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By Mel White-Mel Makaw
contributing writers 

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science

Day Trippin' with Mel


May 28, 2022

Mel White/Mel Makaw

Mel, Jane and Leila in the African Room.

Kern County is home to several worthwhile museums, and one of them is the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science in downtown Bakersfield. I've been meaning to visit this museum for some time now but for one reason or another, I've never gotten around to it. Then one day local historian/artist/friend Helen McAllister suggested I check it out. She spoke so highly and enthusiastically of it that I moved it up on my list.

So, friends Jane Baron, Leila Kleiman and I jumped into a car recently and off to Bakersfield we went. First order of business was lunch at Uricchios Trattaria (a fine Italian dining establishment located at 17th and K Street) and then a couple of blocks further to the museum.

Lunch was delicious, and then what a treat the museum turned out to be!

Housed in a storefront at 2018 Chester (between 20th and 21st), the large glass window displays give you a glimpse of what's inside before you even enter. But there is so much more inside. The museum, like many others, offers many areas of interest and appeals to all ages. We were all amazed at the abundance of information and displays inside.

The museum has two large floors plus a mezzanine (all fully accessible with plenty of places to sit and study or rest), with displays that include the Miocene period (15 million years ago when Bakersfield was under water) as well as north American and African wildlife, paleontology, geology, art and cultural artifacts, and a Native American village setting. Something I personally had never seen before was the Maya calendar recreation, and I was particularly interested in the skeletons and odd bones of some of the dinosaurs that used to roam the earth.

Of special interest, too, was the presentation of all the sharks' jaws and sharks' teeth and other amazing fossils found right in our own area (even Tehachapi was underwater at one time!). Sharkstooth Hill (near Hart Park in Bakersfield) is still a great place to find ancient teeth.

Volunteers and staff are on hand to answer any and all questions at the museum, and there is a cozy and comfortable library on the mezzanine floor. A hands-on "Oh" Zone (interactive science discovery center) was of particular interest to the young people in the museum that day, but I noticed a lot of adults checking it out as well (including me).

Buena Vista has an ongoing commitment to education, especially for youngsters, offering such special events as Science Saturdays, Science Camp, and Meet the Expert events. Check out to find out more about upcoming activities.

The museum is open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 to 4, and Sundays from noon to 4. Admission fees are as follows: $10 for adults; seniors and students 12 and up $8; and children 3-11 $6.00 (kids 2 and under are free). But note: the first Saturday of each month is Family Day (2 adults and up to 6 kids are admitted for a total of $20); Senior Day is the second Saturday of each month (for 60 and up the admission fee is $2 that day); and on the third Thursday of each month, all ages are admitted for $2 each.

Mel White/Mel Makaw

Koral Hancharick, executive director of the museum, is a great source of information (and has a great sense of humor).

Memberships are also offered and are quite a deal: When you buy a membership to the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History ($85 for a family membership; $35 for adults; $25 for seniors; and $20 for students) you are also getting yourself free or discounted admission to over 600 museums and science centers all over the world. Use your membership to get in free at CALM, Bakersfield Museum, Bakersfield Museum of Art, California Science Center in Los Angeles, Maturango Museum in Ridgecrest, Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena and a couple dozen other places in California alone.

So why not take the whole family – or a carload of friends – and spend a few hours at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science? We did and it was a great experience – and with my new membership card I'll be checking out some of those other places for you in the near future.

© 2022 Mel White/Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at


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