The California Bucket List: Your daily guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State

California Bucket List

Here’s your daily travel guide to the best adventures and experiences in the Golden State. Each of these essential California adventures has been tried and tested by a Travel section staffer or contributor.

Tell us what's on your California bucket list. Email and put California Bucket List in the subject line.

Central Valley

Tap toes and cut a rug at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield

Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Why: Not only does this place feature both kinds of music (country and western), it reminds the world how much the gritty, twangy Bakersfield sound has contributed to country music.

What: Buck Owens, who scored more than a dozen hit songs in the 1960s and co-starred on TV's "Hee Haw" for 17 years, opened this place in the 1990s as a concert venue, theater, museum, bar and restaurant.

It's had ups and downs since then -- Owens died in 2006 -- but it endures as a freeway-friendly destination (don't miss the big, bold BAKERSFIELD sign over Sillect Avenue)  for country diners and drinkers who don't want too much honky-tonk grit. Its Wild West-dinner-theater design includes a balcony level, dance floor and live music most nights. Cowboy hats and boots abound. 

Buck Owens memorabilia lines the halls. Willie Nelson was on the schedule for three nights in February. (If you're seeking a Bakersfield honky-tonk with longer, grittier history, Trout's dates to the 1930s.)

The night I stopped in, one of the palace's regular local bands, Stampede, asked for requests. Somebody hollered "Merle!" meaning a song by Merle Haggard, the hometown hero who died in 2016.

"Which one?" one of the guitarists hollered back. "We know every one he recorded!"

Where: 2800 Buck Owens Blvd., Bakersfield, 111 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

How much: Concert prices and cover charges vary. On many weekday nights, there's no cover. Main dishes $11-$35.

Info: Buck Owens' Crystal Palace.

Latest updates

Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World