How much do you know about California? For most people, their California knowledge starts and ends with Hollywood in Los Angeles and the sunny beaches of Southern California but there is so much more to California than Disney and movie stars. If you are planning a trip to the Golden State check out these fun facts about California.
California Fun Facts
People from all walks of life live in this sunny state, from farmers to tech gurus, and celebrities to entrepreneurs. These are some of our favorite interesting facts about California to prepare for your travels. (or just impress your friends on trivia night). Keep reading to learn more.
1. What’s in a Name?
Many theories claim that the origin of the name California is said to have come from the Spanish novel “Las Sergas de Esplandián” by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, which was published in 1510. The novel tells the story of a mythical island called California.
When Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, they are said to have been reminded of the fictional island and named the region after it.
However, another theory states that it is from the Indigenous word “Kali-fon,” which means “high hill” or “mountain.” This theory is supported by the fact that many Native Americans in the region, including the Chumash and Tongva, had words similar to “Kali-fon” in their languages.
Regardless of its origin, the name “California” has come to be closely associated with the American West and is now synonymous with the state of California.
2. The California Grizzly Bear
If you take. a look at the California flag you will see that it features a grizzly bear. You may find that odd since there are no grizzly bears in California. Sadly grizzly bears were tracked and hunted after the California Gold Rush brought a higher population to the area and the last bear was shot in 1922. But the grizzly bear was once thriving in California and has been the official state animal since 1954.
3. California State Flag
The grizzly bear on California’s flag represents the strength of the state but there is more to the story. The Bear Flag was created during the Bear Flag Revolt in June 1846, when a group of American settlers and adventurers seized control of the Mexican garrison at Sonoma. The rebels then raised a makeshift flag featuring a bear and a star, which became known as the Bear Flag, and declared the establishment of the California Republic.
California Republic lasted for only 25 days before it was brought under American control when US troops took over Sacramento and Sonoma. The Bear Flag itself became a symbol of California and the American West, and it is still featured on the state flag of California today.
4. the most populous state in the United States
So it’s obvious from a glance that California is big, but how big is it really, population-wise? California is home to almost 40 million people. If that number sounds mind-boggling, it should. That’s the largest population of any state, and it’s about 10 million more than the next second largest (Texas). It’s about one-eighth of the total US population.
California has more people than most countries. Most of the state’s population is in Los Angeles County which alone has 9.9 million people. Other populous areas include Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. California has more people than our own country of Canada which only has 37.59 Million people. Wow!
5. An Abundance of National Parks
Many people think of California as a bustling state that’s comprised only of dense cities and beaches. While it’s true that some of the more popular and well-known cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, are on that dense and sunny coast, there’s also a ton of wildlife.
California has the most national parks out of any state. They have nine! This means that you’ll have no shortage of hiking and camping spots and you can see all kinds of cool animals and plants. California has an abundance of unique natural features. It’s the perfect state for anyone who loves to put on their hiking boots and get out onto the trails.
6. Find Your Fortune
What’s your favorite part of your Chinese take-out meal? If it’s the famed fortune cookie, you’re not alone. Even those of us who don’t love the taste of fortune cookies love snapping them open to learn our fates (and lucky numbers). Who doesn’t love an interactive meal?
Did you know that these cookies didn’t come to us from China? They were actually created in California. There’s some dispute as to the exact origin of these cookies. Some people claim that they were created by Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles. Others say that they were created to revitalize Chinatown in San Francisco. Others still claim that the first person to serve fortune cookies was a Japanese immigrant!
Regardless of which of these theories is true, the fortune cookie comes to us from sunny California. Next time you crack open your fortune, think of the Golden State!
7. It’s Earthquake Territory
It’s no secret that California has its fair share of earthquakes. People have been talking about “The Big One” for ages, warning coastal Californians that they may be in danger of a massive shake. When will it happen? Who knows. Will it happen at all? Who knows!
What we do know is that California has over 500 fault lines. Fault lines are what trigger earthquakes. Most earthquakes are small, but the last large one happened in 2019 (so they’re not infrequent).
Californians are comfortable with earthquakes, so tiny shakes won’t even cross their radar. If you make the move, though, make sure that you’re ready for the next big quake!
8. The Biggest Trees
So they have the biggest quakes, but did you also know that they have the biggest trees? Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are home to the largest trees in the world. It is in Kings Canyon National Park that you’ll find the largest grove of Sequoia trees but Sequoia National Park has the biggest singular tree. The world’s largest tree is named (yes, named) after civil general William Tecumseh Sherman aka General Sherman.
This giant sequoia tree is 52,000 cubic feet by volume and it’s over 100 ft in circumference at its base. The General Sherman Tree is considered the largest by volume as the world’s largest living tree. It’s hard to imagine what this means, but you need to see it for yourself. Go check out the forest and get ready to feel small.
California is also home to the world’s tallest tree. The Hyperion stands at a whopping 379.7 feet tall but sadly, you can no longer get near it. After years of over-tourism (thanks to social media) causing damage to the area, the government has closed off access to the tree, and anyone that breaks the law to try to get close to it can face prison time or a $5000 fine. You can also see Sequoias in Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park.
Speaking of trees, it would make sense that the sequoias are the official tree, but it is the California redwood tree.
9. Silicon Valley
California has one of the largest economies in the world and a lot of that wealth can be found in Silicon Valley. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to Silicon Valley, which is known as the global hub for technology and innovation. However, San Francisco and Oakland are not officially a part of Silicon Valley. The cities that make up this tech corner of the world are San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, Mountainview, and Redwood City.
10. Feeling Inventive?
California is the birthplace of the invention. By this, we mean that there are so many things that originated in California. The internet itself was born in California in 1969. California is the home of skateboards, Barbie dolls, arcade games, and McDonald’s. The oldest operating McDonald’s restaurant in the world is located in Downey, California. It was opened in 1953 and is now a museum. You see and use things every day that was invented in California.
11. More Than Fun In the Sun
When you think of California’s nature scene you think of the rugged landscape of the west coast and world-class beaches. The coastal landscape conjures visions of people roller skating down the Venice Beach boardwalk, surfers catching an ocean wave and families lounging on the beach. But is California all about summer fun? Not at all.
California is an incredibly diverse state. Sure, you can surf and swim in California, but you can also hike through dense forests, climb tall mountains, and even ski or snowboard. This alone makes it a great place for a road trip.
California is kind of like an entire world in one state. There are balmy beaches and frozen glaciers and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. You can be in the desert or in a lush forest or by the lake. Regardless of your ideal climate, California can keep up with what you’re looking for. And here’s a little fun fact, The Palisade Glacier in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is the southernmost glacier in the United States.
12. A Moving Landmark
Do you know those classic cable cars in San Francisco? You’ve seen them in movies and commercials, and even on that family favorite sitcom, Full House. These cable cars make up the first “moving landmark” in the United States. They’re a clear representation of the city and have been officially designated a moving national historic landmark. Plus they are the only old-school cable cars that still function today. Plus, its cable car system is the last manually operated cable car system in the world.
13. The Golden Gate Bridge Isn’t Actually Golden
The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Golden State spanning San Francisco Bay, but it is not actually gold. It was painted “International Orange” to help it stand out in the fog.
14. San Francisco has a Crooked Street
San Francisco actually has a lot going on when it comes to cool facts about California. For example, did you know that it is home to the crookedest street in the world, Lombard Street? The street features eight hairpin turns and is a popular tourist attraction.
15. San Bernardino County is Huge
The largest county in California just so happens to be the largest county in the country. San Bernardino County is more than 20,000 square miles making it larger than the entire country of Switzerland. After digging deeper I learned that San Bernardino County is actually the largest county in the world. (The government website said so)
16. Ups and Downs
We already talked about California’s climate diversity, but did you know that it’s also home to both the highest and lowest points in the mainland United States? This is one of the most surprising facts about California!
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States and obviously, it is California’s highest point. It’s a whopping 14,505 feet tall! Part of it is in Sequoia National Park, so you can see the biggest tree and the biggest mountain all in one giant hike if you’re up for it. Read all about it here: 12 Things to Know Before Hiking Mount Whitney
17. Death Valley
The lowest point in the contiguous United States is in Death Valley (which is less than 100 miles away from Mt. Whitney). Badwater Basin, the lowest point of Death Valley, is 282 feet below sea level. This also makes Death Valley the lowest national park in the world.
18. Avocado Capital of the World
Those delicious avocados that we enjoy so much on avocado toast most likely come from California. 90% of the country’s avocados are produced in San Diego County. Southern California offers perfect climate for growing avocados and they are in season year-round. If you happen to be in the San Diego area in April, check out the annual avocado festival that is held in Fallbrook. More than 70,000 avocado experts and fans attend and showcase their culinary expertise.
19. California Wine
While we are talking about things that California produces. It will come as n surprise to learn that California produces 90% of wine in the United States. The wine was introduced to California in the 18th century by Spanish Missionaries, but as the Gold Rush blossomed, many European settlers made their way to the Golden State along with their love for wine. Today it has many wine regions producing world-class wines with regions like Napa and Sonoma county being the most famous.
20. Hollywood Sign Wasn’t Made for Movies
The Hollywood Sign was originally created to advertise a housing development in 1923. It was to be an upscale development called Hollywoodland and the sign used to have the word land on it. In 1949 Los Angeles Parks took over ownership of the sign and removed the word land. It has since become an iconic symbol of the entertainment industry.
21. Los Angeles
No article about California would be complete without a section about Los Angeles, the center of Hollywood. Even though many movies are filmed on location these days, more movies have been filmed in California than anywhere else. The back lots of Los Angeles studios and the diverse landscape of California have doubled for locations around the world. Plus, California still holds on to the top spot of theatrically released projects in the 21st century.
It has a thriving music scene too. In fact, the Hollywood Bowl is considered one of the top 10 venues in the US and it is the largest outdoor Amphitheater in the country.
22. California has an Official Ghost Town
Here’s a quirky fact, California has an offical Ghost Town. Bodie California was a thriving town during the Gold Rush in the 1800s but quickly declined after the end of the Gold Rush. In 1962 it was designated a national historic landmark the official state ghost town.
Fast Facts About California
- Capital City – The state capital of California is Sacramento.
- The State Tree is the California Redwood Tree
- State Flower is the California Poppy
- The Official Motto of California is Eureka. (I love that!)
- California officially became a state in 1850
- California is located on the Southwest coast of the United States and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the states of Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona with Mexico on its southern border.
- You’ll find the smallest desert in North America here, the Mojave Desert. It is also home to the beautiful Joshua Trees.
Do You Love These Facts About California?
These are some of our favorite fun and interesting facts about California. The state is so big and diverse that you’ll never run out of new things to learn or explore! The Golden State has mountains, lakes, beaches, and deserts. It has Hollywood glamor and an abundance of pet dogs. So what is it missing? You!
Do you want to see that difference for yourself? Go check out the Golden State! Read about Mount Whitney by Jenna of UpAndAwayMag (above photo)