California Welcome Center highlights the beauty of Ridgecrest

California Welcome Center highlights the beauty of RidgecrestBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

The Ridgecrest California Welcome Center opened on November 5, 2021 during the Petroglyph Festival. “It was a huge success,” says Carrie Crutcher, Executive Director of Ridgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB). This sparkling environment has displays and Ridgecrest-branded souvenirs that are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. You can drop by any day of the week from 10am to 5pm at its location on the corner of Drummond and China Lake Boulevard.

“We’ve had wonderful feedback,” says Crutcher. “When travelers come in, they’re very happy with the resources that we’re able to provide. The Film and TV Experience has been a hit with visitors. We’ve actually had a few people extend their stay in Ridgecrest because they wanted to go to the locations where some of the film productions were shot.” A few of the productions highlighted are music videos by Lady Gaga and the movies Star Wars, Iron Man and the new Top Gun will be represented. Popular locations are the Trona Pinnacles, the Inyokern airport, and Cuddeback Dry Lake.

Adjacent to the Film and TV Experience is an exhibit featuring the Westerns filmed in our desert. “We play Death Valley Days on that TV,” says Crutcher. Future collaborative efforts will be with Ridgecrest Cinemas when films shot locally are premiered.

Another well-received feature is the virtual reality exhibit which offers two experiences: a tour of Little Petroglyph Canyon which is guided by an archaeologist and a five-minute tour of Death Valley. Both are beautifully executed and Crutcher says they are, “Top notch.”

Also popular is the well-stocked wall filled with free brochures about tourism and visitor information in California. However, there is much more for you to discover.

The Center is working with area museums with the intent of having rotating exhibits that will feature each individual museum. “We can work together to encourage visitors to go to the museums as well and just give a little sample of what each of those has,” she adds. “We’ll put a tiny bit in here and then that way people can still go there.” Visitors can get in-depth information from the experts.

Visitors are drawn to the Center in part by road signs announcing it presence. These are installed by CalTrans. There are four signs in town and two signs on Highway 395.

RACVB began working towards opening this Center in 2018 with the goal of opening in 2020. Then the pandemic hit and everything was delayed. Thanks to their hard work Ridgecrest not only has these interesting exhibits, but also access to community space including a conference room and a meeting room.

Laura Austin Photo: Carrie Crutcher, and Doug Louck in the New California Welcome Center located at 880 N China Lake Blvd. in the Stater Brothers Shopping center.

Story First Published: 2022-01-28