California Living Museum
Day Trippin' with Mel
April 29, 2023
Some day-trippin' destinations are one-time only pursuits, and some are the kind I like to revisit now and again. The California Living Museum (CALM) – a local zoo in Bakersfield that features flora and fauna from California – is one of the latter. I like to go at different times of the year, and each time I'm there I have a little bit different experience.
I visited CALM last July on what was surely the hottest day of the season, so I thought it would be fun to go again this (cooler) spring. As it so happened, my friend Joan needed to go to Bakersfield on a recent Sunday and since she had never been to CALM before, we decided to combine her errand with a trip to the zoo. It turned out to be a great day to visit the museum and we both had a fine old time.
The park was full of visitors that April Sunday, mostly families with lots of children enjoying the playground, the petting zoo and the animal displays. Many groups were eating picnic lunches they had brought themselves, or snacks from the food truck on site (the food truck is only open on weekends). I talked with one family – the Moss family, originally from Tehachapi, now from Bakersfield – while they picnicked near the bobcat enclosure, and found that they, like many others, visit CALM quite often.
"We're here a lot," Drew Moss said. His wife Janae added, "We have a family membership." They like spending family time at the zoo with their two toddlers, Walker and Levi, whom they pull around in a small but handy covered wagon.
For our part, Joan and I visited the California Coast Room first, which gave us a chance to learn about and touch sea anemones and snails and other shelled creatures; in addition, the room has a special viewing tank for sea horses and another for the eerie and ethereal moon jellyfish.
We also took a train ride, which runs on weekends only and costs $2 (in addition to the park admission fee) for unlimited rides; it takes you by life-sized metal dinosaurs and on a round-about tour of such places as "Hoot N Holler," a replica frontier town, and a "painted desert." Someone with a great sense of humor designed the train ride attractions.
The animals in CALM were, in fact, a bit more active in the cooler weather. We visited the birds of prey, the desert tortoises, bears, cats and big horned sheep, raccoons, and the ever-popular Reptile House.
It's interesting to note that most of the more than 200 animals at CALM are disabled and/or rescued, i.e. rehabilitated but not able to live in the wild. There are also hundreds of native trees and bushes, identified with placards for educational purposes, that make for plenty of shade. Walking on the mildly hilly paved paths is easy and all-accessible, and there are numerous benches around to take a little sit-down and people-watch.
In addition to the native flora and fauna, CALM offers a nicely stocked gift shop, cold drink vending machines, clean bathrooms and a large, covered picnic area. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and other days for special events.
If you go, from Tehachapi take Hwy 58 towards Bakersfield, then take the Comanche exit and turn north (right). Comanche becomes Alfred Harrell Highway at the 178 stoplight – CALM is at 10500 Alfred Harrell Highway (between Lake Ming and Hart Park).
Admission to CALM is $10 for adults ($7 for seniors); $6 for children 3-12 (under 3 is free); and free for active U.S. military and veterans. Memberships are also available.
SPECIAL NOTE: Zoo Manager Lana Fain later told me that CALM will be celebrating its 40th birthday the weekend of May 20-21, with reduced admission for children. Smokey the Bear will be there, as will both the Bakersfield Police and Kern County Sheriff departments' canine units. Carnival games will be held and many of the larger animals (the bears, the donkey and pony, bobcat and mountain lion) will be presented with special birthday "cakes."
"I'm glad I finally got to visit the place," Joan said when we got back to Tehachapi. "I was impressed."
If you go, I think you will be, too.
© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel, Tehachapi writer/photographer and avid day tripper welcomes your questions, comments, and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.