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.
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.
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.