The 20 Best Things to Do in Bakersfield

Bakersfield consistently ranks as one of the fastest growing cities in California for many reasons. It’s geographically the center of California’s population, yet is one of the most affordable housing markets in the country. It’s near the top of the nation in agriculture production, oil production, and job creation.  In fact, Kern County jobs pay more than the U.S. average.

With so much growth and opportunity comes a wide range of attractions and activities in the greater Bakersfield area. A plethora of educational and entertainment options are at your whim, including venues for music, sports, arts, culture, nature, adventure, and exercise.

We as local residents have compiled a list to help you narrow down the choices, more of which will be added soon. 

Check out the 20 best things to do in Bakersfield, California.

1. Kern River Parkway Trail

If you’re looking for a great place to walk, jog, or go for a bike ride, the Kern River Parkway Trail nails it! The trail is a long, flat, paved path through Bakersfield, which runs along the Kern River and adjoining areas. For a long 36 mile bike ride, you can start at Lake Ming and trek to the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area. However, there are much shorter routes depending on where you wish to start and finish. The trail is easy to access by several free parking lots along the way.

Check out the diverse scenery and stops along the trail: 

  • River Front Park
  • The Park at Riverwalk
  • The Shops at Riverwalk
  • Cal State Bakersfield University
  • Truxtun Lake
  • Truxtun Park
  • Kern River Disc Golf Course
  • Yokuts Park
  • Beach Park
  • Upland Park
  • Sam Lynn Ballpark
  • Kern County Museum
  • Panorama Park
  • Panorama Vista Preserve 
  • Kern River Oil Field
  • Old Corral Cafe
  • California Living Museum (CALM)
  • Lake Ming
  • Kern River Golf Course

Website:  Visit Bakersfield – Kern River Parkway Trail

Address:  Various entry points

2. Ernst Quarries at Sharktooth Hill

Are you itching to dig up some legit fossils? Then throw on your excavating clothes and visit a massive archaeological site with millions of fossils dating from the Miocene Epoch, a time of global warmth occurring around 15 million years ago. 

The Bakersfield area was once at the bottom of a sea filled with life, including massive prehistoric sharks called megalodons. Fast forward millions of years and the Ernst Quarries at Sharktooth Hill becomes the largest assemblage of Miocene marine fossils in the world. 

As the name implies, the location known as Sharktooth Hill is covered with fossilized shark teeth. The impressive list of specimens found in the quarries includes whales, sharks, rays, turtles, birds and mammals.

The quarries are subdivided into areas designated for both public access and scientific exploration. The Buena Vista Museum in Bakersfield houses amazing archeological finds recovered from Sharktooth Hill.

Get your hands dirty enjoying a truly unique natural history experience not found anywhere else in the world.


Address: Just south of Hart Park

3. The Park at River Walk

Are you looking for a walk in the park? The Park at River Walk is a 32 acre pet friendly, public park with two lakes, six covered picnic areas, picnic tables, barbecues, and a busy playground. The upper lake is adjacent to the Dignity Health Amphitheater and is connected by a long cobblestone creek to a lower lake, which has become a popular fishing spot. The park is also located next to the Kern River Parkway Trail, so walking, jogging, or bike riding while at the park is a popular activity.

The centerpiece of the park is the Dignity Health Amphitheater, Bakersfield’s premier outdoor entertainment venue. The site hosts events and concerts, which have included the Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Ziggy Marley, Trace Atkins, and more.

It’s as easy as a walk in the park!

Website:  The Park at River Walk

Address:  11298 Stockdale Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93311

4. Kern County Museum

Nix the computer and expand your knowledge in person. The Kern County Museum offers a stimulating learning environment for visitors of all ages and showcases the unique role of Kern County in shaping the history of California and America. The museum continues to grow as a tourist attraction, an educational facility, and a community cultural center. 

The Beale Memorial Clock Tower stands in front of the museum as one of the most recognizable structures at the museum and Bakersfield. In 1904, the clock tower was originally constructed at the center of the intersection of 17th St and Chester Ave. An earthquake destroyed the tower in 1952 but it was rebuilt at the museum in 1964.

Exhibits at the Kern County Museum:

This gallery is home to the History of the Golden Empire Exhibit, which welcomes guests to the museum and includes pods on various topics important in Kern County’s history, like oil, mining, and agriculture.

Pioneer Village

Pioneer Village contains over 50 original buildings related to Kern County life in the late 19th century. Nearly every type of building from the time period is represented, including a church, a schoolhouse, a photography studio, a train station, a hotel, and a courthouse. The buildings are arranged to simulate an actual town from that period, and just like today, oil equipment punctuates the landscape.  

Black Gold: The Oil Experience

Kern County has been an oil and gas powerhouse since the 1890’s, when oil was first discovered on the county’s west side. The County consistently ranks in the top 10 oil-producing counties in the nation, which typically represents about 70% of California’s oil production.

At the museum you can learn about the story of oil, from its formation to discovery to extraction, to its pervasiveness in modern life. Maybe do a simulated sea dive to learn how oil is formed. The outdoor area features a wooden derrick with cable tools, a full-size working jack plant, and oil-field equipment and vehicles. 

Raymond A. Watson Transportation Exhibit

Talk a ride through the history of transportation in Kern County with 40 horse-drawn and early motorized vehicles. The vehicles include farm wagons, stagecoaches, and early automobiles including fire and oil delivery trucks.

This Western-inspired gallery features exhibits about Kern County’s rich and diverse history.  Currently on display is a collection of photographs taken in the late 1880s by renowned American landscape photographer, Carleton E. Watkins.

Haggard House

Check out the childhood home of Merle Haggard, the country music legend. Originally converted in 1935 from a 1910 railroad car refrigerator, this exhibit features keepsakes and heirlooms provided by the Haggard family.

Neon Courtyard

Do you like shiny objects? Feast your eyes on a collection of restored neon signs from Bakersfield’s iconic shops, restaurants, and businesses. The setting is also used as a venue for events and weddings.

Bakersfield Sound

The Bakersfield music scene gave rise to a unique sound. The museum’s collection features musical instruments and other memorabilia from some of the most influential voices of the era, including Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Bonnie Owens, Red Simpson, Fuzzy Owen and many more.

Lori Brock Children’s Discovery Center

Blessed are the children. The Discovery Center provides an exciting, educational hands-on experience for young visitors. Kiddos can find fossils in Dino Dig, create works of art in Arts Express, learn about power sources in the Power Lab; and explore science, technology, engineering, arts and math in “STEAM Town.”


Address:  3801 Chester Ave, Bakersfield, CA 93301

5. California Living Museum (CALM)

Did you know that Bakersfield has a zoo? The California Living Museum is an animal rehabilitation facility with a staff trained to care for injured wildlife. Every year, CALM rehabilitates hundreds of injured and orphaned animals with the primary goal of releasing the wildlife back into their natural habitat. 

At the same time, CALM showcases native California animals, plants, fossils and artifacts. CALM’s 14 acre zoo features over 80 species of animals including a black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, bobcats, owls, hawks, eagles, foxes, deer, reptiles, a California condor, and much more.

Upon entrance, the DiGiorgio Education Center houses the gift shop, a reading library, Miocene and Pleistocene fossils, and children’s discovery rooms with interactive activities.

CALM hosts Holiday Lights during the Christmas season, when the grounds are transformed by millions of lights to form a wide variety of holiday scenes, animals, characters and landscapes. It’s definitely worth taking the sleigh for a ride in the awesome lights.

CALM can also be booked for group events like birthday parties and weddings.


Address:  10500 Alfred Harrell Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93306

6. Buena Vista Museum of Natural History

Founded in 1995, the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History houses world class specimens, exhibits, classrooms, and a paleo-laboratory, which cleans, repairs, preserves, and reconstructs fossils and other artifacts.

The museum has one of the best and largest collections of fossils from the Miocene Epoch (about 15 million years ago). Most of the fossils at the museum were recovered from areas around Sharktooth Hill, northeast of Bakersfield. There are rare and unique fossils, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.​

The museum displays an impressive African animals collection with over 50 taxidermy specimens, along with various North American animal specimens. 

Also on display are fossils from the Paleozoic era, ice-age specimens from the Pleistocene era, and dinosaurs from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. There are also petrified woods and rocks exhibits.

​The museum also houses the Native American Lifeways exhibit constructed in partnership with the Native American Preservation Council of Kern County. This display includes a replica of a Yokuts Indian village, which includes artifacts from Kern County and collections from the Department of Energy and California State University, Bakersfield.


Address:  2018 Chester Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93301

7. Bakersfield Museum of Art

Art can elevate the soul. The Bakersfield Museum of Art consists of two large galleries, two smaller galleries, two classrooms, and a banquet hall, which comprise 17,400 square feet in total. The galleries contain a permanent collection primarily from regional artists with room for traveling art exhibits. Also on display are Californian prints, drawings, and watercolors from the mid-19th century to the present.

The museum also displays sculptures in several gardens and is one of the most frequented spaces of the museum. The gardens host various events including art classes, concerts, yoga, weddings and charity functions.

The Bakersfield Museum of Art began as the Cunningham Memorial Art Gallery in 1956 when the Walter Osborn family established the gallery in memory of their daughter, Marion Osborn Cunningham (1908-1948). Marion was an artist whose collection still graces the gallery, and continues to play a significant role in the museum’s history and legacy.

Go get cultured. It’s definitely worth the visit.


Address: 1930 R St, Bakersfield CA 93301

8. William M Thomas Planetarium

Would you like to space out in the cosmos? Opened in 1962, the William M Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College has provided spectacular shows for thousands of students and astronomy lovers. The college’s astronomy and science classes also use the planetarium during the school year.

The Planetarium’s equipment includes a Chronos star projector from GOTO and a SciDome all-dome video system installed under a Spitz premium-seam 36-foot dome. The dome is the largest in the Central Valley and seats 72 people. 

Just a few of the past shows include Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity; From Dream to Discovery: Inside NASA; Destination Mars: The New Frontier; Ice Worlds; and Dynamic Earth.

Check out their website for upcoming shows, then prepare to launch.

Website: Planetarium

Address: 1801 Panorama Drive, Bakersfield, CA 93305

9. Panorama Vista Preserve

Get some fresh air in a unique setting. A myriad of plants and animals can be seen on the Panorama Vista Preserve, over 900 acres of open space below Bakersfield’s Panorama Bluffs. The Preserve extends from the Beardsley Canal on the north to the top of the bluffs on the south, and from China Grade Loop on the east to near Manor Street on the west. 

According to the Preserve’s website, 57,525 native, drought-resistant trees, shrubs, and vines have been planted on the Preserve. That vegetation includes cottonwoods, sycamores, elderberries, bladderpod, buttonbush, willows, oak, mule fat, honey mesquite, quail bush, saltbush, blackberry, and wild rose. Most seeds and cuttings come from the Preserve itself, while thousands more have been grown in their onsite nursery.

The goal of the Preserve is to protect unique and varied animals, birds, and vegetation and to encourage greater appreciation for the environment. It seeks to protect and provide recreation and enhance education about the area. It also strives to preserve the historic equestrian use of the area.


Address:  901 E Roberts Ln, Bakersfield, CA 93308

10. Fox Theater

The beautiful Fox Theater opened in downtown Bakersfield in 1930 and has become a historic performing arts and community events center. The 1,500 seat theater hosts a variety of events, including movies, musical acts, comedians, ballets, and various community events. The Fox Theater website rightfully states: “The theater epitomizes an era of elegance, romance and big screen entertainment otherwise impossible to experience this side of Hollywood.”

A limited remodeling of the building’s exterior upgraded the marquee, box office, and entrance foyer, and added glitzy neon signage and colorful terrazzo flooring. 

Check out the calendar of events on their website.


Address:  1700 20th Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301

11. Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace 

The Crystal Palace is a performance venue for country western music, as well as a nightclub, bar, restaurant, and a museum that showcases the music and legacy of Buck Owens. The 550-seat music hall opened in 1996 in the heart of Bakersfield at a reported construction cost of $7 million. Some of the biggest names in country music have performed at the Crystal Palace, including Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson and Brad Paisley. 

The Crystal Palace was designed in the Western Revival style, which resembles buildings from the American Old West. The interior resembles an American western town with shop facades, while the museum is located in display cases along a boardwalk around the first floor.

On any given night, guests will be line-dancing after dining on comfort food like Texas chili, baby back ribs, and chicken fried steak. The museum contains bronze statues, extensive memorabilia, and hundreds of photographs. Last but not least, perched above the bar is Buck’s 1973 Pontiac convertible signed by Elvis. 


Address:  2800 Buck Owens Blvd., Bakersfield, CA 93308

12. Mechanics Bank Arena 

Mechanics Bank Arena is a multi-purpose arena and home to the Bakersfield Condors ice hockey team in the American Hockey League. The arena is also the current site for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) High School State Wrestling Championship. As a concert venue, the arena seats 6,400 for half-house shows and over 10,000 for center stage and end-stage shows.  Attached to the arena is the Mechanics Bank Theater and Convention Center, a 17,840-square-foot exhibit hall and 3,000-seat theater. 

The venue has hosted NCAA tournaments, PBR rodeos, monster truck shows, World Wrestling Entertainment televised shows, the ECHL All-Star Game, conventions, Disney on Ice, figure skating shows, comedians like Kevin Hart and Jerry Seinfeld, and numerous concerts including The Eagles, Steve Miller Band, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani, Neil Diamond, and many more. 

The southern concourse of the arena houses the Bob Elias Kern County Sports Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame inductees include prominent athletes, local coaches, and others who have made significant contributions to athletics. A separate display on the western concourse honors the founders and dignitaries of Bakersfield and Kern County. 

Check out the website for a calendar of events.


Address:  1001 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93301

13. Lake Ming

Owned by the Kern County Parks and Recreation Department, Lake Ming is a man-made recreational lake used primarily for motorboats and water-skiing, although sail boats are permitted on certain days. The National Jet Boat Association holds races at the lake throughout the year.

For those with a fishing license, the lake is stocked with rainbow trout during the winter months and also holds large-mouth bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill. 

Lake facilities include picnic areas, restrooms, and drinking fountains. Kids can enjoy the playground at the southeast end of the lake. An additional picnic area is located on a small hill east of the lake, which may be reserved for large group events. Also available is a 28-acre campground with 50 campsites with picnic tables and fire rings. A dump site and restroom are also available. There is also a bike path that can connect with the Kern River Parkway Trail.

Swimming is not allowed in the lake except during an authorized triathlon event.

Website:  Lake Ming

Address:  13375 Lake Ming Rd, Bakersfield, CA 93306

14. Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area

Do you like to get wet? The Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area is 25 miles southwest of Bakersfield and just a couple of miles off Interstate 5. The main attractions are 86-acre Lake Evans and 998-acre Lake Webb. Lake Evans is designated for sailing, fishing, and 5-mph boating. Lake Webb is used for jet skiing, boating, waterskiing, and fishing. Swimming is allowed only in posted swim areas.

Buena Vista Campground features 112 campsites for RVs, trailers, and tents on a horseshoe-shaped peninsula near the entrance. All the campsites are pull-through with space limited to 2 RVs per site. Only one vehicle may be connected to the electrical hook-ups at a time. Multiple tents may be erected within the campsite boundaries.

Enjoy the following activities and amenities:

  • Boating
  • Jet-Skiing
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Bicycling
  • Jogging
  • Basketball Court
  • Soccer Field
  • Playground for kids
  • Two concession buildings
  • Three covered picnic areas that can be reserved
  • Picnic spots throughout the park
  • Three boat launching sites

The Buena Vista Golf Course and Kern County Gun Club are also near the recreation area.

Website:  Buena Vista Recreation

Address:  13601 Ironbark Rd, Bakersfield, CA 93311

15. Hart Memorial Park 

Hart Park is a popular 370 acre public park in the Northeast area of Bakersfield. The park contains two lakes and three canals. Fishing is permitted with a license. 

There are both individual and group picnic spots with tables and grills. Several areas can be rented for large gatherings, including a large lighted picnic area that contains a band stand, two deep-pit barbecues, two grills, tables, and concession booths. 

There are also several large fields for sports, baseball backstops, an equestrian trail, a bike path, two 18-hole disk golf courses, children’s playgrounds, and restrooms.

What more do you need to enjoy the great outdoors?

Website:  Hart Memorial Park

Address:  Hart Park, Bakersfield, CA 93308

16. River’s End Rafting & Adventure Company

Truly experience the Kern River!  Located on the outskirts of Bakersfield, River’s End Rafting specializes in whitewater rafting, hard shell kayaking, kayak lessons, and even gold panning. 

From the company’s website, “We are family-owned and operated with years and years of experience. Safety is always our top priority, and we have a variety of adventures to suit your family’s wild side. Our goal is to bring the magic of the Kern River to your family in the safest and most fun way possible!”


Address:  15701 CA-178, Bakersfield, CA 93306

17. Murray Family Farms

Murray Family Farms is more than just a farm. You can pick your own fruit from cherries, berries, peaches, plums, nectarines and more. It also features a small petting zoo, a giant bounce pillow, slides, wagon rides, a train ride, a ball toss, mazes, an apple cannon, a pumpkin patch, butterfly house, a bakery, a restaurant, and a picnic area.

Even if farm living isn’t the life for you, go enjoy your pick of fruit, seasonal activities and year-round family fun!


Address:  6700 General Beale Rd, Bakersfield, CA 93307

18. Tule Elk State Natural Reserve

The Tule Elk State Natural Reserve protects a small herd of tule elk, once thought to be extinct. 

Thousands of tule elk used to roam California, until the Spanish arrived in the late 18th century. The herds were gradually reduced by unrestricted hunting and competition for grazing by cattle and horses. By the time elk hunting was banned in 1873, tule elk were believed to be extinct.

In 1874, a pair of tule elk was discovered on cattle baron Henry Miller’s ranch in the tule marshes near Buena Vista Lake. Miller ordered his men to protect the elk and he is now credited for their survival.

In 1932, the herd was given permanent protection on the Tule Elk State Natural Reserve. Elk from the reserve have been successfully transplanted to other areas in California.  Today over 5,000 tule elk are thriving again in California.

The tule elk are most active from late summer through early autumn. Visitors should bring binoculars for better viewing, which will also help to observe various birds of the San Joaquin Valley.

The reserve is easily accessible, located 20 miles west of Bakersfield, south of Stockdale Highway and west of Interstate 5. Picnic areas and restrooms are available. 

Website:  Tule Elk Reserve

Address:  8653 Station Rd, Buttonwillow, CA 93206

19. Kern County Raceway Park

Do you feel the need, the need for speed? Kern County Raceway Park is a 120 acre multi-use facility in Bakersfield located at Enos Lane and Interstate 5.  It includes a 0.5 mile oval speedway; a 0.33-mile clay oval track, just north of the paved oval; and a motocross motorcycle track. The raceway hosts events with K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series.

Check the website for more info and a schedule of events.


Address: 13500 Raceway Blvd, Bakersfield, CA 93311

20. Camelot Park

The Camelot Park Family Entertainment Center is the ideal spot for an afternoon of fun, birthday parties, or group events. Activities include miniature golf, go-karts, bumper boats, batting cages, and a huge video game arcade. The extensive snack bar menu includes pizza, hot dogs, nachos, french fries, and more.

Drive over and let the kids go wild.


Address:  1251 Oak St, Bakersfield, CA 93304

We hope this post helps you find some Bakersfield fun!

You can also check out all the great parks in Bakersfield.

Contact us if you need a Bakersfield Realtor to help you buy or sell a home, or just provide an estimate of your home’s value.