A Day in Bakersfield
Several years ago I was watching an episode of California’s Gold where Huell Howser visited Bakersfield and I immediately thought, “I’ve got to go.” Funny thing is, every time I told that to family and friends they’d respond with skepticism, “Bakersfield? Why would you want to go there?” But I knew there were treasures to be found in the the San Joaquin Valley so this year I used my birthday as an excuse to get my family to accompany me on an adventure. Now, I already told you about the Tule Elk Reserve but our journey didn’t stop there and we soon found ourselves exploring the city of Bakersfield.
You all know I love my historic sites and I knew Bakersfield was chock full of them so I started with a big one – Woolworth’s.
I know what your thinking – Woolworth’s closed years ago. That’s certainly true BUT in Bakersfield a little bit of it remains.
The former five and dime now is now the Five & Dime Antique Mall and it has kept an original part of its former identity alive – the lunch counter.
When my dad was a teenager he worked at Woolworth’s and my aunt, his older sister, worked at the lunch counter so I’ve heard tales of the famed chain. By the time I came around the days of drug store soda shops and five and dime lunch counters were long over (save for a token few) and I longed to go back in time to experience them.
So when I heard I could still visit a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Bakersfield I knew I had to go. After our tour of the Elk Reserve we were pretty famished so we stopped by for some hamburgers and hotdogs. For $7 I enjoyed a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate coke and you know what? It was delicious.
Afterwards we wandered around the antique mall and marveled at how many elements of the original store remain.
Since our trip was all about historical sites our logical next destination was the Kern County Museum. Now, I love a good museum and it turns out Kern County is a pretty great one. And it’s quite unique.
Instead of housing a bunch of artifacts in a big building here the buildings are the museum! On 16 acres reside over 60 (!) historic Kern County structures that have been lovingly restored and opened to the public.
I did not expect this going in and was completely blow away by the vastness of their collection. So many varieties! So many eras!
Vintage gas station? Check.
Log cabin? Check.
Oil rig? Check.
Merle Haggard’s Childhood Home? Check.
And if you think you can just look at the exteriors you’d be wrong. You can view the interior of nearly every structure and there are several you can walk through. And when you do you’ll find lots of fun surprises.
I was blown away by the items on display. I could have spent hours just wandering around and discovering all the treasures on view. There was only one problem. It was hot. REALLY hot. Try as I might I just couldn’t last that long in the heat and had to move on. But I don’t mind because it gives me an excuse to return when the weather is more forgiving.
Since it was so hot I knew just where we would head next.
Dewar’s. THIS is where Huell visited all those years ago. Founded in 1909 Dewar’s is the place to visit for candy and ice cream. There are three locations throughout the area but we made sure to visit the downtown original. Inside there’s a soda fountain and small candy shop offering their famous taffy. I was already familiar with the taffy (which is super delicious) and this time wanted to try one of their ice cream sundaes.
For some reason, every time I visit a new ice cream parlor I have to try the Black & White. There’s just something so delicious about chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with hot fudge and marshmallow cream and Dewar’s didn’t disappoint. Now, they do have one quirk in that they don’t offer whipped cream but, honesty, I didn’t miss it. The ice cream and toppings were just as delicious without it.
I think there’s no better way to end than with a sundae so we called it a day and headed home. My family, who had originally been skeptical, agreed that we found some true treasures on our visit. In fact, we all loved each and every place. Bakersfield is home to some wonderful and unique spots and I’m glad I finally made a point to check them out.