This is going to sound strange, but bear with us.
You need to go to Bakersfield.
Because oddly enough, Bakersfield — ancestral home to Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and one of the richest Basque cultures this side of the Pyrenees — has become a low-key, crowd-free weekend destination.
To begin, set up camp at the country-western Padre Hotel. Book the Head Honcho suite. Waiting inside: one jacuzzi.
Your first in-town stop should be the no-frills, homestyle bar and dining room at Noriega’s, a historic boarding house dating back to the 1800s.
Their convivial, family-style dinner is served at 7:00 P.M. One seating only. You pay $20 for all you can eat and drink. On Saturday, the oxtail is popular.
Afterward, head Downtown for beers and pool at Guthrie’s Alley Cat — a dive bar in the most loving sense of the phrase.
Before heading home, get your hangover cure at the 24th St. Cafe via crispy, shredded hashbrowns and fist-sized buttermilk biscuits and gravy.
Au revoir, Bakersfield.
Nota bene: For a great history on Bakersfield and the Basque culture there, check out Disappearing West.