California is located on the west coast of the United States of America. Most people think of swaying palm trees, pristine beaches, and girls in bikinis and surfers when they think of Cali. While this may represent a portion of California, it really is only a small part of it. California has mountains for skiing, snowboarding or hiking, the majestic redwoods, deserts, fertile agricultural areas, several wine producing appellations, big cities, and small towns. There is most definitely something for everyone!Population:
Over 36,000,000 people. According to Wikipedia, if it were its own country, it would be the 34th most populous country and the 6th largest economy in the world.State Capitol:
Sacramento, California, currently run by the Governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).Language:
English, although you will find a lot of Spanish spoken here.Currency:
$ The US DollarElevation:
The highest point is Mount Whitney at 14,505 ft (4,421 m). The lowest point is Death Valley at -282 ft (-86 m). (Death Valley is also the hottest point in North America).Climate:
The California climate ranges from Mediterranean to subarctic. Always do an online weather check for where you are visiting for an idea of what clothing to bring, and then bring a few varied layers just to be sure.Entry:
Be aware that whether you are entering California from another country or another state within the U.S. that there are regulations regarding fruit and vegetables as well as animals that are prohibited from entering. For more information, go to http://www.ca.gov/Tourism/Entering.html
. There are Border Stations where inspections take place throughout the state on highways. A dog may sniff your bags at the airport.Driving in CA:
Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers in a car. Helmets must be worn by those on motorcycles. Starting July 1, 2008 you will not be able to drive a car and talk on a handheld mobile device (i.e. it must be “hands free”). It is also illegal to smoke when there are children younger than 18 in the car. Also be aware that traffic can be, and usually is, a nightmare around and within the bigger cities. Try to plan your driving at times other than commute times.Flying into CA:
For Southern California, the biggest airport is LAX in Los Angeles. I actually like this airport, and we've had good luck getting through security, customs, etc on our international flights. John Wayne Airport is located in Orange County and is much smaller. The San Diego International Airport is also a decent size and located right in downtown San Diego. The planes have to come in at a steep angle to avoid hitting the high rise buildings. Other small airports in SoCal include the Palm Springs Int'l Airport and Ontario Int'l Airport. The one in Ontario is VERY small, but a complete pain as far as getting through security lines and checks. In Northern California, the big one is San Francisco Airport, which is fine, but driving in and around S.F. is maddening. Smaller airports in NorCal include Metropolitan Oakland Int'l Airport, San Jose Int'l Airport, and Sacramento Int'l Airport.Important Telephone Numbers:
Emergency Services: Dial 911
Information: Dial 411
Traffic & Road Conditions: Dial 511Hostels:
For a directory of California Hostels please go to: http://www.hostels.com/en/us.ca.html
.Wine Producing Regions:
Most people are aware of Napa and Sonoma. Napa is a little bigger, and a little more “glam.” Sonoma is a little smaller and relaxed. Both are great places to visit. But there are other great wine regions as well, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Paso Robles, Temecula Valley, for instance. And then there are even lesser known wineries in the Sierra Foothills. If you like to go wine tasting, ALL of these regions are great places to go, and you get to see the beauty of California while you’re at it.State Parks & Sites:
There are 280 state parks, historic parks, natural reserves, state beaches etc. throughout the entire state of California. To locate a site of interest go to http://www.parks.ca.gov/parkindex/results.asp
. Many have campsites, and you can make reservations online. Also there are lots of KOA campgrounds throughout the state: http://www.koa.com/where/ca/index.htm
. For California Desert Camping go to: http://wikitravel.org/en/California_desert_camping
There are twenty-one missions in California. Led by Junipero Serra, the missions were mainly built by the Native American Indians beginning in 1769. The last mission was built in 1823. These are some of the oldest buildings in California.
The list of the missions is as follows: 1. San Diego de Alcala (San Diego), 2. San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel), 3. San Antonio de Padua (Near King City and Paso Robles), 4. San Gabriel Arcangel (San Gabriel--near Los Angeles), 5. San Luis Obispo de Tolosa (San Luis Obispo), 6. San Francisco de Asis (San Francisco), 7. Mission San Juan Capistrano (San Juan Capistrano), 8. Santa Clara de Asis (Santa Clara), 9. San Buenaventura (Ventura), 10. Mission Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara), 11. La Purisima Concepcion (near Buellton), 12. Mission Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz), 13. Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Soledad), 14. San Jose de Guadalupe (San Jose), 15. Mission San Juan Bautista (San Juan Bautista), 16. San Miguel Arcangel (San Miguel), 17. San Fernando Rey de Espana (San Fernando), 18. San Luis Rey de Francia (Oceanside), 19. Santa Ines (Solvang), 20. San Rafael Arcangel (San Rafael), 21. San Francisco de Solano (Sonoma). California Snow:
If you like to ski, snowboard, snowshoe, or just throw some snowballs, California’s got some snow for ya. The California mountains are beautiful and the state has snow-covered peaks up and down the length of the state. To find a ski resort go to: http://www.californiasnow.com/
.SVRA & SNO Parks:
California has the largest and most successful program for off-highway vehicles in the U.S. If you are interested in taking your off-road vehicles for a spin in CA, make sure you have the right permits and are abiding by the laws and regulations. For more information go to: http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=1140
California has more than 1,100 miles of coastline. Although not all of it is made up of sandy beaches, much of it is. You can take your pick from the beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, the tropical feel of the beach in Santa Barbara, watch the muscles flex at Venice Beach, look for movie stars at Malibu beach, or stretch out and relax at Ocean beach in San Diego. There are so many beaches in between that I couldn’t possibly list them all. Whether you want to surf, catch some rays, play beach volleyball or just hang with some friends, you can’t go wrong with the California beaches. But don’t be surprised when you get in the water; our Pacific blue is on the chilly side.Places to Go:
This is just kind of a random list; there are just SO many places to go. I'll probably add to it as I can. But here is a start:
Los Angeles/Orange County Area. Disneyland Resort is in Anaheim. I have been going there since I was a baby and have had annual passes for the last few years, so if anyone ever has any questions, just ask. There are two parks: Disneyland (the original Disney theme park) and Disney’s California Adventure which is currently undergoing a big renovation. What can I say? It’s Disney, and I still love it. Also, if you have kids in tow, there is always Universal Studios, and Knott's Berry Farm. Everyone loves a trip to Hollywood to see the stars. Of course, the only ones you'll usually see are the ones on the Walk of Fame (on the sidewalk). Hollywood is actually somewhat seedy, but it is a fun place to go; it definitely has a vibe and motion all its own. And don't forget to look up to the hills to see the Hollywood sign, and then go to Grauman's Theater where there are famous hand and feet prints. Nearby in Beverly Hills you can go window shopping on Rodeo Dr. If you want to splurge, go to lunch at the Ivy and you may actually see a celebrity, or for a less expensive option, go to one of the Jerry's Delis. Sometimes celebs will grab a bite there. You can also go to the Farmer's Market (yep, a REAL farmer's market with produce to buy and little food stalls), a great place to grab a bite to eat and also catch a glimpse of a star now and then. And don't forget the museums and other points of interest: The Huntington in Pasadena, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), La Brea Tar Pits (still bubbling tar there right in the middle of the city!), Los Angeles Zoo, Hollywood Bowl, and Getty Museum, etc. For details about driving in LA, some good info can be found here: http://wikitravel.org/en/Driving_in_Los_Angeles_County
San Diego Area. There is the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park; both are wonderful. You also have Sea World and Legoland. There is Old Town with an old village, shops, and restaurants. Seaport Village at the harbor is a gorgeous place to walk around; it also has shops and restaurants. You can go hiking at the Torrey Pines State Reserve. If you like ships, take a tour of the USS Midway. Balboa Park is wonderful with several museums housed in buildings with gorgeous architecture and a botanical garden. There are hiking trails nearby too. You can go on a whale watching excursion or a harbor cruise. Downtown, the Gaslamp Quarter is a hip, happening place with up-to-the-minute restaurants and a booty shakin' nightlife.
San Francisco Area. Bike or drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. There is an observation area on the other side so you can look back at the city. Taste chocolate at Ghiradelli’s in Ghiradelli Square. See what it was like to be imprisoned on a cold, craggy rock at Alcatraz. See what the catch of the day is at Fisherman’s Wharf. Find your fortune in a cookie in China Town. Become cultured at the DeYoung Museum. Take a Segway Tour around town. Shop your heart out in Union Square.
For a calendar of California events go to: http://www.beachcalifornia.com/calevent.html
For a list of offbeat tourist attractions in California go to: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/location/ca
. I have been to the World's Largest Thermometer located in Baker, CA when it registered at 122 degrees F! Also listed is the Jelly Belly Factory Tour in Fairfield, CA (an hour north of San Francisco)...that one is fun with kids!