In 1868, a massive flood rolled down the Sierra Nevada Mountains, carrying tree after uprooted tree in its wake. Once the waters receded, those trees and the very confused squirrels hiding in them covered the Kern River valley. That's right where Thomas Barnes found them. So he cut them into logs and built a cabin from the ground up, then moved in with his wife and seven children. Today, that same cabin stands as one of the buildings within Kern County Museum's Pioneer Village.
The structures here are relics of several different times and places. Some came from old farms in the area, while others once stood on the main streets of towns?such as the Beale Memorial Clock Tower from old Bakersfield. While their original purposes have long since passed, the buildings still spring to life each time a visitor passes through. It's easy to imagine a blacksmith at work at the Calloway Ranch in the late 1800s, or the faithful tellers who saw The Kern Valley Bank through the Great Depression.
A different view of Kern County's history takes center stage inside the museum's other permanent attraction, Black Gold: The Oil Experience. Here, 9,640 square feet of exhibit space reveal how oil forms deep within the earth, as well as methods for its discovery and production. Other displays profile the workers and historical events that ultimately led to Kern County claiming 64% of California?s oil production.
The Bakersfield Museum of Art caters to avid aesthetes and casual connoisseurs alike with a prismatic pastiche of regional art and traveling exhibits. Explore western U.S. landscapes through Maynard Dixon's painted works in the Space, Silence, Spirit exhibit, or incite daydreams of horizontal showers and closet waterfalls in Uniquely Ours, an installation boasting the architectural modernism of local homes. In addition to free entry to the museum, members receive access to lectures from celebrated artists, invitations to events, museum discounts, and more.
Within the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History's thick, siege-proof walls and beneath its huge, atmosphere-shunning roof are 16,000 square feet of exhibits spanning the subjects of anatomy, astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, biology, geology, and paleontology. Use your two tickets ($7 each) to bring along a fellow fossil fanatic as you explore an array of long-extinct creatures such as the mixosaurus, the dugong, and the VCR repairman. Elsewhere, tap into the geologic history of California, sifting through eons of erosion and millennia of movement. The museum's nooks of knowledge hold exhibits for everyone, with a veritable treasure trove of gems, minerals, and petrified wood wowing the young, the old, and the Highlander alike.
Established: Before 1950
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: An authentic working drill rig from 1890
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
California's natural resources have defined the state's history and evolution, from the gold hiding in the hills to the oil bubbling just under the earth's surface. The California Oil Museum tracks the history of petroleum within California's borders, starting with the fossilization of organic matter. Then, through a series of interactive displays, videos, games, and restored gas station memorabilia, the museum's exhibits peel away the millennia. Visitors can relive the glorious early days of roadsters and highways through the vintage gas pump exhibit, or try their hand at old-fashioned oil siphoning with the restored turn-of-the-century cable tool drilling kit. The museum gives plenty of reasons to return, with rotating exhibits on science and history.
In 1917, the Ranger was a sport-fishing yacht—the first built on the West Coast—that hosted celebrities trying their luck at snagging tuna, swordfish, and other swimmers. Flash forward nearly a century, and the Ranger is now a lure, one of several vintage boats that entice visitors to the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Inside a former Naval Reserve building, the museum traces the history of the California Coast seas, from cannons to seaplanes and surfing to the environment. The Munger Theater brings the sea to life with films that could feature maritime history or a trip around the coast, and lectures and other events further enrich the experience.
At the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, visitors of all ages delight in newfound knowledge about the community around them, soaking up information from a wealth of permanent collections, artifacts, and art. Guests marvel at beautiful Chumash baskets and stonework, paintings and armor from Spanish settlements, and relics of life in Santa Barbara during the 19th and early 20th centuries.