Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science

Day Trippin' with Mel

I love getting out and about and checking out museums, and Kern County is home to several really special ones. Each one offers a different setting and feel, and each offers a different look at our world – both local and global – and its past.

One of the more expansive museums in our area is the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science in downtown Bakersfield. I've been to it before but every time I go, I learn more about the history of Kern County, and the world in general.

Day-trippin' friend Leila and I set out to go to Bakersfield one fine day with the Buena Vista as our second destination, our first being lunch at the Golden Corral on Ming Avenue. (I love the Golden Corral and it's a nice treat to get to eat there.)

Housed in a storefront at 2018 Chester Avenue (between 20th and 21st streets), the museum is easy to get to and we found a parking spot right in front. The large glass window displays in front 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 amazed at the abundance of information and displays inside.

Mel Makaw.

Shark teeth are abundant reminders of Kern County's history.

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, dinosaurs, Egyptian history, art and cultural artifacts and a Native American village setting. This time I was particularly interested in the skeletons and odd bones of some of the dinosaurs that used to roam the earth, and the Egyptian history room.

Of special interest, too, was the presentation of all the shark jaws and 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) is of particular interest to the young visitors.

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 buenavistamuseum.org to find out more about upcoming activities.

The museum is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission fees are: $10 for adults; seniors and students 12 and up $8; and children 3-11 $6 (kids 2 and under are free). But note: the first Saturday of each month is Family Day (two adults and up to six 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. Military families are always admitted free as the museum is a Blue Star Museum. Group rates are also available.

Mel Makaw.

In the African room, you'll find a lot of animal displays and history.

Memberships are 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 take the whole family – or a carload of friends – and spend a few hours at the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History and Science. It's a great experience for all ages and a pretty perfect way to spend an afternoon.

© 2024 Mel Makaw. Mel is a local writer and photographer and avid day-tripper; she welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions at [email protected]/.