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.

Buffalo thrill: the ultimate way to see America's Great Plains

Buffalo thrill: the ultimate way to see America's Great Plains

South Dakota, one of the USA’s Great Plains states, holds an annual buffalo roundup in Custer State Park. Last week was the 51st event and we were lucky enoug…

21 Feb 2017 • Neil McQuillian insert_drive_file Article
Dive in: 7 unforgettable experiences in the Florida Keys

Dive in: 7 unforgettable experiences in the Florida Keys

Life in the Florida Keys is dominated by the ocean. The simplest trips become postcard-worthy adventures on the Overseas Highway, the link between its countless…

17 Feb 2017 • Georgia Stephens insert_drive_file Article
The best places to go in spring

The best places to go in spring

Springtime is beautiful, with its big blue skies and flowers in bloom, so there may be no better time to travel. If you're thinking about getting away, here are…

14 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors 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