After a long time in the making, the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau received designation from Visit California to become a California Welcome Center (CWC) in 2019, with plans delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Ridgecrest’s CWC, the state’s 21st, finally opened in November 2021 with a ribbon-cutting event, and it will serve as the gateway to Death Valley, welcoming guests from across the world to California’s deserts.
On behalf of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, First District Supervisor Phillip Peters presented a Certificate of Recognition to Kari Crutcher, executive director of the Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB), to welcome guests from across the world to come and enjoy the many hidden wonders Ridgecrest and the surrounding areas have to offer.
“We are really excited that we overcame some hurdles, but we are also really excited about the future,” Crutcher said.
In addition to a cool gift shop filled with all things Ridgecrest/California related, California’s newest Welcome Center will feature virtual tours of the petroglyphs and Death Valley, reruns of old westerns and other movies filmed locally, information on other local movie productions including the original Star Wars, brochures and a display of prehistoric camels of California.
Said Crutcher, “I think this is going to become a hub for our community and travelers alike.”
Peters also expressed his pleasure with the finished building.
“I think this will be a huge success for the community. It will attract visitors and tourists from all over having a first-rate center like this,” Peters said.
The grand opening was also held in collaboration with the Annual Petroglyph Festival, held Nov. 5 and 6 in celebration of Native American Heritage Awareness Month. Each year, folks from all around flock to Leroy Jackson Park in downtown Ridgecrest to recognize the historical petroglyph art surrounding the Indian Wells Valley.
“This (festival) unifies as one and keeps us all together as a big family as Ridgecrest is known to be,” said Andrew Diaz, administrator coordinator for RACVB.
A TV and Film Experience exhibit was the first to open within the CWC — Ridgecrest, featuring projects filmed in Death Valley, Lone Pine, Red Rock Canyon, and other areas around the region. QR codes will link to location maps that include the sites for Lady Gaga and Rihanna music videos, Top Gun: Maverick, Iron Man, Star Trek, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Agents of SHIELD, and Westworld. Video presentations will focus on sci-fi locations that continue to draw productions to the unique topography of California’s deserts.
Along with the TV and Film Experience, the CWC features the top 5 Amazing Archaeological Adventures of California, appealing to those with more historical interests.
With Ridgecrest joining the Visit California family, access and exposure to millions of people visiting California will be exponentially higher for businesses in the Ridgecrest region. The CWC includes brochures, magazines, and advertising information for local attractions, dining, and hotels in and around Ridgecrest. The designation has traditionally led to a significant increase in the percentage of travel-generated employment for each region represented. This effect has led to documented positive impacts in secondary spending and employment, as each region increases their share of California’s in-state travel spending.
Located at 880 N. China Lake Blvd., the California Welcome Center will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For more information, call (800) VISIT- 30, or visit racvb.com.
Olaf Doud points to the boulder he chipped for the Welcome Center. PHOTO BY MERIS LUECK/THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Come and take virtual tours of Death Valley and the Petroglyphs at the new Ridgecrest Welcome Center. PHOTO BY MERIS LUECK/THE DAILY INDEPENDENT