The state of California is the most populated state in America, and draws millions of tourists each year who are looking to visit the beaches, theme parks, and many other spectacular sights. There are many things to love about the Golden State, but I bet there’s a lot about it that you don’t know. Here’s over 40 fun facts about California.
General Facts About California
- California is the third largest state in America with 163,695 square miles
- California’s State Capital is Sacramento (Sacramento is the state’s 6th largest city)
- California’s population is about 40 million people – which is one eighth of the total US population and more than all of Canada
- One out of four California residents were not born in the United States
- Los Angeles is California’s most populated city
- San Bernardino County is the largest county in the country at 20,000 square miles
- The California Redwood is California’s state tree
- The California Poppy is the state flower
- Surfing is California’s state sport
- The avocado is California’s state fruit
- The California Dogface Butterfly is California’s state insect
- California State Animal: Grizzly Bear
- California State Bird: California Valley Quail
- California State Amphibian: Red-legged Frog
- California State Fish: The Golden Trout
- California State Marine Fish: Garibaldi
- California State Marine Mammal: California Gray whale
- California Marine Reptile: Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle
- California Reptile: Desert Tortoise
- California State Mineral: Gold
- California State Gemstone: Benitoite
- California State Rock: Serpentine
- California has 1,741 active zip codes
- California has 39 area codes (as of 2023)
- California became the 31st state in 1850 after the land was acquired from Mexico
- California State Colors: Blue and Gold
- California State Song: “I Love You, California”
- There are hundreds of songs written about California
Fun Facts About California
California’s State Motto Is “Eureka”, which is Greek for “I have found it”
The motto was approved in 1963. It is believed that Archimedes exclaimed “eureka” when he found a method to determine the purity of gold, so it was selected because of the state’s rich Gold Rush history.
California’s state nickname is the “Golden State”
Some sources say that it was originally called the grizzly bear state but as the bears were hunted to near extinction for sport, the state was renamed to reflect it’s gold-related history.
The Bear On The California State Flag is Named “Monarch”
The original bear flag was badly hand-drawn by settlers in the Republic Of California who captured Sonoma from the Mexican Government in the 1840s. Years later, as a publicity stunt to highlight the grizzly bear, William Randolph Hearst hired someone to find a grizzly bear and bring it to San Francisco. A group of hunters found this bear and Hearst put him on display in Golden Gate Park. He named the bear Monarch. This was the largest bear ever held captive, at 1,200 pounds. Sadly, Monarch was in captivity for 22 years until his death in 1911. His skeleton went to the Berkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and his pelt was stuffed and displayed at the California Academy of Sciences. That year, California’s state flag was adopted, and used Monarch’s likeness as the model for the flags design.
California was known as the Independent California Republic for 25 days
In 1846, the Bear Flag Revolt consisted of a group of Americans attempting to take over a portion of Mexican territory. The colonel of the Mexican army surrendered the land and the area was considered an independent nation for a very brief moment. The Navy seized Monterey shortly thereafter and declared California part of the US. It became an official state in 1850.
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition of the West Coast
You can visit the place where Cabrillo first stepped foot on the West Coast in San Diego at Cabrillo National Monument. Cabrillo arrived in 1542 after three months at sea and they stayed here just 6 days before moving on.
More than 300,000 people came to California during the Gold Rush
When gold was discovered in 1848 and word got out, thousands of people made the trip to seek out their own fortune. Many of the Gold Rush Towns that were established during this era were eventually abandoned. But California’s population continued to grow, and it’s now the most populous state in the nation.
California has over 300 ghost towns
Surprisingly, Texas holds the number one spot with about 500 ghost towns, but California comes in second with about 346. Most California ghost towns are a result of the gold and silver mining eras. There are a few that have been preserved for visitors to enjoy like Bodie and Calico.
Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes each year
You can’t feel most of them, of course, but they are happening. Consider that there are additional earthquakes happening throughout the state, overall, California is a highly active earthquake zone. Here are a few of the state’s most notable shakers.
- January 1857: Fort Tejon with a 7.9 – the biggest quake in the state’s recorded history
- April 1906: San Francisco’s 7.8 quake
- 1989: 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake
- 1994: 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake
- 2014: 6.0 Magnitude in Napa
- 2019: 6.4 and 7.1 back to back quakes in Ridgecrest
Bonus earthquake fun fact: the first reported earthquake was on July 28, 1769, by members of Gaspar de Portola’s expedition group who felt an earthquake while camping along the Santa Ana River.
California has more major league sports teams than any other state
- Los Angeles Angels (Baseball)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (Baseball)
- Oakland Athletics (Baseball)
- San Diego Padres (Baseball)
- San Francisco Giants (Baseball)
- Los Angeles Chargers (Football)
- Los Angeles Rams (Football)
- San Francisco 49ers (Football)
- Anaheim Ducks (Hockey)
- Los Angeles Kings (Hockey)
- San Jose Sharks (Hockey)
- Golden State Warriors (Basketball)
- Los Angeles Clippers (Basketball)
- Los Angeles Lakers (Basketball)
- Sacramento Kings (Basketball)
- LA Galaxy (Soccer)
- Los Angeles FC (Soccer)
- San Jose Earthquakes (Soccer)
- Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA)
- Angel City FC (Women’s Soccer)
- San Diego Wave FC (Women’s Soccer)
California has hosted the winter and summer Olympics
The Summer Olympics is coming to Los Angeles in 2028! Here are the other times that the Olympics were hosted in California.
- 1932 – Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles with opening ceremonies at the LA Memorial Coliseum
- 1960 – Winter Olympics held in Squaw Valley
- 1984 – Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles
Anaheim’s Disneyland Resort was the first Disney Park location in the world
There are now 12 Disney Parks worldwide including:
- Disneyland Resort and California Adventure (Anaheim, CA)
- Walt Disney World Resort (Florida) Contains 4 Disney Parks – Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom + 2 water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
- Tokyo Disney Resort – TokyoDisneyland and Tokyo DisneySea
- Disneyland Paris – Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park
- Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
- Shanghai Disney Resort
There are animals that live only in California
California has a few animals that are native only to our state! They include the Tule Elk, Island Fox, Golden Beaver, San Francisco Garter Snake, Golden Trout, and the California Newt.
California has more National Parks than any other US state
Some sources say that there are 9 National Parks in California. That’s just not true. There are 33 units in California that are managed by the National Parks system! These include “national parks”, “national monuments”, “national preserves” and other properties, including Alcatraz Island, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and Mojave National Preserve. Visit our National Parks page for a full list of National Parks, but here is a list of the most well-known park properties:
- Channel Islands National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Joshua Tree National Park
- Lassen Volcanic National Park
- Pinnacles National Park
- Redwood State & National Parks
- Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
- Yosemite National Park
There are more than 280 State Parks In California
If you can’t get enough from all the National Parks, check out the California State Parks! You can explore historic sites, natural wonders, beautiful beaches, Recreational Areas, Ghost Towns, Monuments, and much more! Here are some of our favorites:
- Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park
- Torrey Pines State Beach & Natural Preserve
- Palomar Mountain State Park
- Crystal Cove State Park
- California Poppy Reserve
California is home to the largest tree in the world, measured by volume
Visit the General Sherman Tree at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. This Giant Sequoia is 275 feet tall, and more than 36 feet in diameter at the base. Another fun fact here — Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks have 18 of the world’s 30 largest trees (all measured by trunk volume).
The largest grove of Sequoia Trees in the world is in Kings Canyon National Park
Visit the Giant Forest at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks to see the largest unlogged giant sequoia grove. This is, no surprise, where you see the General Sherman Tree that we just talked about above.
California is home to the tallest Redwood tree in the world
Coming in at 380 feet tall, Hyperion is located in a remote area of Redwood National Park. Because of the dense forest location, and the lack of developed trails in the area, this tree is off limits to visitors. Some have ventured anyway and caused significant deterioration to the tree and surrounding area. Because of this, some sources report that you may even face a $5,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail if you are caught hiking to this beast of a tree.
California has glaciers!
Sure, we know there are mountains in California, but I bet you didn’t realize that there are glaciers in the Golden State. The longest glacier in California is the Whitney Glacier (over 3km long) and is on the north side of Mount Shasta. There are 6 other glaciers here as well. Other glaciers can be found on Mount Lassen and the Sierra Nevadas, including the Palisade Glacier, the Darwin Glacier, and the Mendel Glacier.
California has the highest and lowest points in the United States lower 48 states
And they are only about 100 miles apart! Head to Badwater Basin in Death Valley for the lowest point, at 282 feet below sea level. The hop over to Mount Whitney where the highest point is 14,505 feet.
The smallest and driest desert in the United States is in California
The Mojave desert comes in at 50,000 square miles and is the smallest and driest desert. Despite it’s small size, there are about 2,000 unique plants here, including the Joshua Tree, native only to the Mojave.
The hottest place in the world is in California
Death Valley has the highest ever recorded air temperature on the planet with 134.1 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913.
The world’s largest geothermal field is in Sonoma County
What does that mean? I’ll leave the scientific explanation to the experts, but in short, this is a location where underground water has been heated by hot rock and underlying molten rock, so there are lots of hot springs and steam vents in the area. The Geysers Geothermal Complex is just north of San Francisco and you’ll find 22 power plants here that sit on top of a 30-square mile magma chamber.
You can see watermelon snow in California
Did you know this was a thing? In the Sierra Nevada Mountains you can see this unique phenomenon, also known as snow algae, pink snow, red snow, blood snow, or glacier blood. During summer months at altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 feet, a specific type of green algae that contains a secondary red-colored pigment, can stain the snow when compressed. If you step on the snow and it turns pink, this is why.
The largest natural freshwater lake in California is Clear Lake
Clear Lake has 68 square miles of surface area and is known as the Bass Capital of the West. Clear Lake is located in Lake County north of Napa and San Francisco. It is also the oldest lake in North America at 2.5 million years old.
There are Venice Canals In Los Angeles
There is a neighborhood in LA dubbed Abbot Kinney’s Venice of America, where seven original canals stretched across two miles. Additional canals were added, but were eventually turned into paved roads. Today, six of the original canals remain for cruising via gondola, canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board.
San Francisco’s Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street in the world
This one way street on Russian Hill runs east to west and stretches from the Presidio to the Embarcadero. There are 8 hairpin switchback turns along 600 feet of road and it is a designated part of US Route 101. Today you can only travel down the street, but it used to be two-ways and was designed to make it easier for horse-drawn wagons and model-T’s to navigate. The Real World San Francisco House is located here at 949 Lombard Street, the house used to film Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is at 900 Lombard, and a haunted house is located at 1000 Lombard Street.
*Side note: word has it, an even crookeder street exists – head over to Vermont Street on the other side of town between 20th and 22nd streets for 7 turns with even tighter curves. They host a Big Wheel Race here every year on Easter Sunday.
California produces most of the avocados for the US
We are sometimes called the Avocado Capital of the World. Florida and Hawaii are the next largest producers of avocados for the United States. You can attend an avocado festival in Fallbrook every year!
California is the Raisin Capital Of The World
Remember the California Raisins? If you are a child of the 80’s you probably remember the commercials that began airing in 1986, and the toys that came with your meals at Hardee’s. Central California, specifically a city called Selma, is known as the Raisin Capital of the world for producing 90% of the world’s raisin crops from Thompson seedless grapes. They host a raisin festival here every year in May.
California produces most of the world’s almonds
80% of the world’s almonds, and 100% of the United States commercial supply of almonds come from California.
California produces about 90% of all US wine
The Golden State is the 4th largest wine producer in the world after Italy, Spain, and France.
California is the home of the Fortune Cookie
Lucky us! While some similar style cookies or crackers can be traced back to Japan, the modern fortune cookie as we know it today was developed by a Japanese baker in a Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
California is known for being the state of origin for many popular foods
This diverse state has a plethora of foods. We even have our own style, known as California Cuisine. Here are some of your favorite foods that got their start in the Golden State.
- French Dip – Los Angeles, Phillipe’s The Original
- Animal Style Fries and Burgers – In N Out Burger
- Cobb Salad – Los Angeles, The Brown Derby
- Ranch Dressing – Santa Barbara, Hidden Valley Ranch
- Santa Maria Style Tri Tip
- Cioppino – San Francisco
- Popsicle – Oakland
- Hangtown Fry – Placerville
- Chicken Tetrazzini – San Francisco
- Rocky Road Ice Cream – Oakland
McDonald’s was born in California
In addition to general food, California is the birthplace of some of your favorite fast food restaurants, Including the famous golden arches. Here are some popular food chains that got their start in California.
- McDonalds – San Bernardino, 1940
- Original Tommy’s – Los Angeles, 1946
- Foster’s Freeze – Inglewood, 1946
- Hot Dog On A Stick – Santa Monica, 1946
- In-N-Out – Baldwin Park, 1948
- Jack In The Box – San Diego, 1951
- Fatburger – Jefferson Park, 1952
- Carl’s Jr. – Anaheim, 1956
- Wienerschnitzel – Wilmington, 1961
- Taco Bell – Downey, 1962
- Del Taco – Yermo, 1964
- Panda Express – Glendale, 1973
Levi’s Jeans were born in California
Levi Strauss was an immigrant from Bavaria who ran a dry goods company in San Francisco during the gold rush. He partnered with a tailor named Jacob Davis to create sturdy denim waist overalls reinforced with copper rivets in 1873. They were a hit.
Many inventions come from California as well including skateboards, Apple products, and the internet.
Silicon Valley is the world’s technology headquarters
Silicon Valley is considered the global center for high technology. Some of the world’s biggest high-tech companies are headquartered here with over 30 companies from the Fortune 1000 and is a hub for startups and innovation.
California has the largest economy of any state
With a GDP of $3.5 trillion, thanks to economic diversity and major industries like tech, entertainment, and agriculture, the California economy beats out all other US states.
California is the most popular location for filming TV shows and movies
New York is a close second for the most popular state for filming, and Central Park has been in over 350 movies alone. But California is the overall winner. Some of the most popular filming locations in the state include Bronson Canyon, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area, Griffith Observatory, and Santa Monica Pier.
Hollywood sign was originally an advertisement to promote a housing development
The hillside landmark is a nod to the city’s entertainment culture, but the sign was installed in 1923 by a real estate developer and originally said Hollywoodland. The original sign was made of white, 50-foot tall letters, but was replaced in 1978 with steel structures.
Beverly Hills was a Spanish lima bean ranch
90210 is one of California’s most expensive neighborhoods, but it started out as a farm until the late 1800s. Land owners intended to build a town called “Morocco”, but the land was sold and the new owners hoped to strike oil. When their efforts did not pay off, they reorganized the land and began selling it off in subdivided lots around 1906. The first house was built in 1907.
The Hollywood Bowl is the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the country
We thought it was Red Rocks, but surprisingly, Red Rocks has a capacity of just under 10,000 guests. The Hollywood Bowl seats a whopping 17,500. If you’ve never been here for a show, it’s worth the visit at least once. It is one of the most popular venues in the state and is iconic for it’s unique bandshell. You can see all kinds of performances here from the LA Philharmonic to jazz to modern headliners like Sting, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, and Incubus.
Bonus Hollywood Bowl Fun Facts:
- They used to have a 100,000 gallon pool in front of the stage. It was drained in 1972.
- The first event was in 1920 and a few boards served as the stage for two women and a piano.
- There is a bathroom hidden in the trees. Don’t go down to the main bathrooms if you can’t wait. Head uphill to the left and you’ll find a hidden restroom tucked in the trees.
- Get in quick with the secret entrance. Apparently there are two secret entrances – one in the middle of the venue just before the bowl, but you have to walk up hill past the main entrance. There is also a west entrance just past the backstage entrance that anyone can use.
- Legends of hidden treasure! There were rumors that treasure was buried under the parking lot, but excavations in 1939 proved fruitless.
- You can go for free – kind of. If there’s no concert, you can enter for free. And rehearsals are open to the public on the day of the show from 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM, unless the band has requested otherwise.
- There is a no-fly zone over the Bowl.
- If it’s not listed as a “lease” event, you can bring in your own booze and food.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.