17 AWESOME Things to Do in Bakersfield, CA (by a Local)

A canal with trees and a bridge.

Welcome to the ‘breadbasket of California’, where the agricultural industry is king, and the list of cool things to do in Bakersfield is ever-growing! As a local Californian, I’m nominating myself to take you on this fun-filled journey to this lesser-known city in our long state!

Let this be your guide for the best things to do in Bakersfield, whether you’re in town for a quick conference or making a long weekend trip! 💼

Quick Picks for Your Stay

When you get to Bakersfield, you’ll want to start the fun, not sit down to make all of your arrangements. Go ahead and book your hotels and activities in advance:

And here are the best hotels: Homewood Suites Bakersfield (luxury), Home2 Suites Bakersfield (mid-range), Courtyard by Marriott Bakersfield (budget)

1. Explore the sensational California Living Museum

people looking at a zoo map

More than just a zoo, the California Living Museum is dedicated to homing and rehabilitating over 80 species of animals.

Visit the illusive San Joaquin Kit Fox area, enjoy the neat mountain lions on their own turf, and take in the beauty of dozens of different bird species, providing the whole family fun at the California Living Museum.

CALM also provides educational programs for the community and ensures that our wildlife is cared for with the utmost respect and dignity.

You can visit it any day, except on Mondays, and you can buy tickets from the official website.

On your way out, don’t miss the gift shop selling the cutest and most cuddly souvenirs! 🦊

2. Enjoy a sunny day at The Park at Riverwalk

view of a pond with ducks in a park

If you’re looking for nature-type experiences & things to do in Bakersfield, look no further than The Park at Riverwalk.

This park is gigantic – over 32 acres (13 hectares) and holds a mellow stream and 2 picturesque lakes interwoven by 4 charming bridges. Believe me, it’s as picture-perfect as it sounds, a sprawling oasis showcasing outdoor activities at The Park at River Walk.

While out here, why not get more acquainted with your surroundings and try this super fun Bakersfield scavenger hunt? You get to meet fun people, learn about the city, and see cool things along the way!

Don’t miss the chance to check out Dignity Health Amphitheater, an architectural gem designed to mimic an island, or hop on the Kern River Parkway Trail for a leisurely walk along the cobblestone stream.

While you’re in Kern River County Park, take the time to absorb the beauty of the scenic Kern River.

If you want to bring your lunch, there are many picnic tables, an array of barbecue pits, a charming gazebo, and a fun playground for the kiddos.

TOUR PRICE: US$12 per person

Join the scavenger hunt

3. Learn about local history at Kern County Museum

view of a museum exterior

Not far from downtown Bakersfield, you’ll find the interesting Kern County Museum. This local museum holds 60 historic and well-preserved buildings, numerous Native American artifacts, and grounds spread across 16 acres (c. 7 hectares).

Don’t miss the museum’s outdoor Pioneer Village, with preserved structures from the late 19th century on display, inviting a journey into history at Kern County Museum. Explore the old general stores, schoolhouses, jail cells, and other old-fashioned neighborhood staples.

If you’re visiting with kids, check out the Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center, with hands-on exhibits and fun activities on science & discovery.

The museum is open every day except on Monday and Tuesday. You can buy your tickets on Groupon or at the museum entrance. See the official website for more info.

PRICE: from US$10 per person

4. Line step at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace

view of a music center exterior

First off, this is one of my favorite things to do in Bakersfield, CA, and definitely worth a spot on your list!

Even if you don’t love country music, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace will still provide a fun night! It’s a popular community music venue, so don’t be surprised if there’s a line at the door. You might just experience the Bakersfield Sound, a subgenre of 1950s country music.

Designed to look like a 19th-century town from the American Old West, the ‘palace’ is a party from the moment you pull into the parking lot.

The dinner menu at this place is really popular. I’m not a meat-eater, but everyone raves about the BBQ ribs!

More than just a restaurant, bar, & nightclub, this place acts as a memorabilia museum for Mr. Owens himself, with his clothing, costumes, and guitars on display.

I love quirky, themed places like this – they add an extra bit of joy and ambiance to an already incredible experience.

If you’re looking for other odd-ball places with this kind of ‘flair’ in CA, check out our article on incredibly cool hotels to stay all over Cali.

5. See the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science

view of a museum exterior

Established in 1995, the institution’s foundation was placed upon Sharktooth Hill Miocene fossils that were contributed by the Bob and Mary Ernst Collection – the largest collection of its kind!

Located right next to the Fox Theater, another Bakersfield attraction, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science is the perfect place to learn, grow, and discover new things.

Love science?! Buena Vista Museum is the place to be – they collect fossils from the local Kern County area, and you can see them up close!

Figure you’ll spend about 2 hours exploring here, more perhaps, if you have children in tow. Kids go nuts about the “Oh” Zone, where they get to interact, play, and discover a plethora of new things!

The museum is open every day except Monday – Wed, and you can see hours and buy tickets here.

PRICE: US$10 for adults, US$6 for children

6. Catch an event at the Mechanics Bank Arena

The Mechanics Bank Arena, Theater, and Convention Center, formerly known as the Rabobank Arena, is a prominent venue for major performances and concerts in Bakersfield.

Opened in 1998, it hosts the Bakersfield Condors, an American Hockey League team, and is used as California State University’s home arena.

With 6,400 seats, it’s a huge space and promises excitement with concerts and sports events throughout the year (see them here)!

The southern concourse houses the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame, celebrating local athletic legends.

This venue hosts a diverse range of events: Disney on Ice, monster truck rallies, Broadway shows, live music concerts, and more!

7. Experience the local art scene at Bakersfield Museum of Art

The city offers a taste of local arts at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, and it’s delicious! 😋

The museum itself is a significant cultural icon in Bakersfield, dedicated to celebrating the vibrant local arts community. You’ll love the collection of contemporary and modern art, spanning all different mediums and styles.

One of my favorite areas in the Bakersfield Museum of Art is the sculpture garden, which adds a really serene feel to the experience, almost like a tropical oasis.

Throughout the year, you can also find cool events here: exhibitions, workshops, lectures, and educational programs, so it is also a hub for the local community.

PRO TIP: first Friday of every month is free admission!

PRICE: US$10 per person

8. Pop over to the Historic Bakersfield Fox Theater

view of a theatre exterior

While in Bakersfield, I highly recommend popping over to the Historic Bakersfield Fox Theater.

This place was built in 1930, and it shows in its phenomenal, historic facade!

It’s an architectural gem, in distinctive Art Deco style, that has served as an entertainment focal point for the last century.

The theater has undergone meticulous restoration efforts over the years, preserving its original majesty while making sure it is equipped with all the modern amenities we love when seeing a film.

With a seating capacity of approximately 1,500, the historic Fox Theater hosts a wide range of events, from concerts and live performances to film screenings and community gatherings.

You’ll love to snap photographs with the iconic movie marquee behind you, shining with flashy lights.

9. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon at Hart Memorial Park

view of a pond in a park in autumn

If you’re looking for a break from the attractions, head to Hart Memorial Park, a gorgeous natural sanctuary in Bakersfield.

Established in 1929, Hart Park spans over 370 acres (150 hectares) and was originally named after Dr. J. Hart, a prominent local physician known for his contributions to public health.

Take a break on the sprawling green lawns, enjoy the vast picnic areas, breathe in the fresh air, and play at the various fun playgrounds for kids.

Not to mention all the other fun things to do: hiking trails, BMX bike tracks, horseback riding, two disc golf courses, and so much more!

Known best for its picturesque lake, Hart Park offers paddleboat rentals, or simply sit by the water and birdwatch.

10. Shop ‘til you drop at Valley Plaza

Do you love to shop? 🛍️ Well, Valley Plaza Mall is your spot!

A premier shopping center, Valley Plaza has retail giants like Forever 21, Macy’s, and Victoria’s Secret, as well as boutique shops and eateries.

Not just shopping, Valley Plaza has a state-of-the-art movie theater, sit-down dining, and arcade games.

11. Pick up speed at Kern County Raceway Park

One of the coolest things to do in Bakersfield is to head over to the Kern County Raceway, a premier motorsports facility in Bakersfield.

This place is really neat – it has a high-banked 0.5-mile (1 m) paved oval track and a challenging ⅓ mile (less than 1 m) clay oval track, which serves different styles of racing.

Kern County Raceway hosts tons of racing events (see the schedule), like NASCAR and dirt track racing, to local and national competitions.

This raceway has become a breeding ground for emerging racing talent, helping aspiring drivers hone their skills and gain valuable experience before hitting the big leagues.

12. Make a splash at McMurtrey Aquatic Center

If you have the time, make your way to McMurtrey Aquatic Center, a prized aquatic facility in Bakersfield known for its state-of-the-art amenities and fun things to do, including water activities.

Opened to the public in 2005, it features a variety of swimming pools, including a competition pool, a leisure pool with a playground, and a spa – for all swim levels.

This is a great place to take swimming lessons, take a water aerobics class, or just splash around.

Kids will love the waterpark-style water slides!

PRICE: from US$5 per person

13. Play all day at Murray Family Farms

entrance to a family farm

Whether you are young or old, everyone in the family will love this stop. The Big Red Barn at Murray Family Farms is a family-run farm with fresh produce, hayrides, and a petting zoo.

Enjoy the colorful array of fruits and veggies at the local stalls, learn about the agricultural processes, or go strawberry picking! Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the butterfly house!

14. Escape to the vast Sequoia National Forest

A woman standing in the middle of a sequoia tree forest.

One of my favorite things to do in Bakersfield, Sequoia National Forest, covers a large expanse of land in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Mostly known for its diverse ecosystems, hiking trails, camping opportunities, and outdoor sports, Sequoia National Forest has so much to offer just 20 minutes outside Bakersfield.

Explore the awe-inspiring groves of giant sequoias, including the massive General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest living tree.

This place is truly a nature playground offering rock climbing, mountain biking, and world-class trout fishing in the many crystal-clear streams and lakes throughout this natural wonderland.

If you want to dive deeper into the Sierra Nevadas, explore Sequoia National Park, about 2 hours drive from Bakersfield. Take a peek at our article on Central California to get a better idea of the whole area.

PRICE: US$20 per vehicle

15. Catch a foul ball at Sam Lynn Ballpark

Play ball! ⚾

Sam Lynn Ballpark is an iconic venue on Chester Avenue, built in 1941, and is the oldest park of its kind in the Class-A Advanced California League.

Once home to the Bakersfield Badgers, it now has the honor of hosting the Bakersfield Blaze and Bakersfield Train Robbers sporting events.

Today, it continues to be a great place to catch a baseball game. Check here to see if there’s one in town during your trip!

PRICE: depends on the event

16. Drink in the beauty at Panorama Vista Preserve

view from a panoramic standpoint

If you’re looking to find a spot to take in all the beauty of Bakersfield from above, look no further than Panorama Vista Preserve (map).

This lookout area & park offers breathtaking vistas of Bakersfield and the surrounding valley.

This is an excellent spot to watch the sunset!

Meander through paved walking trails, perfect for leisurely strolls– and don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local wildlife along the way!

PRICE: free

17. Go kayaking on Lake Ming

view of a lake

This expansive lake in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley is absolutely beautiful, and so much fun!

Lake Ming is a reservoir initially designed to supply irrigation water to the surrounding agricultural lands, it’s now a super popular destination for waterside recreation.

Tourists and locals alike come here for activities like kayaking and paddleboarding. 

The park surrounding Lake Ming features picnic areas, hiking trails, and a playground, so it’s perfect for the whole family!

🏛️ Best museum:Kern County Museum
🎢 Top paid attraction:California Living Museum
🚶🏽‍♂️ Best free attraction:Murray Family Farms
👧 Best attraction for kids:Camelot Park

Where to stay in Bakersfield

You have some options to choose from when traveling to Bakersfield. See below for my top picks for every budget, with prices from US$130 to US$280 and above for 2 adults/night.

collage of three hotel photos: hotel exterior, bedroom, and outdoor pool

Luxury (US$280 and up)

  • Homewood Suites Bakersfield – this modern, luxury option offers clean, comfortable, spacious apartment-style suites with on-site breakfast, convenient office areas, and an inviting outdoor pool
  • Bakersfield Outdoor Oasis – if you’re traveling deep, check out this gorgeous house in Bakersfield that sleeps 16! It has an outdoor hot tub, modern decor, and the perfect space to create lasting memories.

Mid-Range (US$180 – US$280)

  • Home2 Suites Bakersfield – enjoy this well-priced option close to downtown, with complimentary breakfast, large apartment-style rooms, and an outdoor pool!
  • Padre Hotel – you’ll love this downtown hotel, with inviting neon lighting, a giant social lobby area, and an on-site bar & restaurant. It’s also within walking distance to great shops and other dining.

Budget (up to US$180)

Check the rates

FAQs about things to do in Bakersfield

welcome sign to the city of bakersfield

🌴 What is Bakersfield known for?

Bakersfield is best known for its agricultural industry, often referred to as the “breadbasket of California).

❓ Why do people visit Bakersfield?

People visit Bakersfield for its Gold Rush history, agricultural prowess, and as a jumping-off point for nature activities, like Sequoia National Forest.

🌟 Is Bakersfield, CA, worth visiting?

Yes! Bakersfield, CA, is worth visiting. Check out the California Living Museum, Kern River Park, and great museums like the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

🚗 Where should I stop in Bakersfield, CA?

If you’re visiting Bakersfield, CA, stop at the California Living Museum and the Kern County Museum for a great dose of education and culture, and Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace for some great entertainment!

Conclusion

aerial view of a city at sunset

Bakersfield, CA, may be lesser known than some of the more popular California cities, but it provides an amazing amount of attractions and experiences.

Today, I guided you through 17 top things to do in Bakersfield, but there are always more that you may spontaneously come across.

If your trip is fast approaching, don’t forget to book in advance for any top attractions and hotels you want!

PLEASE dish all the details when you get home – comment below. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

Aloha & safe travels,

Hayden G.


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collage of two photos: welcome sign to Bakersfield, and view of a city street

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