Travel Guide: California State

California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is the most populous U.S. state, with 38 million people, and the third largest state after Alaska and Texas. California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada to the east, Arizona to the southeast, and the Mexican state of Baja California to the south. It contains eight of the nation's 50 most populated cities, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, and Oakland.

Sacramento has been the state capital since 1854. What is now California was first settled by various Native American tribes before being explored by a number of European expeditions during the 16th and 17th centuries. It was then claimed by the Spanish Empire and became a part of Mexico in 1821 after its successful war for independence, but was eventually granted to the United States in 1848.

The California Gold Rush that started in 1848 created a dramatic social and demographic change, with an influx of immigration from the east and abroad creating an economic boom. California has a diverse geography that ranges from the Sierra Nevada in the east to the Pacific Coast in the west (3rd longest coastline of all states), from the redwood forests of the northwest, to the Mojave Desert in the southeast. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valley.

EXPLORER FACTS

  1. The first motion picture theater opened in Los Angeles on April 2, 1902.
  2. The redwood is the official state tree. Some of the giant redwoods in Sequoia National Park are more than 2,000 years old.
  3. The highest and lowest points in the United States are within 100 miles of one another. Mount Whitney measures 14,495 feet above sea level and Bad Water in Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level.
  4. Castroville is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World. In 1947 a young woman named Norma Jean was crowned Castroville's first Artichoke Queen. She went on to become actress Marilyn Monroe.
  5. Death Valley is recognized as the hottest, driest place in the United States. It isn't uncommon for the summer temperatures to reach more than 115 degrees.

CITIES TO VISIT

San Francisco | A must when visiting California to see the steeply-inclined streets, Victoria architecture, Pacific coastline, and Golden Gate Bridge for yourself. Situated in the San Francisco Bay in northern California, this city is known for its liberal atmosphere, LGBT communities, sourdough bread, and seafood. The most popular areas of the city of visit are Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and Chinatown, but the quirky neighborhoods are worth a visit as well.

Los Angeles | Most likely the first place that comes to mind, along with Hollywood, when people consider visiting California. This city is blessed with beautiful weather all year round, and you’ll probably recognize many sights from movies and TV shows. Downtown L.A. is a thriving business center and arts district, and Beverly Hills is home to the famous shopping district. Other areas to check out include the music clubs of the Sunset Strip, the beachfront promenade in Santa Monica, and the Venice Boardwalk.

San Diego | A large city at the southern tip of California that’s famous for beaches, tourism, surfing, and naval operations. San Diego also has a strong Mexican influence being so close to the border, making it an incredibly diverse city offering lots of delicious cuisine options. The main attraction to San Diego is and will always be the beach, so make sure to dedicate some time and visit nearby beach towns like Ocean Beach or La Jolla.

South Lake Tahoe | Visit one of the largest lakes in the world, nestled between California and Nevada. During the winter months, this is a prime location for skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. In the summer, visitors can enjoy sailing, kayaking, jet skiing, mountain biking, and swimming in Lake Tahoe.

Palm Springs | Here you’ll find nonstop sunshine, restaurants serving delicious food and lots of fun vintage shops. This desert oasis with a glamourous past is also an ideal base for exploring the spectacular desert landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, which offers amazing hiking trails, mountain bike treks and considered one of the best places in the world for rock climbing. Feeling like exploring something strange and funky? Head to the Salton Sea, a lake turned man-made disaster with a strange apocalyptic feel to it, a must see in my opinion!

NATURAL WONDERS

Yosemite National Park | Stunning glacier-sculpted geology, abundant wildlife and world-class recreational opportunities! Yosemite, 200 miles east of San Francisco, is one of the crown jewels of America's national park system. Yosemite valley is known for fantastic hiking, rafting, fishing and wildlife watching, not to mention being a mecca for big wall rock climbing.

Joshua Tree National Park | A desert oasis located just 125 miles east of Los Angeles, is a rock climbers paradise. The park was named after the otherworldly trees that riddle the landscape, tall species of yucca, and the many rock formations of jumbled piles of outsize boulders.

Redwood National & State Parks | Home to the world's tallest living tree, the Hyperion. Giant redwoods once covered a vast portion of coastal California, but during the late 1800s and early 1900s many were cut down and logged; however, nearly half of all remaining redwoods can be found in this park. Gazing up at these giants is truly a humbling experience.

Death Valley National Park | Don't worry it's not as scary as it sounds! Although most of the year this massive section of Californian desert is brutally hot, it's surprisingly beautiful and vibrant. The name Death Valley came about in 1849 by a band of lost California-bound gold rushers, one of whom actually died while trying to cross it. Not to worry with a well-maintained vehicle and some air conditioning you'll be just fine!

Sequoia National Park | Home to the largest trees in the world, by volume. Redwoods are taller, but giant sequoias win for sheer mass. Sequoia is also home to the highest point in the United States, Mt. Whitney, which runs through Sequoia and Kings Canyon on its way up to Yosemite.

THINGS TO DO IN CALIFORNIA

  1. Do some Hollywood stargazing, preferably at the Walk of Fame, which attracts millions of wide-eyed visitors every year. Make sure to snap a souvenir photo outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre or inside Hollywood & Highland’s Babylon Court with the iconic Hollywood sign as a backdrop.
  2. Hit the road and enjoy some scenic views, whether you're driving along the famous Highway 1 stopping to enjoy picturesque waterfalls in Big Sur, or venturing over the Sierras by way of Tioga Pass. Where you'll drive through Yosemite and can enjoy emerald green meadows, gray granite monoliths, and pristine blue lakes from the comfort of your vehicle.
  3. Visit the happiest place on earth, Disneyland, where Walt Disney built his dream. Inside SoCal's most visited attraction you can find beloved cartoon characters waltz down Main Street USA or gaze up at the sky as fireworks explode over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle during  hot summer nights.
  4. Learn to surf, after all it's a quintessential California activity. You can find great surf breaks in many places along the coast between Santa Cruz and San Diego, most famously being Huntington Beach.
  5. Join the parade of new agers, muscled bodybuilders, goth punks and hippie drummers at Venice Beach, where everyone and anyone can be themselves. It's a strange and funky place offering world-class people watching!