What is California known for?

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California the world over is known for the sun-drenched lives of the rich and famous, bustling cities, incredible beaches and dramatic natural landscapes. Known as the Golden State, California is a unique American destination that offers something for everyone. For children and thrill-seekers, California offers some of the best theme parks in the world with some of the fastest, and scariest, rides around. California is more than just sunshine and rides however, and its history is cemented in money.

In 1850 California was made a state, and the Gold Rush that preceded this brought thousands upon thousands to the state in search of their fortunes. The state is also well-known for its nature, with Yosemite National Park being one of the most dramatic and beautiful not only in the United States but in the world. Within its National Parks California has plenty of history, both natural and social, in their boundaries. As California is famous for being a movie and TV filming destination, there are many locations to visit from your favourite shows. Aside from Hollywood glitz and glamour, California is also home to a growing art scene, trendy food destinations and plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in its diverse culture. Here are 15 things California is known for.

What Is California Known For?

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1- Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge And Downtown San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge is what California is known for.

One of the most iconic structures in California is the Golden Gate Bridge.

Joseph B. Strauss was the Chief Engineer on the bridge project, and saw its completion in 1937, following many years of difficult and challenging building.

When it was officially opened, the Golden Gate Bridge was the tallest bridge in the world, and was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

The Golden Gate Bridge spans 1280m (4200ft) and is suspended between cables suspended from 227m (746ft) high towers.

The bridge is iconic not only for its structure, but for its vivid orange vermilion colour.

Irving Morrow, a consulting architect on the bridge project, suggested the bright colour as he believed it would allow ships to see the bridge during poor weather without making the bridge an eyesore against its natural surroundings.

Since its completion, the bridge has been a landmark of San Francisco and is one of the most photographed in California.

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2- Theme Parks

California is known the world-over for its thrill-packed theme parks.

There are many theme parks in California to explore, with offerings for all the family.

Disney-fans should look no further than Disneyland Park, the first theme park opened by Walt Disney.

The theme park opened in 1955 and has enchanted children and adults alike since with its iconic Main Street lined with shops and restaurants, Cinderella Castle, friendly characters and its parades.

Those looking to experience rollercoasters in a Southern California beach setting should pay a visit to Knott’s Berry Farm.

Knott’s Berry Farm is inspired by California’s history and culture and alongside its myriad of rides hosts themed days including a Boysenberry Festival.

Knott’s Berry Farm also has an authentic 1800s Old West Ghost Town and overnight accommodation to ensure you can make the most of your visit.

Film-lovers will want to spend time at Universal Studios Hollywood where themed rides and studio-tours are combined into an action-packed day out.

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3- Wine

Vineyard In Napa, California
Vineyards and quality wine is what California is famous for.

California is well-known for its wines and in particular, its excellent vineyards.

One of the best areas for wines in California is the Napa Valley, which is renowned for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Within Napa Valley are more than 400 wineries each growing a variety of grapes that are made primarily into wines.

Napa Valley has the perfect climate for growing grapes as it is temperate which allows the vines to grow healthily and produce excellent quality fruits.

When visiting Napa Valley call into one of its many vineyards for tasting experiences, tours or even a romantic weekend getaway.

Another excellent area of California to visit for wine is Sonoma County where grapes for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are grown.

Sonoma County is known for its relaxed and friendly family-ran wineries set within rustic surroundings.

Here you will find more than 425 wineries most of which offer tours of the vineyards, share the wine-making process and the opportunity to stay in luxury accommodation surrounded by lavender fields and towering mountains.

4- Yosemite National Park

Beautiful View Of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is what the state of California is known for.

One of the most iconic natural landscapes in the world is Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park has been a protected landscape since 1864 and is the perfect destination for photographers, hikers and climbers.

Within the parks 1200 square miles (3107 square kilometres) are thick woodlands filled with giant sequoia trees, peaceful meadows, waterfalls and rocky valleys.

The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is between May and September as the park receives mild weather making it ideal for following trails and for camping.

The park is famous for its towering granite cliffs including El Capitan and Half Dome.

These granite giants transform during the winter months, particularly in February, when the granite glows in reds and oranges as the sun sets, a phenomenon that can also be seen in the waters of Horsetail Falls.

Yosemite is a haven for Californias native wildlife with more than 400 species including black bears, coyotes, bobcats and the rare Sierra Nevada red fox living within its landscape.

5- Silicon Valley

San Jose, California And Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is a place California is known for.

Silicon Valley is the heart of the technological landscape of the United States and takes its name from the large number of silicone chip manufacturers in the area.

Within Silicon Valley tech giants such as Apple, Google and Dell have headquarters and campuses filled with innovative products and ideas linking to the world of technology.

As well as established companies, Silicon Valley is also home to many tech startups.

One of Silicon Valley’s most famous and influential people was Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple.

Jobs built the first apple computer in Silicone Valley in the 1960s after dropping out of college.

As well as founding one of the largest tech companies in the world, Steve Jobs was also influential in the founding of Pixar.

Following Jobs’ death in 2011, Governor of California Jerry Bowen named Sunday 16th October to be Steve Jobs Day.

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6- The Pacific Coast Highway

Big Sur Coast, California, USA
The Big Sur Coast is what Baja California is known for.

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the best driving roads in America and one of the most scenic in the world.

The road stretches for more than 600 miles (900 kilometres) and runs between San Francisco and San Diego.

The best way to experience the Pacific Coast highway is by taking your time, driving slowly, and admiring all that the staggeringly beautiful and dramatic coastline has to offer.

When driving this iconic stretch of road you will pass mountain ranges, dense forests, pristine beaches and some of the best ocean views in the world.

The journey takes approximately 10 hours of non-stop driving, however completed as a road trip with lots of stops in interesting towns, roadside attractions and spending nights under the stars in excellent RV campsites makes this route more memorable.

7- Sequoia National Park

Giant Sequoia Trees In Yosemite Park
Sequoia National Park is what California is known for.

In the south of California nestled among the Sierra Nevada mountains is the Sequoia National Park.

This national park is well-known for its more than 8000 giant sequoia trees.

The most famous tree within Sequoia National Park is General Sherman which is the largest living single-stem tree in the world.

This gigantic tree towers above the others at 81m (265.75ft) tall and is believed to be around 2100 years old.

Each of the giant sequoia trees are not only towering, but have wide trunks which can be up to 100ft (30.48m) wide.

Inside Sequoia National Park is a museum dedicated to the trees of this unique forest that offers visitors an understanding on how to identify different species of trees, the natural landscape an ecology of the park and includes a gentle 1 mile (1.61kilometre) walk through a meadow and forest trail.

8- Coachella

Coachella Valley Sunset
The Coachella Valley and its famous festival is another place California is known for.

California is well-known for its influence in the music industry, with thousands of fans flocking to its most famous festival, Coachella, from all over the world.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, or Coachella as it has come to be known, celebrates a variety of music styles across three days.

Eddie Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam, gave Coachella founders Rick Van Santen and Paul Follett the idea for the festival when the band began to boycott Ticketmaster-supporting venues.

The first Coachella was held in 1999, and it has been an iconic event since.

More than 60,000 people attend Coachella each day to experience live music from a variety of genres, see incredible art installations and experiment with bold festival fashion.

Some of the biggest artists in the world have performed at Coachella including Madonna, Beyonce, Prince, Guns N’ Roses and The Cure.

9- Death Valley National Park

Death Valley
Death Valley National Park is another natural attraction California is known for.

Another iconic landscape that California is well-known for is Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley National Park is famous for its extremes, including the highest temperature ever recorded on earth, which was logged at 134F (56.7C) in 1936, and for being the driest place in North America.

Despite the blistering heat and dessert landscape, Death Valley attracts thousands of visitors every year to experience its smooth golden sand dunes, colourful canyons and craggy mountains.

One of the most beautiful parts of Death Valley is Artist’s Drive, a route stretching for nine miles (14.48 kilometres) and lined with brightly coloured volcanic and sedimentary rock formations.

For some of the best views across Death Valley National Park, scale the dauntingly named Dante’s View which reveals breathtaking panoramas at 5475ft (1668.78m) from its peak in the Black Mountains.

While exploring the park look out for its endemic wildlife including cute desert kit foxes and the aptly named kangaroo rats who hop on their hind legs.

10- Gold Rush

California Columbia Carriage In An Old Western Gold Rush Town
The Gold Rush is a historical event that California is known for.

James W. Marshall first found gold in California in January 1848, which started an insurgence of approximately 300,000 people to the state in search of their fortune.

The Gold Rush centred around Sutter’s Mill, a water-powered sawmill located approximately 80 kilometres (49.71 miles) from Sacramento today.

Despite roughly $2 billion US dollars worth of gold being discovered during the gold rush, which reached its height in 1852, many of the prospectors did not strike it rich.

Living conditions in the area were rough, machinery and man-power were expensive and theft was high.

Following the Gold Rush, many of the towns that had appeared almost overnight became ghost towns, some of which are still visitable today.

The most famous Gold Rush ghost town in California is Bodie, a town that was once home to around 10,000 people.

Today visitors can explore the abandoned town and admire its crumbling wooden buildings, upturned carts and various other relics from a bygone era.

Those wanting to take a souvenir from Bodie are however warned of the Curse of Bodie, which is believed to bring bad luck to anyone who takes something from the town.

A great way to explore Gold Rush towns is on a cycling tour.

11- Hollywood

Hollywood Sign In Los Angeles, California
Hollywood is what California is most known for.

When thinking of California one of the first things that comes to mind is the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.

Known for its famous sign overlooking its streets, its walk of fame and the sheer number of rich and famous people, Hollywood is a true California icon.

Hollywood is not a city, and is rather a district within the city of Los Angeles founded by Harvey Wilcox who purchased the land in 1887.

Its iconic sign was erected in 1923 and originally read ‘Hollywoodland’, spelt out in 50ft (15.24m) high wooden letters backlit by more than 4000 bulbs.

The movie industry took an interest in Hollywood in 1912 with many major motion picture companies setting up studios and offices.

Hollywood saw an increase in filmmakers flocking to its streets as California did not enforce Thomas Edison’s patents on motion pictures, which allowed film makers more creative freedom without fears of being sued.

A walk along the Hollywood Walk of Fame is testament to the history and impact of the motion picture industry, with stars for Mickey Mouse, Harrison Ford, Marilyn Monroe and Tom Hanks to name a few.

12- In-N-Out Burger

Fresh Tasty Burger And French Fries
In-N-Out Burger is a fast food California is known for.

In-N-Out Burger is a California icon and a fast-food destination that should not be missed.

Harry Snyder opened the first In-N-Out Burger in 1948 as a small drive-thru hamburger restaurant.

Today, as the chain celebrates its 75th anniversary, they have 387 locations across seven states.

In-N-Out Burger prides itself on creating delicious hamburgers using premium ingredients and making them the old-fashioned way.

Indulge in a classic hamburger or cheese burger, or order from their not so secret menu and try a grilled cheese or animal-style burger.

Animal-style burgers have become an icon of In-N-Out Burger since their introduction in 1961, and includes beef patties cooked in mustard and topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, spread and grilled onions.

Like other fast food burger chains in America, In-N-Out Burger has its own secret sauce, with a recipe that has not changed since the first restaurant opened in 1948.

13- Spanish and Mexican Culture and Heritage

California is an incredibly culturally diverse state, and is one that prides itself on its heritage.

The influence of Spanish and Mexican culture and heritage on the state dates from the 1500s when Spanish explorers first reached this area of the United States.

Today the state is home to a large population of Hispanic-Americans whose traditions and culture have had a great impact on the state as a whole.

Many towns and cities across California have Spanish and Mexican names, having been named during the time of the Spanish Missions.

This cultural influence goes beyond place names however, and is seen in architecture and food throughout the state.

While there is no specific state food in California, there are many delicious dishes with Spanish and Mexican influences served in its restaurants.

Tuck into a taco, burrito or enchilada, with the most authentic served from one of the states many food trucks.

Further links to Spanish and Mexican culture can be found across California during major festivals such as Cinco de Mayo and Die de los Muertos where music, dances and food bring the community together.

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14- State Flag

The California State Flag Waving
What is California known for? Check out our list.

One of the most iconic sights in California is its state flag, which depicts a grizzly bear, a single red star, and the words ‘California Republic’.

The state flag was first used in a simpler design in 1846 and has gone through two subtle changes to transform into the flag flown today.

The state flag features a grizzly bear that has become a symbol for the state, a red star and red stripe taken from the United States flag and the text ‘California Republic’ which was taken from the original flag.

A grizzly bear was included in all iterations of the flags design as it is a symbol for strength and unyielding resistance, a poignant reference to its use as a flag used in the Bear Flag Revolt, otherwise known as the Sonoma Uprising of 1846.

Following the present day’s flag design, a bill was passed to allow the grizzly bear to be the official state animal in 1953.

15- Surfing and Beaches

Surfboard For Surfing Standing On Beach Sand
Fantastic surf beaches is what California is known for.

California is well-known for its excellent beaches and of course the waves and surf that lap agains the shore.

Right along the length of the Golden State there are plenty of opportunities for surfing for both beginners and those seeking more challenging waves.

Thanks to the states year-round Mediterranean-style climate there is no bad time to take to the water however fall, winter and spring tend to bring the best waves.

Huntington Beach Pier is considered to be the surfing capital of the state and is home to the Vans US Open Surf Event each year, where the best surfers in the world compete on the waves.

If surfing isn’t for you, California has miles and miles of pristine sandy beaches, ranging from the popular tourist destinations to more secluded and tranquil coves.

For colourful, tranquil and intimate vibes head to Capitola Beach in Monterey Bay for a traditional seaside experience.

Those seeking a little time in the water to swim or snorkel should head to the vast stretch of Stinson Beach, which has been rated one of the best beaches for swimming in the state.

Map Of United States, With California Highlight

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sarah holmes travel writer
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.