At the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley lies Bakersfield, one of the valley’s biggest towns and key agricultural centers. The region has seen its share of prosperity thanks not only to crops but also to oil. The Kern River oil field, developed in 1899, stretches from Oildale, just north of town, to Taft, some 30 miles west, and remains one of the biggest oil producers in the nation.
Though some parts of town are rather shabby, downtown is a surprisingly upbeat mix of restored buildings, county offices, restaurants and antique shops, such as the Five and Dime (cnr 19th St & K St) inside an original Woolworth’s building. The 1930 Fox Theater hosts regular performances and the still impressive Padre Hotel is currently undergoing restoration. Near the freeway, Buck Owens’ multi-million-dollar Crystal Palace is a raging success.