Bakersfield has a lot of history (relatively speaking, that is… nothing in California has THAT much history). I particularly love the history of country music in Bakersfield, having introduced the “Bakersfield Sound” to the world. Stories of the gold rush and Mr. Baker’s original “field” are fascinating as well.
One of the things I’ve been pleasantly surprised by in Bakersfield is its array of good restaurants. It’s not hard to find amazing Mexican food in Bakersfield, but it also doesn’t take much more than a quick search on Yelp to find numerous hotspot eateries around the city.
Having moved to Bakersfield from Dallas, we have definitely experienced differences in weather. Don’t get me wrong—the weather in Dallas is far more desirable than many parts of the U.S., but there are three things I do not miss: humidity, ice storms, and tornadoes!
4) The All American Barber Shop
Truthfully, I dropped in on the All American Barber Shop because I thought their Instagram feed looked cool. Eight months and several haircuts later, I’ve come to love my regular visits. All the barbers are super down-to-earth and they treat every customer like one of the family.
5) Crossfit OD
If you would have told me 8 months ago that I’d be competing in the 2017 Crossfit Games I would have told you that you were crazy. I’ve always enjoyed being active and playing sports, but weightlifting? Yeah… we didn’t do much of that on the high school tennis team! Thanks to Carrie Wageman, the amazing team of coaches she has formed at Crossfit OD, and the culture of encouragement and positive competition they all create together, I’m finding myself in the best shape of my life, surrounded by a ton of genuinely good people.
Which leads me to the general friendliness of Bakersfield. It truly feels like a little piece of Texas in the middle of California, Southern hospitality and all. People smile at each other while walking down the street, conversations begin in the middle of checkout lines, and everyone seems to have a one or two-degree connection to everyone else (even though there are almost 400,000 people living here!).
Every downtown has its pros and cons, and maybe for a time the negatives of downtown Bakersfield outweighed the positives, but I think that tide is beginning to change. All it takes is a cup of coffee with one the many residents who have chosen to make the downtown area (and its surrounding neighborhoods) their home and you will have your eyes opened to the charm and appeal of our city center. From the restoration of historic homes, to the investment in community-encouraging development, to a pervasive appreciation for the arts, downtown Bakersfield has a wonderful momentum building up from within it.
8) Fox Theater
Speaking of jewels in downtown Bakersfield, my wife and I went to see Brian Regan at the Fox Theater a few weeks ago and I was blown away by the venue! It is intriguing on the exterior and absolutely beautiful on the interior. What a treasure to have had this theater preserved so well over its many years in existence!
In my 8 months here, I have met more people who are thinking innovatively about Bakersfield’s future than I have ever met in the several other cities in which I have lived. These are people like Darci Atkinson who owns The Kitchen, a business that offers cooking classes to school children, hosts private parties and offers incredible prix fixe meals, or Alyssa Haas, of Kern Innovation and Technology (KIT), who hosts hack-a-thons and other events to get children and young adults excited about advancements in technology, or Daniel Cater and Austin Smith, whose recent additions to downtown Bakersfield—17th Place Townhomes and Café Smitten—have positively tipped the scale of public perception almost overnight.
Just like the chicken or the egg, I’m not sure if the innovation in Bakersfield is driving the optimism, or if it’s the other way around. Either way, there is a palpable excitement about the future of Bakersfield slowly growing in the hearts of its residents. Bakersfield is a city with a ton of potential, and for the first time in a long time, those buds of potential are beginning to bloom.
One line that we have heard over and over is, “Bakersfield is two hours from anything: two hours from the beach, two hours from the mountains, two hours from Los Angeles. You can’t beat it.” And while that sales-pitch does hold true, I would also argue that Bakersfield isn’t just two hours from good things, great things exist right here! The landscape here has actually blown me away. The rolling hills that lead up to Tehachapi, the mountain ranges that seem to emerge out of nowhere (not something you see in Texas…), the variety of colorful trees all around the city, and the sunsets! I have been so surprised at how amazing Bakersfield sunsets are; they’re gorgeous!
I already mentioned the sense of Southern hospitality that exists in Bakersfield, but that can be done just in passing. More significant is the longer-term sense of compassion that is not hard to find amongst Bakersfield’s residents. This city is not hurting for non-profits. There are tons! And they are doing great work to make Bakersfield a better place.
Lastly (for now, anyway), I have come to love the sense of pride that exists in Bakersfield. It’s so fascinating to me what a quick Twitter search can find: tons of teenagers longing to get out of this city and explore the “real world.” However, after meeting many young professionals in Bakersfield, I’ve found that most share the same story. They, too, once longed to leave Bakersfield, and they did. But for some reason or another most felt a pull back to the city in which they were raised, and upon their return, they discovered a new appreciation and sense of pride for this city they call “home.”
What is it that YOU love about Bakersfield? What have been your pleasant surprises about this city?