just taking the bus, these companies can fill the occasional transit gap.
Bakersfield is not what you may call a tourist destination, but there are a lot of 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 pro ice hockey games, various sporting events, big celebrity 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. 
Live music in Bakersfield can be found in many local bars such as On The Rocks, Sandrini's, Riley's and The Padre which are all in downtown Bakersfield, hosting local acts. Additionally, B Ryders Sports Bar and Grill hosts local and regional acts in southwest Bakersfield. Rabobank Arena, Bakersfield Convention Center, Fox Theater and Buck Owen's Crystal palace all host larger touring acts on occasion.
Kern County Raceway Park at the intersection of I-5 and Hwy. 43 just southwest of Bakersfield, which hosts races and entertainment at it's newer and larger facility. There is the Famoso Drag Strip famous for Hot Rod Nationals, funny car competitions, and blown jet fueled dragsters.
There are various parks, lakes, and nature facilities for day trips outside of Bakersfield including: Lake Isabella, Kernville, the Kern River, Buena Vista Lake, Tule Elk Reserve, Carrizo Plains National Monument/Park, Wind Wolves Preserve, Sequoia National Park, National Military Cemetary, various seasonal festivals, car shows, Murray Family Farm's harvest and children's activities. There are points of interest including the Tehachapi Loop historical train track engineering marvel, the Kern County Oil Museum, Ming Lake boat drags, and a huge variety of golf courses both inside and outside the City of Bakersfield. Downtown Bakersfield features "First Friday" of the month street fairs, various holiday themed parades, a motorcycle parade Christmas Toy Run. There are also various charitable club facilities, car clubs, bicycling, long distance runs/walks and meet-ups planned around the city. The city hosts movies in the park... and has been known to bring in a variety of celebrity bands for free park concerts. The city is committed to maintaining plenty of family-oriented events. Whether old or young, there is really plenty to do and get involved with in and around Bakersfield.
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.
An indoor mall also serves shoppers. That mall is Valley Plaza at 2701 Ming Avenue in the southwest. It has a collection of regional and national chains, with some upscale stores and a food court. There once was an East Hills Mall near Mt. Vernon, but it is currently closed and is set to be destroyed because it is considered a fire hazard.
Bakersfield is known for its great variety of grocery stores, specialty meat cutters, farmer's markets, health food stores, Asian markets, hispanic markets, and club store shopping. Whether vegan or a pro BBQ-er, your options are many in Bakersfield. Cooking is a favorite pastime, indoors and out. As the hub of Kern County, all the surrounding communities seek and support the shopping opportunities Bakersfield has to offer. Weekends are abuzz with the influx of out-of-town shoppers.
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, many of which are in East Bakersfield, where the early local Basque traditions originated. Bakersfield is proud of the various ethnicities which settled the area and all the history rooted in it's past. Bakersfield is a melting pot of people from so many regions.
Mexican food is also abundant in Bakersfield with many excellent offerings such as El Camino Real, Red Pepper, Mexicali, La Costa, El Portal, Don Perico's and Mauricio's. Don't be afraid to try one of the many taco trucks located around town which also offer excellent food.
Italian food fans might enjoy Frugatti's, Mama Tosca's, Joseph's, Rosa's, Luigi's, Uricchio's, or the Olive Garden.
Cafe Med, The Mark, The Belvedere (at The Padre Hotel) and Mama Tosca's offer a more sophisticated dining experience.
For a good steak dinner, Tahoe Joe's... and for good BBQ, try Salty's.
Many people seek out their tried and true Chinese food favories; namely Bill Lee's Bamboo Chopsticks and The Rice Bowl, who have operated side by side on 18th Street, downtown, as long as anybody can remember.
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.
American food is everywhere, especially at the 24th Street Cafe (a favorite breakfast spot) and Mr. Tibbs Ribs (a local barbecue institution).
John's Incredible Pizza, 3709 Rosedale, is a small California chain of restaurants that has an all-you-can-eat buffet and game center. It is basically a more upscale version of Chuck E. Cheese.
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 very safe city with a murder rate that has been on the decline since 2005. However, property theft and drug activity have seen some increase within the city. Patomic Park, Virginia Ave, Quantico Ave, Dr. Martin Luther King Drive (formerly named Lakeview Ave, and turns into Cottonwood Rd), parts of South East Bakersfield and areas surrounding the Kern County fairgrounds and South High School have some gang violence and can be 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 and home to a new Amazon distribution facility (although not yet a tourist attraction).
Use good judgment when you are traveling alone... traverse in well lit areas... preferably with other shoppers nearby. Also keep your most prized possessions in inconspicuous places. And hide your purse or packages out of site in vehicles. Be wise...
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 about 143 miles from Bakersfield.