There’s always one question I anticipate when people from out of town hear I’m from Bakersfield: What do you do for fun out there?

And for the longest time, I never knew the answer.

Bakersfield isn’t a small city, but growing up here in the mid-’90s always had me wishing I could rack my brain for a place other than The Marketplace or Jerry’s Pizza – my two favorite haunts as a young adult. And now, as an active 20-something, I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where I always want to be busy – and to live in a town that keeps me that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to big cities. But after living in Washington, D.C., for a short while and Los Angeles for six years, I’ve come to realize that Bakersfield definitely has its perks.

I mean, don’t get me started on the Obamas’ motorcade that doubled as my alarm clock back in 2013. Living three blocks from the White House had me up at 7 a.m. every morning to the smooth jazz of bulletproof Cadillacs roving down the street.

So when I say I enjoy my quiet residential areas separate from the nightlife of downtown, I truly mean it. Bakersfield is quiet in all the right places.

But lately Bakersfield’s been on a kick I can’t ignore. Over the last decade, our town has experienced a growth spurt I’ve been excited to watch.

Since the early ’90s, Bakersfield has tripled in size, from 185,000 to well over 370,000, with a median age of about 30 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It’s a great time to be young in Bakersfield.

Population diversity is also expanding, with 37 percent of Bakersfield residents being white, 45 percent Hispanic or Latino, 8 percent African-American, 6 percent Asian and around 2 percent American Indian.

And with a little over 12,000 businesses established in Kern County right now, the real question is what aren’t we doing out here?

Places like Temblor Brewing Company, Cafe Smitten and 1933: Speakeasy Bar & Grill earn a spot on my list of places knocking it out of the park this month. But that’s not all. Thrill-seekers can get their fix at the new Bakersfield Karting Experience, which opened in February, or try their hand hiking through the spring fauna at Wind Wolves Preserve.

While I could never trade a quiet childhood at my local theater or watching my favorite band downtown, the last two years in my hometown have been the best years I’ve spent in Bakersfield.

I no longer buy the fact that Bakersfield is the quiet, laid-back place it used to be. We’re seeing a daily expansion of the downtown area, a newly diversified selection of food and shopping, and a fresh perspective on how our residents spend their weekends.

It’s time to start celebrating our creativity, taste and ingenuity as a city in an era I like to call the “Bakersfield Boom.”

So whether you’re someone who enjoys a loud Saturday night or quiet, nature-filled weekend, Bakersfield has something for you. All you have to do is look. 

Opinions expressed in this column are those of Charmaine Cleveland.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.