When in Bakersfield, you need to check out the city’s famous Fox Theater, and the rest of its beautiful downtown. You should probably also check out the local country music scene, which has its own unique sound (think Dwight Yoakam and Buck Owens). But, as I wrapped up my week-long loop through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and headed back to Las Vegas, I had just one goal: browse around some Bakersfield antique stores, before kicking off hours of driving.
Bakersfield is located in between Fresno and Los Angeles on California Highway 99. You’ll find the historic Fox Theater at the corner of 20th and H Streets. The old Woolworth’s is located at 19th and K Streets. Other antique stores are located to the east, near 19th and Q streets.
I started my day in Visalia, following several days in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. By the time I reached Bakersfield, I had only knocked about 75 miles off of the 375 that I needed to drive that day — but I was still ready for a break. So, I looked for some distractions in downtown Bakersfield.
Of course, the city’s crown jewel of buildings is the old Fox Theater. It opened on Christmas Day, 1930, but closed in 1977. By the early 1990’s it had fallen into decay. In 1994, renovations began. It’s still in operation today, hosting live events.
As beautiful as it is in the daytime, it’s even more stunning when the neon lights up at night.
The Padre Hotel is another eye-catching building in downtown Bakersfield. It opened in 1928 and was renovated in 2010. It’s now a four-diamond hotel, the only one in Bakersfield.
Bakersfield Antique Stores
A tour of the town was nice, but I wanted to browse some Bakersfield antique stores before hitting the road. Bakersfield has quite a few antique stores, but there’s one that everyone will want to check out, whether you’re into antiques or not. And you’ll find it inside an old Woolworth’s store. Quite brilliantly, they found a use for the old space, by filling it with an antique mall.
The Five and Dime Antique Mall has hundreds of vendors on three floors. Yes…
… it even has that big staircase heading into the basement, that anyone of a certain age will definitely remember.
This is probably the best way I can think of, to use a historic downtown store in the 21st century. The Bakersfield Woolworth’s truly is a time capsule, perfect for helping senior citizens explain a different time period to the millennials in their family.
One corner of the store hasn’t found a new use — because the original use was perfectly fine. This is a Woolworth’s Luncheonette, and it’s the very last one that’s still in operation.
Not long after I took this photo, the lunch crowd arrived, and every chair and stool was filled. I thought about eating here, but I knew that there would be a long wait, and I needed to hit the road for Las Vegas, eventually.
Walk out those vintage doors, and you’ll find another Bakersfield antique store across the street. Then, go about six blocks down 19th Street, and you’ll find two more antique malls, and one really great antique store.
About that sign…
When I visited in June 2018, Bakersfield Antiques and Salvage had only been open for a few weeks. When I walked in, I instantly fell in love with this classic L.A. road sign that probably once stood near Disneyland. Somehow, it survived for 40 years without any graffiti, without any major dents, and without losing a single reflective button. I bought it, and it’s now the prize of my sign collection.
And then, it was on to Las Vegas. You can watch that entire drive in the Drivelapse videos below.
Here’s a look at the drive from Visalia to Bakersfield…
… and Bakersfield to Barstow…
… Barstow to Baker…
… and Baker into Las Vegas:
The Bottom Line
Bakersfield antique stores provide a nice break from a long drive, no matter which way you’re headed. Even if you’re not interested in antique stores, I hope you’ll check out the old Woolworth’s lunch counter and other Bakersfield landmarks.