From a Spanish song about an imaginary island governs by a queen named Calafia
Nickname: Golden State
State bird: California Valley Quail
State flower: California or Golden Poppy
Time: Pacific (GMT – 8)
The State: ‘The Golden State’ of California has it all: snow-capped mountains, vast deserts, lush forests and long stretches of golden beach. The most populous State in the USA, California can be divided into 12 tourist regions: the Central Coast, Los Angeles County, Orange County, the North Coast, San Diego County, the San Francisco Bay Area, Shasta Cascade, Gold Country, the Central Valley, the High Sierra, the Deserts and the Inland Empire.
Known as ‘the Middle Kingdom’, the Central Coast extends from the Bay Area to Los Angeles County, along the Pacific coast and to the vineyards of the valleys around Santa Barbara. The Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur are tranquil areas of great natural beauty with some of the most scenic drives in the country.
No trip to California is complete without a visit to the second-biggest city in the USA: Los Angeles, the ‘City of Angels’. It lives up to its reputation as ‘the entertainment capital of the world’, offering the best in theatre, symphony and ballet as well as the chance to spot stars in Hollywood. Alongside museums, sporting events and some of the country’s finest restaurants, Los Angeles County has miles of sunny coastline and an abundance of State Parks and natural recreation areas.
Orange County is home to one of the world’s most famous attractions, Disneyland Resort. As well as the theme parks, resorts and shopping, the county offers 67km (42 miles) of beaches and the charming rural communities of the Santa Ana Mountains.
Presented on Paradise Bay in Disney’s California Adventure park, “World of Color” is a major milestone in the multi-year expansion of the park. The show combines nearly 1,200 powerful fountains, popular Disney music and an all-new kaleidoscope of audio and visual effects, including both classic and new animation projected on massive screens of water. “World of Color” floods the senses and takes the audience on an imaginative, emotional journey into the colorful worlds of Disney classics, such as “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid,” along with Disney•Pixar films including “Toy Story” and “WALL-E.”
The North Coast is a land of rugged shoreline, redwood forests and vineyards. Stretching from San Francisco to the Oregon border, the region includes Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties, which boast world-class wineries, and is an attractive mix of rough wilderness and cultivated farmland.
The balmy climate and beautiful beaches of San Diego County make it a popular destination. The city’s Spanish heritage is reflected in numerous buildings and museums. Attractions include the famous San Diego Zoo, Sea World and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
The San Francisco Bay Area is one of the world’s most popular destinations. San Francisco is a cosmopolitan city, whose cable cars and Golden Gate Bridge are instantly recognisable. The Bay Area offers world-class museums, restaurants, wineries, shopping and historic sites. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the coastal resort area of Santa Cruz.
In the northeastern corner of the State lies one of the country’s most beautiful and unspoiled regions – the Shasta Cascade. The region’s waterfalls, whitewater rivers, forests, icy lakes and towering mountains – including the California Cascade range – provide stunning vistas.
Gold Country is where the California Gold Rush, which forever changed the State – and the country – began in 1849. On the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Gold Country is full of historic mining towns and museums, while California’s capital city, Sacramento still shows clear signs of its pioneer beginnings.
Running between the Sierra Nevada and the coastal foothills is the Central Valley, California’s agricultural heartland. This enormous valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, is laced with thousands of miles of waterways and dotted with green pastures, orchards and vineyards. Fresno and Bakersfield are interesting regional centres.
The beautiful wilderness of the High Sierra, immortalised in the photography of Ansel Adams, is an outdoor enthusiast’s delight. Home to the famous Yosemite National Park and the resorts of Lake Tahoe and the Mammoth Lakes, the region offers a wide range of recreational activities as well as some spectacular landscapes.
The Deserts region, in the southeast, features expansive landscapes, brilliant skies, traces of pioneer history and glittering resort cities. Natural phenomena include the isolated Death Valley National Monument and the vast Joshua Tree National Monument, while in spring, the desert explodes with displays of wild flowers. Most visitors to the region explore one of the rustic ghost towns or drive along historic Route 66.
The Inland Empire, centred around the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, is the fastest-growing metropolitan region in the USA. Only an hour from Los Angeles, its varied landscape – from snow-capped mountains to sand dunes and farmlands – makes it an ideal film location, and the region is known as ‘Hollywood’s largest back lot’.