Kern County, especially in recent years, has become a bustling hub of innovation, creativity, business and economics, as well as recreation, especially among millennials.
As of the last estimate in 2019, Kern County has a population of 900,202 and with each year, it continues to grow and flourish.
As you’ll see in the next few pages, Kern County has changed a lot over the years, but the heart of who we are remains the same — our county is resilient and has many hardworking citizens who keep it going, day after day.
Here are a few highlights of the cities and towns to visit throughout Kern County. What are you waiting for? Get out there and see for yourself!
While Arvin is an agriculture-based city, it has also become a spot for many well-known businesses and manufacturing stops whose focus comes from the fields and farms of the city. A few of those businesses include Grimmway carrots, Gold Ribbon potatoes, the Di Giorgio grapes, peaches, and plums, which have been distributed throughout the United States.
While agriculture plays a big role in the city of Arvin, a lot of what happens in the city is driven by education and the school system, as it is the "lifeblood of the city's engagement," said Adam Ojeda, city engineer for the city of Arvin.
Many passing through Arvin might also be familiar with its view of Bear Mountain, especially during the California Poppy season, when the wildflowers are blooming.
— Information provided by arvin.org and Adam Ojeda, city engineer, city of Arvin
Thirty years ago, it might have been understandable that citizens of Bakersfield would say, "there’s nothing to do here."
But, in the year 2021 and as the ninth largest city in California, there’s plenty to do, according to Joe Simpson, marketing and events specialist at Visit Bakersfield. It just depends on the person and what kind of activity you seek.
Buck Owens' Crystal Palace is still one of the main attractions on the streets of Bakersfield. The Bakersfield Sound put the city on the map, nationally and even internationally. It is one of Bakersfield’s treasures that not only serves as a restaurant, but also is a venue for live music and captures the legacy Buck Owens created with a museum, complete with artifacts, performance attire and old photographs displayed throughout.
Newer to the scene, just up the road from Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, and perfect for the family, is BLVD Bakersfield, complete with an arcade, a bowling alley, laser tag, an obstacle course and a restaurant.
The Woolworths Antique Store and Diner is the last 1950s luncheonette of its kind, located in the Five and Dime Antique Mall. It’s also within walking distance to a slew of other local antique stores that are worth perusing for a few hours on a Saturday morning to see what gems you can find.
Looking for live music? There’s a good chance you can find something on any given day of the week at a variety of popular spots, whether at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, Jerry’s Pizza, Sandrini’s or Temblor Brewing.
It’s also important to note that Bakersfield is one of the most bike friendly cities with accessible roads and paths to main areas of town, and is a great place to experience Basque food, as the city has one of the largest concentrations of Basque food in the United States.
— Information provided by Joe Simpson, marketing and events specialist, Visit Bakersfield
Boron is home to the world's largest borax mine, where there is now a visitor center where people can stop by, complete with an overlook to sneak a peek of the mine itself.
Boron is also home to one of the last original A&W barrel restaurants. While the A&W is no longer there, it is now appropriately named The Barrel and serves "some darn good street tacos," according to Alexia Svejda, president, California City Chamber of Commerce.
— Information provided by Alexia Svejda, president, California City Chamber of Commerce
There's a lot more to California City than meets the eye. While many might consider it, "the city that was never built," it should be called, "the city that survived." Originally purchased with the idea of being a rival city to Los Angeles and having gone bankrupt, California City is still standing today.
California City is one of the best spots for bird-watching with hundreds of different species of birds spotted in the city's parks and in nature.
An event that has gained worldwide coverage is Wasteland Weekend, which is known as the World's Largest Post-Apocalyptic Festival, thousands in attendance each year, with the exception of 2020. Another event worth noting is the Bequinox, part of the Burning Man organization, sponsored by the Los Angeles League of Arts, complete with fire dancers and more.
Last, but certainly not least, visitors should make a trip to the Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area. The best time to see tortoises is in the morning and evening, as they avoid the heat during the day.
"The sunsets and sunrise are just phenomenal here. I've lived all over the country and traveled in the world and have never seen anything as consistently good as ours," said Alexia Svejda, president of the California City Chamber of Commerce.
— Information provided by Alexia Svejda, president, California City Chamber of Commerce
With a population of 55,000, the city of Delano is Kern County's second largest city and has long been considered the "International Community" because of its rich diversity and work ethic.
Another community that continues to expand its businesses and industries, Delano has been home to Sears Logistics since 1991, moving from its original home in Los Angeles, as well as Paramount Citrus, known for its Cuties California Mandarins and Adventist Health Delano.
Delano's diverse population is also the driving force behind many of the city's events, including a four-day celebration for Cinco De Mayo and a three-day festival in July celebrating the Filipino culture. In October, Harvest holidays are recognized with a fall festival, including a Grand Marshal and Queen Barbecue, a kiddie parade and a Grand Parade with carnival rides and more.
—Information provided by Delano Chamber of Commerce website
Part of the Los Padres National Forest, Frazier Park is the quintessential picture of mountain living. It is a spot surrounded by other mountain communities, including Pine Mountain Club, Cuddy Valley, Lebec and Gorman, just to name a few. Frazier Park is also brimming with history and could be considered a hiker’s playground.
This year, the main attraction caters to avid hikers. The 321 Challenge consists of three peaks, two counties, one day — venturing to the highest points of the Kern and Ventura counties. The three peaks consist of Mount Pinos, Sawmill Mountain and Grouse Mountain.
To complete the challenge, participants must take photos at the three summits and send them to email@example.com. Once the photos have been approved, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion and will be able to purchase a commemorative patch.
Visit mymountainchamber.com to sign up or for more information.
— Information provided by Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce
Kern River Valley
The Kern River Valley is home to Lake Isabella, the Kern River and plenty of mountain trails.
People visit the Kern River Valley to experience the great outdoors, whether it’s fishing, a day at the lake or hiking, which are all perfect for day trips, as most of the trails are three to five miles.
Bull Run Creek Trail is a relatively easy trail for people at just a little over one mile, but there are a number of others to choose from in the area. Or perhaps venture into Keysville, near the lower part of the Kern River, where there are whitewater rafting opportunities, a historic fort and more than 70 miles of trails for mountain biking and other recreational activities.
Many people flock to Lake Isabella to see what they can catch on their fishing rods, but there are other water sports to try, such as windsurfing or paddleboarding. The afternoons always pick up a gust of wind, which windsurfers appreciate.
Lake Isabella will also hold a fireworks show at 9 p.m. July 3. It's free to the public in most areas, besides the lake, which is a $10 fee. In August, people can look forward to the Annual Rubber Duck Race, which partners with The Exchange Club of Kern Valley as a fundraiser for scholarships to give to local youth for college or a vocational school.
— Information provided by Frederick Clark, president, Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce
Known as “the gateway to the sea,” Maricopa sits between Bakersfield and the coastal areas. Many pass through this oil town, but don’t lay down roots. In fact, it is the smallest incorporated city in Kern County with a population of 1,192 as of the 2019 population estimates. As such, most of the jobs offered in Maricopa are oil related.
The city was incorporated in 1911, which used to draw a celebration each year with its Lakeview Gusher, a famous oil gusher well that put Kern County on the map as “first in oil” in the state and nation, according to Maricopa’s page on the Kern Council of Governments.
In the next few months, the city will also open a $1.9 million park, which will be a great addition for the kids, since there isn’t much to do in town. In addition to that, the city obtained a $7 million grant for sewer lines.
While some have encouraged the city to become unincorporated, this is a city that plans to stay.
— Information provided by Lori Robison, City of Maricopa
Many will recognize McFarland as the focus of the Disney movie “McFarland, USA” starring Kevin Costner, based on the McFarland High coach and team winning CIF-State Cross Country Championships held in 1987.
However, it is so much more than that. The city’s tagline, “tradition, unity, excellence,” sums it up.
McFarland is rich in agriculture and farming lifestyles. In fact, two-thirds of the jobs in the city are agriculture based and the community continues to grow.
McFarland's added values are award-winning business revitalization programs, distinguished schools, one of the 100 safest cities in California, beautiful parks, and popular outdoor recreation opportunities.
— Information provided by Maria Lara, city manager, McFarland
Known as “California’s Golden Crossroad,” Mojave connects people to a variety of other areas, including Ridgecrest, Rosamond, the Kern River Valley, Tehachapi and Willow Springs.
Perhaps its greatest achievement, or what it is most-known for, is the Mojave Air & Space Port. Many record-breaking moments in space history have happened on that very runway, such as the development and launch of SpaceShipOne and the Voyager launch, which was the first aircraft in history to fly around the world without stopping or refueling.
Each month, they host an event called “Plane Crazy Saturdays,” where people can see what the Mojave Air & Space Port is all about. Various aircraft are displayed throughout the airport and visitors can also have lunch at the Voyager restaurant.
The Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake provides and maintains the land, facilities and other assets used for the Navy's research, development and more for the warfighter. It is also the largest single landholding and represents 85 percent of the Navy's land for RDAT&E use and 38 percent of the Navy's land holdings worldwide, according to their website.
— Information provided by Bill Deaver, director, board of directors, Mojave Air & Space Port
While widely known for its locations used in films and its vast outdoor spaces, soon, it might become a hub for tourism.
The city is close to opening a California Welcome Center, which won’t be the typical visitor center people might imagine. It will feature virtual reality experiences of the petroglyphs in Petroglyph Park and more. It will be the only one in Kern County and the Ridgecrest area expects will intrigue people with its interactive features and the information it will provide to visitors.
Just 17 miles south of Ridgecrest is the Randsburg Ghost Town, not only used for filming, like something out of a western movie, but also a great place to wander. It is complete with a General Store and a saloon, and colorful facades that give the illusion of an old town.
— Information provided by David Lueck, film commissioner, Ridgecrest Regional Film Commission
Putting the city on the map, Shafter has become the “economic gem in Kern County,” with its boom in business in recent years with distribution centers, such as Amazon and Walmart. There are also more names on the way that haven’t been announced just yet for the 10 million square feet of land.
With a population of nearly 20,000, that number is expected to grow as businesses and jobs continue to expand in the area.
Bob Meadows, economic development director for the city of Shafter, said there’s a loyalty to their hometown that he hasn’t seen in many places. People want to live in Shafter, they graduate and return to put down roots.
The housing developments in Shafter are continuing to expand, as well. The most recent housing development, Gossamer Grove, built by Lennar Homes, had 400 homes built just in the last year. There are also 10,000 lots for housing approved to be built on the Shafter side of 7th Standard Road.
In addition to the large businesses that have joined Shafter, there are a couple of local delicacies, including Tin Cup Coffee that has become a gathering spot for locals for either lunch or dinner meetings. El Michoacano is another favorite for Mexican food.
The Historic Shafter Depot Museum is also a place to be visited. It is 100 years old and was originally on the Sante Fe Railroad. It is now part of the museum to be toured.
Like many spots in Kern County, it is an agricultural town, but it is slowly progressing with time.
“It is exciting and fun to be part of things that are happening… People have a good attitude,” added Meadows.
— Information provided by Bob Meadows, economic development director, City of Shafter
Taft is an oil town, through and through. In fact, one of its biggest community celebrations is called Oildorado, celebrating those who migrated to the area when oil seeps were detected shortly after the turn of the century. It runs for 10 days — in that time, there's a parade, a queen pageant, barbecues and more.
The West Kern Oil Museum is another piece of the oil history story told in Taft, and was founded by five women in 1973. The Oil Museum is a step into yesteryear with vintage spaces and props from the early days of oil.
The Taft Historic Fort is a slightly larger replica of Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. It was a project between the Works Project Administration and the County of Kern in 1938. It is now used for offices, meeting rooms and even a wedding venue and event space.
The history of the town is memorialized with its monuments, including the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which boasts beautiful scenery and also provides more information with the Goodwin Education Center, where visitors can learn about the diverse communities of wildlife and plant species.
And, of course, the Oilworker Monument highlights all that Taft is about, a tribute to those hardworking men and women who ultimately helped create the city of Taft.
— Information provided by Taft Chamber of Commerce website
The Rail Depot Museum: Once the main passenger train depot for Tehachapi, it was purchased by the city more than a decade ago and remodeled before a fire burned the facility just prior to opening. The city of Tehachapi built a replica building in its place that houses railroad artifacts, memorabilia and other train and rail line items specific to the important shipping corridor that is in place through Tehachapi. The Depot is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Tehachapi Mountain wineries: Recently recognized with their own American Viticultural Area designation, “Tehachapi Mountains” wines are award-winning and now appropriately branded for the region they represent. The soils in the fertile Cummings Valley allow for thick-skinned grapes and wonderful wines. Triassic Vineyards, Tehachapi Winery, Dorner Family Vineyards, Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Co., and Rancho de los Viajeros vineyards are open every weekend for wine tasting, dining and live entertainment. Make the local drive to the Tehachapi Mountains to enjoy some of California’s best wines that are now garnering national attention.
Hiking/biking opportunities: Whether on a mountain bike or road bike, Tehachapi has miles of bike paths and trails for both challenge and enjoyment. The LeHigh Trails are a membership-based trail network for mountain bike enthusiasts while the miles of schedule I bike lanes and other routes throughout the city and Tehachapi Valley provide plenty of safe and unique cycling routes.
Information on all these attractions is available on the “Visit Tehachapi App” available in the Apple and Google Play stores. Trail maps, wine venue information and other Tehachapi-specific attractions are available on your smartphone.
— Information provided by Corey Costelloe, economic development coordinator/assistant to the city manager, Tehachapi
Approximately 27,691 people call Wasco home. It is one of the most affordable areas in the state, and as a farming and agricultural community, Wasco is a great place to expand and develop businesses, raise a family and create a life.
The Wasco Historical Society & Museum promotes research and public education through its museum collection. Learn about the history of the town and the hope for the future.
Wasco also has four parks for children and families to explore, including: Annin Park, Barker Park, Cormack Park and Westside Park.
— Information provided by Cityofwasco.org