The vast interior of California is split down the middle by the Sierra Nevada (Spanish for “snowy range”), or High Sierra, a sawtooth range of snow-capped peaks that stands high above the semi-desert of the Owens Valley. The wide San Joaquin Valley in the west was made fertile by irrigation projects during the 1940s, and is now almost totally agricultural.

The flat, colourless oil town of BAKERSFIELD is the unlikely home of the country’s largest community of Basque descent, and one of the liveliest country music scenes in the nation. During the late 1950s and 1960s it become known for its distinctive “Bakersfield Sound”, a far less slick and commercial affair than its Nashville, Tennessee counterpart, epitomized by the gutsy honky-tonk of local artists such as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Even today the city serves as something of an alternative to the glossy country pop coming from Tennessee, and Bakersfield’s honky-tonks are jumping every weekend night, when Stetson hats and fringy shirts are the required apparel and audiences span generations.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

USA features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Where to stay in LA: an area by area guide

Where to stay in LA: an area by area guide

Few regions of the world have been as idealized and mythologized as California – and yet it seldom fails to live up to the hype. The glamour, surf beaches and…

22 Jun 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
The 15 most spectacular sights in Southwest USA

The 15 most spectacular sights in Southwest USA

A vast expanse of stunning desert scenery, the Southwest is arguably the USA’s most spectacular region. For splendour and sheer scale, the landscape consisten…

06 Jun 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
The most beautiful places in the USA – as voted by you

The most beautiful places in the USA – as voted by you

We asked our Facebook and Twitter followers to vote for the most beautiful locations in the USA. Now the results are in. This gallery showcases the top ten most…

31 May 2017 • Lottie Gross camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month