California is the third largest state in the country, followed by Alaska and Texas. But more people live here than in any other US state. So do the most turkeys and the world’s largest tree (as of 2022). It’s 275 feet tall, lives in Sequoia National Park, and even has a name: General Sherman.
The state is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, and Mexico to the south. Keep an eye out for black bears, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, sea lions, green sea turtles, and other creatures that live in the wild.
California was nicknamed the Golden State because of the gold rush in 1848 and fields of golden poppies that bloom every spring. It’s known worldwide by everyone from surfers to celebrities (including Mickey Mouse) to tech giants. You may think you know a lot about the state, but Mo says there’s plenty more to learn so keep reading!
What really happened
- People have lived here for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived, there were a number of Native American tribes in the area including the: Chumash, Mohave, Yuma, Pomo and Maidu. They spoke different languages, had different cultures, and were mostly peaceful people who hunted, fished and gathered nuts and fruit for food.
- In 1542, the first European visited the coast of California. His name was Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. In 1579, English Explorer Sir Francis Drake landed on the coast near San Francisco and claimed the land for England. But the land was far away from Europe and European settlement didn’t really begin for another 200 years.
- The Spanish built 21 Catholic missions along the California coast to try to convert Native Americans to Catholicism. They also built forts called presidios and small towns called pueblos. One of the presidios to the south became the city of San Diego while a mission built to the north would later become the city of Los Angeles.
- When the country of Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, California became a province of Mexico. But by the 1840s, many American settlers from the east began moving to California. They began to rebel against Mexico and declared it their own country, renaming it the Bear Flag Republic.
- The Bear Republic didn’t last long. After the United States won the Mexican-American War in 1848, California became a US territory.
- In 1848, gold was discovered. During the next seven years, over 300,000 treasure hunters moved to California. The state would never be the same.
- In 1850, California became the 31st state to join the Union.
- In the early 1900s, major motion picture companies made Hollywood their home. The town was a great location for filmmaking because it had a warm, sunny climate and had different types of nearby locations, including: beaches, mountains and desert. More movies have been filmed here than in any other state.
Stuff you should know
- California has more than 500 fault lines, or long cracks in the surface of the Earth, that routinely trigger earthquakes. On average, the state experiences over 100,000 earthquakes a year. Some believe it’s actually more than 500,000.
- Like almonds? California produces about 80% of the world’s almonds.
- When Spanish explorers first came to California, they thought they had discovered an island. The state’s name comes from the 16th century story of Queen Califa, who was the ruler of a mythical island.
- The Internet was born in California. Many famous technology companies are also located in the same general area, which is called Silicon Valley.
- Other innovations created here include: wetsuits, skateboards, Barbie dolls, Apple products, and the Frisbee.
- Although Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego are famous cities in California, the capital city is Sacramento.
- Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose are among the top 10 biggest cities in the US.
- The most magical place on Earth opened here in 1955. Can you guess what it is? Here’s a clue: it’s Mickey Mouse’s home.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- The world’s largest living thing is a giant sequoia, a tree that lives in California. It’s between 1,800 and 2,700 years old.
- Death Valley in California is the hottest and driest desert in North America. The hottest temperature ever recorded was 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913. What’s the hottest temperature you’ve ever experienced?
- Interested in ghost-hunting? There are plenty of haunted spots that will give you the creeps. The mining town of Nortonville is said to be haunted by the wife of the man for whom the town is named. Some say Mount Shasta (a mountain that’s more than 14,000 feet high) and the Preston School of Industry, which was once used as a jail or prison, have been haunted for years. Among the spookiest roads is Highway 299, the stretch of road between Old Shasta City and Whiskeytown Lake.
- San Francisco is the only city where you can walk on guns. In an attempt to make the city streets free of mud and dirt, settlers paved the streets with guns during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- Located less than 20 miles from Palm Springs, you can find life-size sculptures of more than 50 dinosaurs. They’re called the Cabazon Dinosaurs and, more than likely, are nothing like you’ve ever seen before. (Psst…I hear you can climb up the mouth of Mr. Rex.)
- There are more dogs than children in the city of San Francisco.
- California is also home to both the highest point (Mount Whitney) and lowest point (Death Valley) in the mainland or continental United States. That includes all of the US states, except Alaska and Hawaii.
- In 1867, it was illegal for anyone considered ugly to walk down the streets in San Francisco. This was known as the “ugly law.” Apparently anyone diseased, mutilated, maimed, or deformed in any way was prohibited from walking freely.
Tell me more
- Fortune cookies were invented in California, not China.
- The first McDonald’s fast-food restaurant opened in San Bernardino in 1940 and was set up by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald.
- The world’s oldest, functioning ship named the Star of India is based in San Diego. It’s about 159 years old.
- There are 59 national parks in the US. California is home to nine of them, more than any other state in the country.
Do you know any other interesting things about California, whether you live here or have vacationed here? Please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org along with your first name, age, and state you call home and we’ll post it on Mo’s social media pages!