Yes, you heard me right! Bakersfield! Here is my case for an overnight trip to Fresno2 in a nutshell:
- Easy, relatively short drive from Fresno
- Zero expectations
- Zero pressure to DO anything
- Time to relax
- AND most of all… some very cool places at reasonable prices
Not convinced? Keep reading 😉
Months ago one of my dear and most posh friends told me of an overnight getaway her husband took her on to Bakersfield. Say what?!? For those of you that are unfamiliar with California’s San Joaquin Valley, like Fresno, Bakersfield is not typically a vacation destination. Bakersfield is like Fresno2, or as the Bakersfield folks told us, Fresno is Bakersfield2. Either way, both cities are often the butt of jokes and not what comes to mind when you think getaway. So, of course, I was intrigued!
Our kids have just reached the point that they are comfortable staying the night with Gogo (grandma) and so when this weekend opened up we thought… Let’s go to Bakersfield! I’ll be honest, Rob was skeptical, but it actually turned out to be an amazing 24 hours away!
Exhibit A: The Drive
If you have young children you probably recognize the beauty of a quiet car. We occasionally talked but also enjoyed the silence, listening to our own thoughts on the straight shot, smooth two hour drive down the 99. There was definitely a decompression happening on the drive that allowed us the time to wind down out of parent mode before we needed and wanted to get in gear for our fun day away.
Exhibit B: The Food Scene
Upon arrival we went straight to Luigi’s for lunch. Since our visit I have learned how beloved this restaurant is to the people of Bakersfield. And, it was very easy to see why. This historic (lunch only) restaurant, deli, and wine shop has been here since 1910! We got there a little after one on Saturday afternoon and the place was hopping! The indoor bar and restaurant was packed and because it was a nice enough day we requested a table on the shaded back patio. While we waited for a table to open up we went to the bar on the patio. It was a beautiful and busy scene. There were tons of big groups celebrating birthdays, showers, and I think simply the fact that it was the weekend. We also noticed that nearly everyone was enjoying a cocktail, most notably Tito’s mules (in Luigi’s copper mugs that require a driver’s license to ensure you don’t take it home as a souvenir) and sangria. We tried both… definitely perfect for unwinding on a warm Saturday afternoon.
Once we were seated we told the waiter this was our first time visiting and asked for recommendations. He gave us a “tour” of the menu and made recommendations as well as adjustments to the menu items so we could get a real taste of Luigi’s. He even brought us a plate of pickled tongue which is a house specialty! It was great if you are open to try different foods and you like pickled things.
Our absolute favorites were the salad and pasta that we ordered as an appetizer. We shared a small Monica’s salad and a small half/half order of the Truffle Sacchetti and the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. (See the pictures below.) Both were fantastic, and we’ve agreed that when we go back we will share a large salad and a large half/half plate of the pasta and call it an amazing meal!
We also ordered a red sauce pasta and a white sauce pasta, and they were good but we were most impressed with the salad and the appetizer pastas. On our way out we dropped by the gift shop where they had wine, fresh pasta to take home, and beautiful Italian pottery. Definitely worth checking out!
Our tips for Luigi’s:
1. Go for an early or later lunch to avoid the crowds (they’re open 11am-2:30pm).
2. If it’s not too hot, be seated on the patio.
3. Ask the server for their recommendations.
4. Try Monica’s Salad, the Sacchetti, and the Agnolotti! (And if you’re feeling
brave… the cow tongue!)
The other restaurant we got to try was the Belvedere Room at our hotel. We went for a late dinner because of our late lunch and were seated immediately. It is a beautiful steakhouse but there was no pretense. We ordered an amazing wedge salad, two different cuts of steak, and a variety of different sides and sauces. It was the best steak dinner we’ve had in a long time. Maybe ever. It was a pricier meal, but reasonable for what it was, and worth every penny!
Just like in Fresno, there are lots of great local places to try and we look forward to exploring more on our next visit!
Exhibit C: The Stay
We stayed at the very hip, historic, and affordable Padre Hotel. This hotel was originally opened in 1928 and was reopened as a super trendy boutique hotel. Between this vibe and the amazing food, the drive was totally worth it. We felt AWAY and able to really relax. We also didn’t feel the pressure to get out and explore and see everything that the city had to offer. This is not to say that there isn’t plenty to do and see in Bakersfield. Again, we live in Fresno and know that there is plenty to enjoy and appreciate in our valley towns, but there was nothing that was a MUST SEE or DO and so for us, our must do was to relax.
I took a nap and it was glorious! Rob explored the hotel and watched baseball. Also, because this hotel is so flipping cool, staying there felt like the thing to do! After we rested and got ready, we explored the evening scene on the first and second floors of the hotel.
Within the hotel are five different places to eat, drink, and just hang out. Rob commented that it was like being on a cruise because everything you needed and wanted to do was right there!
Along with enjoying our amazing dinner at the Belvedere Room, we also watched the sunset and had a cocktail on the rooftop patio bar, Prarie Fire. It was the perfect environment to unwind and catch up.
There is also a cafe, a more casual saloon restaurant, and a night club. There were lots of people enjoying all of it when we finished dinner, but we couldn’t muster the energy to hangout with the youngins at the bar and club so we decided to call it night!
The more that we travel as parents, aware of a budget, the more we realize the power of expectations to make or break a trip. We are finding that when we spend less money (not none – but less) and have no expectations, our experiences always surprise us for the better. Bakersfield definitely was a pleasant surprise!