A major oil-producing area, Bakersfield also hosts the nation's largest Basque community, descendants of shepherding immigrants. For local flavor, visit the 1893 Noriega Hotel, a Basque landmark, and dine at a Basque restaurant. The Kern County Museum and Lori Brock Children's Discovery Center include 50 historic buildings, dating from 1860 to 1930, and hands-on exhibits. To the south, in Lebec, the 1854-era Fort Tejon houses a restored Army dragoon barracks and a museum.

East of Bakersfield, both the Upper and Lower Kern rivers draw whitewater rafting adventurers. For wildlife viewing, visit the California Living Museum northeast of Bakersfield. Or, head west to Buttonwillow to take a guided tour of the Tule Elk State Reserve. Bring binoculars! Just north is Wasco, home of the world's largest miniature rose-growing facility. Near Delano, visit the Kern National Wildlife Refuge, winter home to wildfowl.

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