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California Travel Guide


Since its beginnings when it drew in Gold Rush enthusiasts and settlers from the Midwest, California has attracted visitors with its perfect weather, varied terrain, and abundant attractions. California is blessed with diverse landscapes, from San Diego to the exciting bustle of Los Angeles, and San Francisco to the treasured wineries of Napa Valley. This state has something to offer all of its visitors, leaving them with a hankering to return for more.

In the north, you can visit Redwood National Forest and be amazed by humongous trees that are thousands of years old. One is so big, you can drive your car through it!

You can also visit Yosemite National Park and gaze at the beauty that inspired John Muir and countless other nature lovers to create the environmental movement.

City lovers, visit San Francisco. The Golden Gate bridge is one of the most picturesque bridges in the world. You can also visit one of the biggest and oldest Chinatowns in the US. In the Haight-Ashbury district, get a taste of hippie life. Don't forget to visit Fisherman's Wharf and ride a cable car!

Napa Valley is an easy drive from San Francisco, and for wine aficionados, it should not be missed.

If you have a car, drive down breathtaking Highway 1, past Big Sur, and continue on to Santa Barbara, which is home to million dollar real estates and beautiful beaches. Once there, you can also visit the Mission Santa Barbara, regarded as one of the most beautiful and significant missions in California.

Even farther south, get geared up for the hustle and bustle of L.A. Take a tour of a Hollywood studio, visit Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You can also spend a day at Universal Studios theme park. And don't miss Disneyland in nearby Anaheim!

For desert lovers, you can visit Palm Springs. Once the haunt of movie stars, it is now a popular place for golfers and sun worshippers. Close by is Joshua Tree National Park, made famous by the U2 album of the same name. It's a great place to hike and commune with nature. For an out of this world experience, visit Death Valley. It's one of the few places in the US with actual sand dunes, and you'll feel like you're in the Sahara.

Further south, San Diego is a jewel with its near perfect weather year-round. Spend a day at the beach, visit the museums in Balboa Park, learn about early San Diego history in Old Town, or have an evening out on the town in the Gaslamp Quarter. You can even visit Shamu at SeaWorld.


Life in California began more than 10,000 years ago. Evidence suggests a mass migration from Asia, crossing the Bering Straight in the north, eventually coming to mingle with the First Nations tribes of central California. These tribes began the state’s long and successful history of agriculture.

The first European visitors arrived from England and Spain in the early 1500s. The future name of the state came from these early explorations. Expeditions were primarily exploration based, and no settlements were developed until Spain established Santa Cruz Island in what is now the Baja Peninsula in 1535.

By the mid 1500s, exploration had been extended up the coast, eventually searching for a coastal route to the Orient. By the early years of the 17th century, the exploration had passed the modern California border into what is now Oregon, and a primitive port was established in modern Monterey Bay, south of San Francisco. The port allowed for greater exploration of mainland California, which would continue for the next two centuries.

Towards the end of the 17th century, Spain established a permanent mission on the peninsula, in what is now part of Mexico.

James Cook explored the coast in the mid 1700s. Spain established more colonies, attracting the attention of British and Europeans interested in the growing fur trade. California began to grow as far north along the coast as San Francisco. In 1769, a fort known as the Presidio of San Diego was established in what is now Presidio Park in San Diego.

A treaty signed in 1819 established the California/ Oregon border. The following years were spend introducing new agriculture and industry to California while missionaries worked to spread the Catholic faith to First Nations residents. The construction of several missions led to the development of historic El Camino Real, stretching from San Diego in the south to the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco. Several military outposts were established to help control and protect the region.

The next few years saw an increase in cattle ranches. Cow hides and products made from excess fats such as soaps became the region’s primary exports.

When Mexico gained independence from Spain, the role of the missions began to fade. For a short time the Presidio was under the control of Mexico, but would be repurchased in the early 20th century. By the mid 1800s, the population began to divide into an English speaking north and Spanish speaking south.

Traders began arriving to take advantage of the bountiful wildlife, leading to an influx of American and European settlers.

In 1846, the United States declared war on Mexico. California attempted to maintain peace, but war was inevitable. The short lived California Republic was established and the now famous Bear Flag was raised in Sonoma. The modern state flag reflects this era, and retains the essential elements: the bear, the red star, the red bar and the words “California Republic”. Early in 1847, the war was over and California came under the control of the United States.

1848 changed the state forever, when gold was discovered in the northwest. The population grew more than at any other time in California history, with miners arriving along what is now State Highway 49 and through the ocean port at San Francisco Bay.

In 1850, California officially became a state. The first state college was founded in 1866, and would eventually grow into the College of California, and later the University of California.

In 1861, the nation was embroiled in the American Civil War. Due to its location, the role of California in this war was primarily financial. Few soldiers joined the war effort, but gold was sent to support the union.

By the end of the 19th century, California had organized the nation’s first state union. The development of the National Labor Union further secured worker rights, although ethnic tensions began to flare. Chinese residents were targeted and found their businesses attacked or destroyed. Their land ownership was also restricted.

This situation was further aggravated as migrant workers were used for the most dangerous work in the construction of the California-Pacific railroad. Fortunately, the railroad brought new urbanization to the region, increasing trade and industrialization. It also provided a relatively inexpensive form of national travel. By the early years of the 20th century a ticket from coastal Los Angeles to east central USA cost only one dollar.

In the early decades of statehood, California changed dramatically. Engineering and the discovery of oil set the state on the road to its future role as an economic power house, becoming a driving force in the US national economy.

Oil became the dominant industry in southern California. Los Angeles became a mecca for entertainment interests, becoming the home to several film production companies.

During the war years, California became a training base for pilots. Several naval bases were established along the coast.

During the post war years low property values created a blossoming real estate industry, causing the population to grow even more. The coming of the Baby Boomers led to a new mentality that became most evident during the turbulent 1960s.

The University of California Berkeley campus became a hotbed for political protest. The unrest began with the Free Speech Movement of 1964, in response to a campus ban on political activity. Later, Berkeley would become famous the world over for many protests over the Vietnam War.

A strong counter culture movement evolved, giving rise to what is now referred to as hippie culture. Younger Californians rejected much of the old ways, choosing to pursue happiness and deeper insights into life. The most famous location for hippies to gather was in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco. The counter culture movement reached its peak in 1967. Its effects are still evident today, especially in the streets surrounding the corner of Haight and Ashbury.

The increase in population saw a dramatic rise in land prices. Realty prices went through the roof, accompanied by an increase in pollution. This is sometimes an unfair blight on the reputation of the state. Major urban areas like Los Angeles have the highest pollution. Much of the state, however, retains its picturesque natural beauty.

Fortunately, the rise in population brought a boost to the economy. Technology and education attracted international investors, and by the end of the 20th century California supported one of the largest economies in the world.

California became one of the largest suppliers of materials used in high technology. The region south of the San Francisco Bay area became known as Silicon Valley, after the abundance of silicon used in circuitry.

Interest in California life waned somewhat when the “Dot-Com” bubble burst in the new millennium. Many jobs were subsequently outsourced overseas. Also around this time, cinema superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor. During his tenure, he tried to make strides to reform the state's unwieldy budget issues.

Modern California enjoys the largest state economy in the country, with a purchasing power beyond that of most countries. High technology and entertainment remain strong industries, though agriculture still continues to be the strongest contributor.



Along with major theme park attractions in southern California, including the original Disneyland alongside California Adventure, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain, visitors can find other tourist hot spots such as The Richard Nixon Museum, The Ronald Reagan Library, Yosemite National Park, Santa Barbara, Solvang, and Palm Springs. And a trip to either Venice Beach or Zuma is a must!

Just a few hours north of Los Angeles is California's famed Central Coast region. Consisting of well-known towns such as Santa Barbara, Solvang,Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cambria, Big Sur, Monterey, Carmel and Santa Cruz, the Central Coast is a "can't miss" for visitors.

With beautiful ocean views, pristine beaches, fabulous shopping and world-renowned wineries, the Coast of California will impress even the most discriminating traveler. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, take historic and scenic U.S. Highway 1 from San Luis Obispo into the port town of Morro Bay, go past the town of Harmony, with a population of 18, then stop for lunch in the artist colony of Cambria.

A few miles up the road is Hearst Castle, which belongs to millionaire, William Randolph Hearst, and the famously winding roads with breathtaking coastal views, that lead you into the dense coastal forest of Big Sur. Just a short distance north, the road opens up into Steinbeck's famous Monterey and the quaint town of Carmel. Before finishing your trip, be sure to visit the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, known for its colorful locals and great entertainment.

California's Pacific Coast also boasts quite a landscape. Often referred to as the "Gold Coast," included in that area is Ventura County, which forms the northwestern part of the Greater Los Angeles Area. Sacramento is the state capital.

An indoor activity option is the Richard Nixon Museum

National Parks of California

Channel Islands National Park
Joshua Tree National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Redwood National Park
Sequoia National Park
Yosemite National Park

Regions of California
Northern California
Central California
Southern California

Other Cities
Beverly Hills
Big Bear City
Big Bear Lake
Blossom Valley
Cardiff by the Sea
Chula Vista
Fair Oaks
La Jolla
Long Beach
Orange County
San Bernardino
San Jose
Santa Ana
Death Valley National Park


Sprinkles Cupcakes: Originating in Beverly Hills, founder Candace Nelson's cupcake bakery Sprinkles Cupcakes has spread out to six other locations and is still growing. Why are these cupcakes so popular? Maybe it's because all of the 22 varieties are made from the best ingredients like top-quality chocolate from Belgium, and real fruit. The flavors, like chai latte, peanut butter chip, red velvet, and good ol' milk chocolate, are available on different days of the week. Each cupcake runs $3.25 each. For your special occasions, Sprinkles is the place to go for cupcake tiers, cupcake favors, and even the Sprinklesmobile. That's right...a full truck of cupcakes pulling up to your private party. The cupcakes make perfect gifts and party favors, as a great selection of simple decorations can be put on top of the cake: silhouettes of stars, bows, rings, baby bottles, peace signs, flowers, hearts, and more. Proud Sprinkles fanatics can even buy apparel as a tribute to the sweet treats.


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