Legendary country star (and Hee Haw host) Buck Owens came to this sun-soaked southern stretch of the Central Valley and felt comfortable here—maybe it was the oil derricks and big vistas reminiscent of his Texas home—and created a special genre of music that became known as the Bakersfield Sound. While most visitors who want to hear this guitar-driven, saloon-worthy music head to the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, there’s another worthy stop for learning about this distinctive music: the Kern County Museum . This unusual 16-acre complex includes an interesting exhibit highlighting the history of how this sound came about, with details on local music legends. It’s a great way to add a deeper context before catching a show at Buck’s legendary palace down the road.
Also take time to explore over 50 historic buildings preserved on site as the Pioneer Village, which provides a window into the boom-town atmosphere that swept the region when oil was discovered here in the late 1800s. Peek into a period-perfect general store, modest sheepherder’s cabin, jail cells, and a rather alarming dentist office —enough to make anyone brush three times a day rather than sit in that chair and open wide.