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Kernville, California is a small town about 40 miles east of Bakersfield, CA. About 1400 people live there. It’s filled with small businesses with kitschy wares, beautiful views and a rich history.
Last weekend we spent the day in Kernville. It’s about 12 miles from Lake Isabella, so the trip by bike is not impossible. However, we were warned (correctly) that it isn’t the safest trip by bike, so we opted to take the bus at $2 per person, each way. We had a great time!
Here are our top 4 reasons to visit Kernville, California:
1. Kernville Riverfront Park
I don’t know if that’s the “official” name for the park, but along the Kern River you can find a large grassy area, lots of trees, picnic tables and a walking path. The river is a little low due to drought and the season, but it’s still gorgeous:
2. The people who live and work in Kernville
From the bus driver who took the time to give us a tour and information about the town, to the shop keepers, to the absolutely fantastic volunteers at the museum, we met so many nice people. They were all friendly, welcoming and helpful. Kernville is full of small businesses, and clearly the people who work at them understand the meaning of hospitality and customer service. It’s sometimes difficult to find these things anymore, so you truly appreciate it when you do find it!
We’ll talk a little more about the people we met in a bit, but I can’t say enough good things about them!
3. The shops
The whole town has a “Wild West” theme, and each building is different and cute in its own way. Our favorite stores were:
- Mother Lode: This antiques shop was filled to the brim with historical pieces!
- North Fork Treasures: The animal-loving proprietors of this non-profit thrift store are raising money to build “Old Dog Ranch,” where older and abandoned dogs can have a forever home. We had a long talk with them about pets, travel and RVs! I also bought a very gently used bathrobe that is so soft and warm! I plan to use it for after showers and walking to and from hot tubs on cold days in the RV parks. I’ve been looking for one for months (and didn’t want to buy new) and I finally found a good one here.
- Lah-De-Dah: This is a co-op with over 30 vendors under a single roof. There’s a sewing/crafts room, antiques, collectibles, clothing, jewelry, books…and so much more. And it’s way, way bigger inside than it looks from the outside! We met someone there who was super nice, and moved from the bay area only a few years ago!
4. The history in Kernville
Toward one edge of town you will find the Kern Valley Museum. It is free to visit (donations accepted), and run by volunteers. You can tell that they truly love their jobs, too. One gentleman we met there showed us around for hours. He told me he’d been there for over 20 years and he clearly was very passionate about the history and all the items inside.
This was hands-down our favorite spot! So many neat things there, I can’t even begin to tell you about them all. Inside they have many antiques and artifacts, many donated by locals. They also have replicas, a huge topographical map of the area, and much more, including items from pre-historic times through the current day. Our docent explained to us that they went through and labeled pretty much everything inside (it took them over 2 years!).
Outside you can find a covered wagon (in pretty much original condition except for the canvas cover), a stamp mill, a 110 year-old cabin (restored), and a Graham truck from 1925. We were told it was completely restored by the kids at the Camp Erwin Owen boys’ camp. It starts, runs and can go up to 25 miles per hour.
Kernville is such a small town, we didn’t think we would need that long to look around. But there was so much to see, we barely had enough time before our next bus! We could definitely stayed longer, and may go back before we leave.
Here’s a short video with some more scenery from this beautiful place.