From L.A. and San Francisco to Yosemite National Park, there are so many things in California that are known throughout the world. But as the third largest state in the U.S., there are just as many things to see outside of our big cities and parks. Explore a fraction of it by taking the Route 19 thruway bus route, which goes from Bakersfield in the Central Valley, down south to San Bernardino, stopping at Pasadena and Riverside along the way. Here’s what to hit:
- Known as the Country Capital of the West, you can’t take a trip to Bakersfield without visiting Buck Owens' Crystal Palace. Dedicated to keeping the Bakersfield Sound alive, the Crystal Palace is a music venue, restaurant and museum that features memorabilia and exhibits about local musicians and the history of country western music.For live music, visit the Fox Theater, which opened in 1930 and played some of the first “talkies” ever released. Or, if you’d rather explore the outdoors, make your way to Hart Memorial Park—a scenic place to fish, picnic and hike in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
- Plant lovers shouldn’t miss out on the rare and unusual cacti and succulents available at The California Cactus Center. Although it’s a small gem for green thumbs, here you can find rare species of plants transported from all over the world and even some which have lived for over a century. Then, for even more greenery, you can head to Arlington Garden, a free sanctuary that’s open to the public ever day of the year.
After you get your plant fix, hop over to the family-run shop of strange and unusual things, Gold Bug in Old Pasadena. Here, you’ll find offbeat jewelry, steam punk collectibles, original art, insect displays, imported clothing and jewelry from Japanese designer KMRii and more curiosities to fascinate and delight.
- If you view eating as an experience, you can’t skip Tio’s Tacos when visiting Riverside. The owner and artist, Martin Sanchez, has been expanding the exhibit for ten years, using old appliances, scrap metal, glass, children’s dolls, utensils and an unfathomable collection of found items. Go for the fast-casual Mexican food. Stay for the huge collection of folk art.
If you’re staying overnight, The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is the place to be. The rooms have been preserved and decorated to maintain their historic character (over a century old) and you can also enjoy award-winning dining at the Inn’s restaurants while you stay.
- Protected by the Mojave National Preserve, the Kelso Dune Field is the largest in the Mojave Desert. The sand dunes, which rise to 650 ft. are known to “sing” when visitors climb to the top and slide down. The habitat in the Kelso Sand Dunes is so unique that seven species of insects live there that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
After hiking, head to historic Route 66 to stop at the original McDonalds. You may have grown up with McDonald’s, but you’ve never experienced it like this. A State Historic Site, it features the largest collection of McDonalds merch in the country, thousands of pieces of McDonalds memorabilia and souvenirs, and a library of the fast-food chain’s legacy.