Thursday, March 20, 2014

10 Things To Do With Kids In Tehachapi, California

Tehachapi, California is a quaint mountain town in central California, located off of California Highway 58 between the Central Valley and the Mojave Desert. It's a beautiful place with a diverse landscape. Signs along the highway proclaim, "A land of four seasons."

Those visiting Tehachapi and those new to the area may not know what there is to do to keep their children entertained. Initially, it may not seem like there is a lot. But there's actually a surprising diversity of places and activities to keep young ones busy.

If someone were to stop me somewhere and ask what there is to do with kids in the area, the list below is what I'd tell them. If you are reading this and have other ideas, feel free to suggest them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

1 - Downtown Tehachapi
Historic Downtown Tehachapi Water Tower - Tehachapi, California
There's a lot to do with kids in downtown Tehachapi. A good starting point is the Tehachapi Depot Railroad Museum, which is located at the corner of Tehachapi Blvd and Green Street. Kids who love trains will enjoy this stop. Across the train tracks from the depot is Darlene's Real Swell Toys, a fun little place with unique items. Across Tehachapi Blvd from the depot is Trains, Etc., a hobby, toy and souvenir shop.

A short walk south on Green Street will take you to the historic Beekay Theater, which regularly hosts local productions, including some that are specifically geared towards children. A little further down the road is the Hitching Post Theater, Tehachapi's local four-screen movie theater. Prices are reasonable, and there is usually at least one kid-friendly showing.

A museum that older kids may find interesting is the Tehachapi Museum, which is located just a little further down Green Street at the corner of E Street. This museum shows what life was like in the early days of the community, and even includes a dedicated exhibit on the native people that once called this place home.

Less than two blocks east down E Street will lead you to Philip Marx Central Park, which has plenty of space for kids to run the wiggles out. There are two separate playgrounds, one for smaller kids and one for bigger kids, plus swings and lots of grassy fields. There are also picnic tables and barbecue grills.

Last but not least, no stop to downtown Tehachapi would be complete without a visit to Downtown Yogurt Junction for a sweet cold treat. They also have a selection of educational kids toys. It's located on F Street just east of Green Street.

2 - Tehachapi Mountain Park
Resting - Tehachapi Mountain Park - Tehachapi, California
Located a few minutes south of town, the Tehachapi Mountain Park is one of my favorite places in the Tehachapi area. From town, take Tucker Road south to Highline Road, turn right. Then turn left onto Water Canyon Road, which will take you on a scenic drive right to the park.

Tehachapi Mountain Park is a great place to camp or hike. There are picnic tables for lunch beneath the pines. In the winter this is a good place to play in the snow.

Tehachapi Mountain Park is a great location to be out in nature. The scenery is excellent and the air is fresh and fragrant.


3 - Brite Lake
Brite Lake - Tehachapi, California
Brite Lake is a small man-made lake a little west of Tehachapi. Follow California Highway 202 to Banducci Road, turn left. Be sure to stay right at the Y.

The lake is a great place for fishing. Small boats are allowed. Unfortunately, swimming is prohibited. There's a small playground for kids and plenty of grassy fields for running, Frisbee, or throwing a ball around.

There are campsites and even RV hookups. Picnic tables can be found around the lake for outdoor dining with a view.

4 - The Tehachapi Loop
Horsepower - Tehachapi, California
For those kids who love trains (and what kids don't?), a stop at the Tehachapi Loop is a must. An engineering marvel, this is the only place in the U.S. where you can watch trains circle over (or under) itself. Take Woodford-Tehachapi Road northwest out of town or take the Keene exit off of Highway 58.

There are a couple of historical plaques that mark the site, but otherwise you won't find much other than a wide spot in the road. Trains are very inconsistent, so you may not see a single one for hours, or you may see three different trains within thirty minutes.

Another train watching site worth visiting is Caliente, a little further to the west. Take Highway 58 to Bealville Road, turn right. That will lead you to the small town which is surrounded by the railroad mainline.

5 - Indian Point Ostrich Ranch
Things Are Looking Up - Indian Point Ostrich Ranch - Tehachapi, California
The Indian Point Ostrich Ranch is a fun and educational stop on the far west side of the Tehachapi area. To get there, take Highway 202 and follow the signs.

What's great about the ostrich ranch is that you get a guided tour that's not too long or too short, and full of good information but far from boring. There's a gift shop and a small antique store, as well.

They have a playground for the kids after the tour is complete. Grab a drink at the gift shop and let the kids play for a while.

6 - Murray Family Farms
Butterfly - Murray Family Farms - Bakersfield, California
Murray Family Farms is located right off of Highway 58 about 25 minutes west of Tehachapi on the way towards Bakersfield. While it is not in Tehachapi, it is most certainly worth the drive to get to it.

Murray Family Farms has a store with fresh produce, small restaurant, petting zoo, pumpkin patch, butterfly house, hay rides, etc., etc. There's a lot of country fun for the kids here!

People travel for hours to visit because there are not too many of these kind of places around. It's especially crowded in the fall, so be prepared for that if you visit in October or November.

7 - Pumpkin Patches & Apple Picking
In Search of The Perfect Pumpkin - Tehachapi, California
Tehachapi is known for its apples. There are several "you pick" apple orchards scattered across the area that are open during the fall. These are family-owned orchards and the best way to find them is to drive around through Tehachapi's countryside and look for signs. My kids love the experience of picking fresh fruit right from the trees!

There are a couple of old-fashioned pumpkin patches in the area, too. My family's favorite one is at the corner of Easy Street and Loumas Lane near Brite Lake.

Tangleweed Farm, located on Old Town Road, is open year round. They have many seasonal items, including produce, flowers and even goat cheese.

8 - Windswept Ranch
Emu Stare - Windswept Ranch - Mojave, California
Located about 20 minutes south of town off of Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road, the Windswept Ranch is an animal shelter, exotic animal zoo, and animal education center. It's only open to the public on Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm, March through October.

It's in the middle of nowhere and you won't find it unless you're looking for it. When open, there is a sign along Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road that points the way down a nondescript dirt road. But it is worth the effort to get there.

They have all sorts of friendly animals, including camels, buffalo, alpacas, reindeer, and many others. It is an interactive and educational experience that your child won't soon forget. 

9 - Tomo-Kahni State Park
Hikers - Tomo-Kahni State Park - Tehachapi, California
The Tomo-Kahni State Park is California's least known state park. Many of the locals don't even know that it exists. But those who do visit are rewarded with a scenic hike and an educational tour.

The park is located northeast of town, but the tour starts at the Tehachapi Museum located in downtown. The park is only open during the spring and fall, only on Saturday mornings, only by guided tour, and only one tour is offered each day that the park is open. Reservations are recommended, as tours are limited to 15 people.

The tour will take the entire morning. You'll see native ruins and pictographs. The guides are very knowledgeable and thorough. I wouldn't recommend Tomo-Kahni State Park for children under the age of eight (due to the lengthy hike), but older kids will certainly enjoy this.

10 - Meadowbrook Park
The Road Home - Meadowbrook Park - Tehachapi, California
One of my family's favorite parks in Tehachapi is Meadowbrook Park, located at the corner of Red Apple Avenue and Westwood Blvd. It's actually a fairly nondescript park, but there is more than meets the eye.

There is a swing set, a grassy field, a couple baseball fields, a dog park, and some tables. But the real treasure here are the paved walking and biking paths, which altogether are a couple miles long.

For those kids who love trains, at the far north end of the paths one will find a picnic table that is an excellent place to watch the railroad mainlines. For those kids who love horses, there's horse property that is adjacent to the park, and there's usually at least one friendly horse that will greet you at the fence.

Meadowbrook Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Bring a picnic lunch and let the kids wear themselves out.  

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