Bakersfield's founder, Colonel Thomas Baker, arrived with the discovery of gold in the nearby Kern River valley in 1851. With 364,000 residents, including the country’s largest Basque community, his namesake town, nicknamed Nashville West, is closely affiliated with country-music performers Buck Owens, who died here, and Merle Haggard, who was born here. It has an up-and-coming arts district and some fine museums. Historic sites and other downtown attractions are a short walk from the Amtrak station.


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