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Courtesy of Buck Owens Crystal Palace

Bakersfield

Bakersfield
Experience California’s oil-rich history, with Basque food and country western music on the side

This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth a visit is Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, 45 miles/72 kilometers north of town. The site of an early 1900s settlement—an attempt by a group of African Americans to create a utopian society far from negative influences from the outside world—it offers a remarkable look at an unusual event in California history. Visit a reconstructed schoolhouse, church, and other structures.

Fast forward to Bakersfield’s newer attractions, including the gallery-filled Arts District, home the 1930 Fox Theater, where performances range from pop to ballet. Also in town is the Buck Owens' Crystal Palace, the place to hear the region’s signature Bakersfield Sound, a twangy type of Country Western music. The country’s largest concentration of Basque restaurants, including century-old Noriega’s, is reminders of the region’s rich Basque history (immigrants from the Spanish and French Pyrenees settled sheep ranches here in the late 1800s). Wildflowers blanket the nearby Tehachapi Range with some of the state’s best wildflower displays in spring.

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Laura Flippen

Central California

Discover the Central Valley

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8
December
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
16°
High
3°
Low
Mar - May
28°
High
7°
Low
June - Aug
36°
High
16°
Low
Sept - Nov
32°
High
6°
Low

California’s heartland offers up one of the state’s most authentic and sensory-rich experiences, a chance to see—and taste—the state’s bounty at every turn. Follow oak-shaded country roads to farm stands overflowing with fresh produce, and meander along wine trails to some of the state’s most productive vineyards and low-key tasting rooms.

Peaches, plums, apricots, and tomatoes—just some of the ultra-fresh produce you will find at farm stands throughout the valley.

Throughout the broad valley, stretching for over 400 miles/644 kilometers down the middle of the state, are cities and towns rich with history, international culture, and “everyone’s welcome” charm. 

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Lake Berryessa, located just outside of Winters, has a sunken city underneath it called Monticello.
SPECIAL FEATURE
Harvest season is a time of celebration (and good eats) in California’s agricultural heartland.

Home to many signature festivals and events, the Central Valley shines brightest around harvest season.

"After all, this is one of the world’s most bountiful agricultural

...
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Alex Farnum

Davis

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the perks of this ag-oriented college town

Eco-friendly, liberal leaning, progressive, impressive professor’s homes and fraternity houses—Davis has the hallmarks of a classic college...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Farm-fresh produce, culinary adventures

Juicy heirloom tomatoes and just-picked strawberries. Super-sweet peaches shaped like mini Ufos. Artisanal cheeses, emerald-green olive oils, local wildflower honey—California’s farmers’ markets...

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Laura Flippen
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Laura Flippen

Haggin Museum

Local history merges with world-renowned art at this must-see museum in Stockton’s Victory Park

Housed in an early-19th-century brick building, this handsome art and history museum is the centerpiece of Stockton’s stately Victory Park. The 34...

Laura Flippen

Trip 3-5 days 10 stops

California's Heartland

Pick fresh produce, relax in cool gardens, and learn about local farming heritage
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This relaxed city has some secret gems that make a pleasing start to your trip. Start at Sundial Bridge, a functional work of art, the remarkable pedestrian bridge, designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, spans the tree-lined, trout-filled Sacramento River in Redding’s Turtle...

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This rapidly growing city in the southern Central Valley is full of pleasant surprises. Once known for oil and agriculture, Bakersfield is morphing into a Central Valley hub for arts, culture, and sports, while still offering a glimpse of the region’s past. One fascinating historical site worth...

April

One of California’s premier universities, University of California, Davis, invites everyone to its annual open house—a chance to learn, play, touch, taste, and enjoy the leafy campus just north of...

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Courtesy of U.C. Davis College of Engineering
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Kodiak Greenwood

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Map of Shasta Cascade
Some 300 species of birds and mammals make this a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts

Located on the Pacific Flyway 60 miles north of Sacramento, Gray Lodge encompasses 9,200 acres surrounded by agricultural flatlands and...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Houseboating

Take to the water on a deluxe floating home

In California, it’s hard to talk about houseboating without talking about the Central Valley. One of the state’s premier places for vacationing in...

November

Honor the harvest season at this remarkable, family-friendly event, hosted at the beautiful Full Belly Farm in the fertile Capay Valley. The valley, just north of Sacramento, has one of the world’...

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Harriot Manley/Sunset Publishing

California Delta

A boater’s and fisherman’s paradise awaits

Located northeast of the San Francisco Bay, this 1,000-mile network of inland waterways—the major drainage from the snow-capped Sierra Nevada to...

Lodi Wine Country
Dale Goff Photography

Lodi Wine Country

Sample big, bold reds and eco-friendly winemaking

Best known for big red wines, particularly old-vine Zinfandels, this American Viticultural Area 100 miles east of San Francisco is also a leader...

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Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Fresno

Discover agriculture and culture in the valley's biggest city

The Central Valley’s largest city makes for a surprisingly lively getaway. Seven stadiums and a pair of arenas satisfy sporty types, and an annual...

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The 10 acres of rooms, passages and gardens at Fresno's Forestiere Underground Gardens were excavated by hand using only farming tools.
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Ian Dagnall/Alamy

Bakersfield's Noriega Hotel

California's Central Valley
This classic Basque restaurant is a must-try in Bakersfield

When Spaniards began descending on Bakersfield in the 1800s, searching for gold and herding sheep, they brought with them an...

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Derrell McCain/Alamy

Best Kept Secret: Solano County

See why this Central Valley region holds its own in terms of good wine, pretty countryside, and cool activities

A treasure awaits about 20 miles east of Napa, in a lovely but largely “secret” area of sprawling countryside and bayfront beauty. This is...