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Bravo Land wild west town.

Bravo Land

Field review by the editors.

Kettleman City, California

I-5 through California's Central Valley. 250 miles, where the air is thick and attractions are thin. The sudden appearance of a fresh, giant plywood cowboy on a rearing horse gets our attention. Something called "Bravo Land," advertised as the next exit, at the intersection with Hwy 41.

Cross-section of Time.
Cross-section of Time.

Turns out Bravo Land is a 500-ft. long strip of fake frontier town buildings, with ample parking for tour buses, convenient wheel chair ramps, and a general impression of neatness. The "Welcome" facade includes signage for Bravo Farms Gift & Merchantile, Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Bar, and Flavor Farmer (A Taste of the Valley), and others in the 32,000 sq. ft. welcome center.

We walked from one end to the other, through each store. All connect -- it's one continuous tourist emporium, with a restaurant and various photo ops. Ah, this we understand (in the glorious, shameless tradition of Wall Drug).

John, an employee, told us it was created by Bravo Farms, and opened in 2014 to cater to visitors seeking fresh farm items, cheese, souvenirs and a place to stop. Bravo Farms, around since 1979 as a dairy and then a cheese factory, opened its first roadside attraction in Traver, along Hwy. 99, with a petting zoo and 7-story tree house. There's also a Bravo Farms in Tulare and Visalia, but the Kettleman City location is the largest.

Shooting gallery.
Shooting gallery.

One major feature of Bravo Land is its children's playground, a mock western town, with slides hidden in some of the little structures. The cleverly constructed space features picnic tables and plenty of photo ops, a fiberglass cow, an antique milk truck, the Hotel California and the Bravo Land Jail.

On the other end of Bravo Land there's a dog park carpeted with artificial grass, at the base of a windmill and a cattywompus mill building with a water wheel. There's a canal directly behind Bravo Land, with water destined for crops or perhaps thirsty southern cities. No water for Bravo Land -- hence the drought-conscious faux grass.

Inside the chain of stores, we immediately spotted the Bravo Land Slab o' Time, an impressively massive tree cross-section propped against a wall. It's from a Giant Sequoia blasted down in the 1950s, over 2,000 years old. It features a scattering of little metal labels nailed to it. A plaque explained: "The tags on the log denote growth rings that grew in the same year as various significant world events."

Dog Park and cattywompus mill.

"214 BC - Great Wall of China"..."197 BC - Roman Empire Begins." There's a 1,284 year gap, though, and the sign noted the "conspicuous absence of tagged growth rings from the 5th to the 15th centuries.... That period of time produced few significant events in world history."

Trigger animatronic chaos in the old water mill.
Trigger animatronic chaos in the old water mill.

We're not totally buying that. Closer inspection revealed missing tags radiating out from the slab center, two small holes indicating where each notable achievement used to be. We asked about it, and were told that "some political people" had come in and pointed out which milestone labels should be removed (you know, to fix world history).

We've seen timelines ravaged by tourism slab deniers before -- but always on public land, at national and state parks. Complainers raise a stink, form a committee, and voila, adjusted! Bravo Land is a private enterprise. But once a slab is called out for being on the wrong side of history, there's little choice but to get out the pliers and pry off the "Magna Carta," and Columbus and Ponce de Leon "discovers" tags (we're just guessing about the discards, since they're gone).

On a less controversial note, the 2nd floor of Bravo Land features fun shooting gallery games (blast away at a dopey-eyed vehicle that appears inspired by the movie Cars), comical taxidermy, and a walkway to the waterwheel mill building. The mill contains animatronic barnyard animals, bells, and horns triggered by a coin op machine. A balcony overlooks the artificial turf in the Dog Park, which we're advised is quite popular, especially on Sundays, when Bravo Land is said to be packed.

We can see why. It's more than a free bathroom break. John said Bravo Land's goal with visitors is: "Stop for five minutes, stay an hour."

While many truck and tourist stops offer only generic California-type postcards to dwindling paper mail patrons, this attraction has personalized postcards showing off "Bravo Land: The Valley's Heart."

Bravo Land

Bravo Farms

33341 Bernard Dr, Kettleman City, CA
I-5 exit to Hwy 41 north, on right off Bernard Dr.
Daily 8:30-8 Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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