Bakersfield: Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everything

When many people talk of Bakersfield, they have one of two things that randomly blurt out of their mouths. It is either, “Oh, that hick town?” or “I’ve driven through there before.” Well things are changing. This once small town has doubled in size over the last two years. Land prices have tripled and now we are looking at even more growth due to the High Speed Rail system that will stop in LA, Bakersfield, and San Francisco. Bakersfield maybe growing at expediential rates but the feeling in everyone’s hearts is the same; this is still a small community of loving families and homegrown businesses.

When traveling to Bakersfield whether for an overnight stop or if it is for pure business there are a few in’s and out’s of the town that may help you to fight boredom or that urge to just keep driving. If you are looking to spend a little money on something, unique we have the place for you. Bakersfield’s downtown district is a bustling hodgepodge of shops, sites and food. My recommendation would be to park inbetween F and Chester on any of the side streets. This allows easy access to all the shops in the downtown district. F St. and Chester are the streets to meander during the day or on a pleasant afternoon. You will find your way into some unique shops that contain everything from furniture, cameras, made to order instruments, to books, bars, and coffee. The downtown district has many ‘adult’ pleasures as well if that’s what you are looking for. Such places as Momma Tosca’s and Tailgaters bring that little extra adult hood into your life. Momma Tosca’s Italian eatery takes you back to a classic Italian mind frame. While Tailgaters sets you up with a sports bar with all the flair of an urban loft in N.Y. or L.A. There is really only one place downtown that I would recommend staying away from on the weekends, which is Jerry’s Pizza. While the bands that play there are awesome it seems like it’s always one person away from code violations which is not my cup of tea.

Anyone from Bakersfield will tell you that for a movie and a bite to eat you will want to head out to the Marketplace. While this is, a great idea be prepared for long wait times and crowded walkways during weekend evenings. Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest expect at least an hour wait at any of the restaurants and blocked intersections within the Marketplace as well. If you do dare to dawn the Marketplace for dinner and a movie Friday night take these things into your notes. Call ahead for a reservation at Tahoe Joes unless you are going around 4 o’clock, (which you would not need a reservation at 4 o’clock) get your tickets for your movie before you go to dinner even if you have three hours until it starts. If you feel like doing a little window shopping before your flick start at the Olccott’s side and work your way towards the Cinema. This allows you to actually enjoy the Marketplace and the fountains that make the Marketplace quite relaxing. After about seven pm, you will find that the Marketplace starts to turn into a preteen/teen hangout. There are at least a thousand underage kids each Friday and Saturday night. Do not let the clothes fool you they are underage. Other than, that ‘little’ obstacle The Marketplace is quite nice during the day. There is music, birds, and shopping. Lets face the facts. What is better than shopping?

If you looking for less people and a little more relaxation I’ve got the place for you. Off Stockdale Hwy and Old River Road, you have the Riverwalk. This is a rather recent development for Bakersfield. First, you will want to eat at either California Pizza Kitchen or my favorite the Elephant Bar. The Elephant Bar is a fresh splash of exotic with the atmosphere of the Rainforest CafÃ?©. This place is brilliant. Decorated wonderfully and with a flair that stands on it’s own. As you enter through the doors protected by gold elephants you step out of the ordinary and into the wild. To the right you will find a bar that not only sculpturally beautiful with its bronze elephants and soft blue lights, but a fully stocked & competent bar. After you eat your Pacific flair meal, you may desire to walk it off. What better way to do it along the thirty-three acre park. The Riverwalk park is fully equipped with a bike path, looking tower (to gaze down on the mighty Kern River) as well as beautiful landscaping that will entrance you with it’s romantic views.

Bakersfield is no longer a town that issues the statement, “we can wait.” I urge you to stop and stay a while. Find an interest that fits your schedule and run with it. Bakersfield is still young nevertheless it is on its way to becoming a cultural diverse, active town, with that ever present southern state of mind.

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