Charmaine Cleveland

Charmaine Cleveland

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.

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