California’s agricultural heartland, the Central Valley, is also home to some of the state’s most fascinating roadside attractions. In the second episode of California Pop, friends Anthony and Shikira hit the open road in search of the most curious, campy, and wondrous destinations along State Route 99 and beyond.
For hundreds of years, the Central Valley has beckoned farmers and dreamers from all over the world thanks to its exceptionally fertile soil and extended growing season. You can’t drive far without finding manicured fields full of workers harvesting tomatoes, citrus fruit, and nuts, as well as the grapes that fuel much of the state’s wine industry. In the “Central Valley” episode, the road-tripping duo travels to Kern County, Tulare County, Bakersfield, and beyond to try the fresh produce and see the quirky and historical spots that make this region unlike any other.
The Penny Bar
Head to the tiny town of McKittrick in Kern County to find a shimmering dive bar plastered with more than one million pennies. Search the counter to find the establishment’s oldest coin (stamped with the date 1883), throw back a cold one, play a round of pool on the copper-covered table, and hang a dollar bill on the ceiling for good luck.
Casa de Fruta
With orchards dating back to 1908, this family-owned cherry-stand-turned-massive-roadside-attraction in Hollister is the perfect place to sample the regional bounty. Try pomegranate wine, shop for fruit and nuts in the 10,000-square-foot market, ride the carousel, and don’t leave without one of the Zanger family’s famous pies.
Buena Vista Museum of Natural History & Science
Find 15-million-year-old fossils, Native American artifacts, and an impressive collection of taxidermy animals (including a pride of lions) at this Bakersfield museum. Kids (and kids at heart) will love the “Oh” Zone, a hands-on space with an archeology dig table and a shell inspection site.
Luigi’s Restaurant & Delicatessen
For more than 100 years, Luigi’s has been serving old-world Italian fare to Bakersfield locals and travelers. Belly up to one of the tables covered in red-checkered cloth and dig into a plate of pasta covered in the Lemucchi family meat sauce—crafted from a secret recipe passed down for four generations.
Forestiere Underground Gardens
In Fresno, one of the most interesting attractions can be found underground. Take a guided tour of Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere’s incredible life’s work: a beautiful 2.5-acre network of passageways, tunnels, courtyards, and living spaces carved out of solid rock.
Built in 1891 in the city of Porterville, the Zalud House is a brick-laden portal to a different time. Step inside the elaborate mansion covered by a mansard roof to find the original possessions of the Zaluds, including the tiny Victorian-style glass coffin preserving the family’s beloved bird, and a bullet-ridden chair where the daughter’s husband lost his life.
Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park
Explore an inspiring chapter of history at this Tulare County park. In 1908, Colonel Allen Allensworth of the U.S Army—and a former slave—founded the town with the vision of creating a community for African Americans to create better lives. Visit the restored collection of buildings, including a historic schoolhouse and library.