This 112-room Spanish Colonial Revival hotel first opened in 1928, offering luxury lodgings for oilmen during the city’s first energy boom. Today, it remains a Bakersfield institution, featuring five restaurants and bars decorated with nods to the city’s history, from the pop-art cowgirl mural in the lobby to wallpaper printed with oil rigs and farm equipment. thepadrehotel.com
Bakersfield Museum of Art
For more than 60 years, this contemporary art museum has showcased work by California-based artists. This fall, exhibits include Bakersfield Built, an examination of the region’s 1960s architecture—including the George Ablin residence built by Frank Lloyd Wright—and Of the Sea, a series of large-scale oceanic oil paintings by artist and marine scientist Natalie Arnoldi. bmoa.org
Wind Wolves Preserve
Grasslands, pinyon forests, and oak savannas converge at this 93,000-acre preserve (the largest nonprofit nature preserve on the West Coast), located between the Coastal and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. These varied landscapes make it perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and spotting endangered species like the San Joaquin kit fox and Bakersfield cactus. wildlandsconservancy.org
Built in 1930 by acclaimed L.A. movie palace architect S. Charles Lee, this Art Deco venue recalls Hollywood’s Golden Age. The 1,500-seat theater went dark in the late ’70s, only to be saved from the wrecking ball by local supporters nearly 20 years later. Today, it’s the place in town to catch indie films and cult classics, as well as stand-up comedy, dance performances, musicals, and more. thebakersfieldfox.com
Eat & Drink
Inside this downtown Beaux Arts building—constructed for the Security National Trust Company in 1910 and later used as a World War II rations center—you’ll find American classics (think biscuits and gravy, apple-glazed pork chops, and cookie-topped milkshakes) served all day and a menu of experimental cocktails like El Apio, made with tequila blanco, housemade celery shrub, and lemon-jalapeño simple syrup. the18hundred.com
Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
The late Buck Owens helped popularize the Bakersfield Sound, a rock-inflected style of country music that emerged in the 1950s, following the arrival of Dust Bowl migrants. His hometown honky tonk draws some of country’s biggest stars—from Willie Nelson to Garth Brooks—and serves the singer’s favorite meal, chicken-fried steak. The place is decorated with his custom guitars, bedazzled suits, and even a custom convertible previously owned by Elvis. buckowens.com
The Grapes of Wrath
If you haven’t read it since high school, revisit John Steinbeck’s classic novel about the Joad family’s journey from the Dust Bowl–ravaged farmlands of Oklahoma to start new lives in Bakersfield’s Kern County—and marvel at how this classic was banned from schools and libraries in 1939.
Hunt for vintage clothes, mid-century furniture, and more at the Bakersfield Antique District, a downtown cluster of a dozen antique stores. Be sure to stop at the Five and Dime Antique Mall to experience an especially rare relic: America’s last operating Woolworth’s luncheonette, which has been serving burgers and shakes since 1950.