101 Interesting Facts About California

Last updated on May 12th, 2024

California is the most populous and the 3rd most extensive of the 50 states of the United States. It is in the Pacific Region of the United States. The state attained statehood on September 9, 1850, becoming the 31st state to join the union. It shares its border with three states OregonArizona, and Nevada. California (nicknamed: the Golden State) has 58 counties. The state’s capital is Sacramento. The abbreviation for California is CA. California is also famous for Disneyland and beaches. With these 101 facts about California, let us learn more about its history, culture, people, geography, gold rush, mountains, valleys, etc.

1. More than 13,000 years ago, the first settlers moved into the area known as modern-day California. According to experts, they were the Paleo-Indians who migrated from Russia to today’s Alaska.

2. When Europeans first arrived in the area known as California, there were about 300,000 native people already living there. Ample food supply and no wars contributed to the population growth of people living in the area.

3. By the time European settlers arrived in the California area, native people spoke about 135 different dialects. Some of these languages and dialects were Mojave, Pomo, Yokutz, and Karok.

4. Midwestern farmers of European descent were the state’s earlier settlers. However, due to the discovery of gold, the equation changed and thousands of fortune seekers from the United States and across the world entered the region.

5. A novel by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo that was published in 1510 talked about a mythical island in the story that was named California. When explorers arrived later, they said California reminded them of that fictional island in the novel ‘Las Sergas de Esplandián.’

California on the map


6. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew on September 28, 1542, were the first Europeans to enter California.

7. In 1579, Sir Francis Drake visited California and took possession of the country in the name of Queen Elizabeth. He called the land New Albion.

8. Here is an interesting fact many didn’t know: California was declared a country of its own in 1946. It lasted only a month until the US conquered the state, and they declared their allegiance to the US.

9. Sacramento is the sixth capital city of California. In fact, it was the first and then it was dropped and then again chosen to be the capital of the state since 1854. Prior capitals of California included Monterey, Vallejo, Benicia, San Jose and San Francisco (temporary).

10. About one-half of the state’s land is federally owned.

11. California has 41 mountains exceeding 10,000 feet in height. Alaska and California are among the few states in the U.S. with an extensive seacoast, high mountains, and deserts.

12. Mount Whitney in California is the highest point in the U.S., outside of Alaska.

13. The highest and the lowest point in the continental U.S. are within 100 miles of each other. They are in fact 84.6 miles apart. They are Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet and the Badwater Basin in Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level.

14. The Mojave Desert, at more than 25,000 square miles (65,000 square km), occupies one-sixth of the land area of California.

15. Clear Lake is the largest natural lake wholly within the state. It has a surface area of 68 square miles.

16. California is the most biologically diverse state in the U.S. It has more than 40,000 plant and animal species.

17. With an area of nearly 20,105 sq. mi (52,070 km2), San Bernardino County is the largest county in the U.S. It is actually larger than the nine U.S. states (Maryland, HawaiiMassachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, New JerseyConnecticutDelaware, and Rhode Island.)

California on the U.S. map with bordering states.
California (in red) on the U.S. map with bordering states.

18. An exciting piece of information is that Russia had a trading post, Fort Ross, north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. It was established to trade with the Spanish colony who settled in California.

19. California has the largest economy of any US state.

20. The state of California would rank at about 5th place of the largest economy in the world if it were a country. That is due to the diversity of the state’s economy.

21. Gold was discovered in California in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill by James W. Marshall. After the discovery of the gold, people visited the region from as far as China and Australia.

22. Another interesting fact about California is that after the gold rush, California was nicknamed the “Golden State.”

23. The state produces a whopping 80% of the world’s almonds. The state is also the nation’s top producer of lemons, apricots, avocados, dates, figs, grapes, kiwi, etc.

24. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. In 2018, California’s farms and ranches received almost $50 billion in cash receipts for their output. It is also the leading US state for cash farm receipts. The state’s agricultural produce includes more than 400 commodities. 

25. In 1949, the income from agriculture in the state was around $2.3 million. However, after some forty-five years in 1995, the same income grew to a whopping sum of $2.6 billion. It also produces walnuts, pistachios, and almonds in the largest quantity in the U.S.

26. California is referred to as the “Land of Milk and Honey”. It is also known as the “El Dorado State” and the “Grape State”.

27. A staggering $14 billion worth of wine produced in California was sold to the US market as recently as 2019. This region of the US produces about 241 million nine-liter cases of wine every year.

28. More than 6500 types of plants thrive in California.

Boole tree, Sequoia National Forest, 2007
Boole tree, Sequoia National Forest, 2007

29. California is home to the “giant sequoia” – arguably the largest living organism on earth and the world’s most massive tree. It is also one of the longest-lived of all organisms on earth. The estimated life-span of the tree is between 1800-2700 years. A tree as old as 5,067 years was also found in California (it the longest living non-clonal organism on Earth).

30. The state is also home to the world’s tallest tree – Redwood. These trees can reach a height of over 300 feet. Particularly, a tree in the group named “Hyperion” is the tallest known living tree of all at 379.7 feet.

31. California is home to the Silicon Valley (a region known the world over for high technology, innovation, and venture capital.) San Jose, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, is among the largest tech hubs in the United States. Some of these companies include eBay, PayPal, VeriFone, Adobe, Calyx Software, Cisco, and Western Digital. These companies have taken the lead in the industry and employed many citizens within California. 

32. California is the only state in the U.S. to host summer (1932, 1984) and winter (1960) Olympics.

33. The jeans originated from Southern Europe and landed first in the United States through San Francisco, California. Jacob Davis partnered with Levi Strauss in 1873 to bring on board Denim Jeans for California miners and cowboys.

34. The first motion picture theater was opened in Los Angeles on April 02, 1902.

McDonald’s restaurant stands on its original site in Des Plaines
Des Plaines, IL, USA October 16 A replica of the first McDonald’s restaurant stands on its original site in Des Plaines, Illinois

35. The first McDonald’s fast-food restaurant was opened in San Bernardino, California in 1940.

36. The first Disney Park to open in the world was the one just outside Los Angeles, in Anaheim. It opened in July 1955 while Walt Disney supervised the construction of the site.

37. Every little girl loves the popular Barbie doll, but most people don’t know it was invented in California. It was invented in March 1959 by Mattel, a southern California toy company.

38. During the late 1960s, the first workable internet prototype through the U.S. Department of Defense came into realization at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where ARPANET played a role in delivering communication between computers. Since then, technology continues to grow.

Bell X-1 rocket-powered experimental aircraft
Bell X-1 rocket-powered experimental aircraft photographed during a test flight.

39. The first ever supersonic flight was achieved over lake Muroc, California in a Bell-XS 1 rocket aircraft. The captain of the flight, Charles Elwood Yeager, reached Mach 1.06 at an altitude of 42,000 ft. The flight happened on 14 October 1947.

40. The very hand nicotine patches were invented in 1984 at UCLA. Those who developed the patches used it on themselves to test if it worked. Dr. Maverick, who was involved in the invention, also proved that nicotine was addictive.

41. California is also the birthplace of semiconductors and the Internet, which brought the digital revolution in the world. The first of the three astronomical observatories were also constructed in California.

42. A small lab in San Diego, California, invented the handy and famous WD-40 spray in 1953. It is a rust-prevention spray that is used even in the aerospace industry.

43. Many people think that fortune cookies came from China, but they originated in California. Some say immigrants in Los Angeles made them first, and others claim they originated in Chinatown.

44. A fun fact for food lovers is that the food chain In-N-Out has been a California invention since 1948. The first location of the burger seller opened in Baldwin Park in Los Angeles, California.

45. San Diego, California, is the house of the world’s oldest active sailing ship. The beautiful Star of India is an ancient sailing ship with naval architecture that meets U.S Coast Guard requirements. It’s seaworthy, and it has been operating since 1863. That means it is 157 years old as of today. Thanks to the routine maintenance practices given to the sailing ship. It came to San Diego in 1927.

46. The largest outdoor theater in the US is in California. The simple wooden platform and canvas top have been in operation since 1922 and is known as the Hollywood Bowl.

47. California is also the powerhouse of one of the biggest film industries in the world – It is estimated that more films are shot in California than in any other state. That might eventually change as more movies are shot on-site these days, with newer technology becoming available.

48. The Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, California, was initially designed to advertise a housing development known as Hollywoodland. The sign has been seen since 1923, making it a century old.

Death Valley’s very rare ‘super bloom’ of 2016.
Death Valley’s very rare ‘super bloom’ of 2016. This was the biggest bloom in a decade, triggered by several heavy fall storms. Photo via Shutterstock.

49. California’s Death Valley is North America’s hottest desert and driest place. Badwater, an unincorporated community in Inyo County, is the lowest point in the western hemisphere.

50. Death Valley (at 3.4 million acres) is the largest U.S. National Park outside of Alaska.

51. Furnace Creek in Death Valley is where the hottest temperature on Earth was recorded – 134.1 degrees Fahrenheit (on July 10, 1913).

52. San Francisco Bay is one of the world’s largest landlocked harbors and the Port of Oakland is one of the largest cargo ports in the United States.

53. The California state water project is the largest water-transfer system ever undertaken. It was launched in 1960. The system aims at delivering water to the communities in north-central California and those living as far south as the Mexican border.

54. The largest surfboard measuring 83 m in length, 3.37 m in width and 0.41 m in thickness, was ridden by 66 people on Huntington Beach, California on 20 June 2015.

55. Between 1stApril 1940 and 1st July 1947, California gained 3,000,000 new residents through migration. This number is the largest of any kind of migration that ever took place in any of the U.S. states.

56. According to a survey by the U.S. News, California tops the list of the most racial and ethnic diversity. Fresno being among the top ten makes it to the list due to over 100 different nationalities that reside in the city.

57. The California Indians were the original inhabitants of the state and are now in a limited number left in the region.

58. Almost 5 million tourists were visiting California every year by the late 1990s and the travel and tourism industry generated approximately $75 billion annually. California is the number one travel destination in the U.S.

59. California (in terms of year-long particle pollution) has 6 of the top 10 most polluted U.S. cities. Majority of the pollution caused in the state is because of the high number of cars and trucks in the region.

60. Did you know that the only city in the US still operating cable cars is San Francisco, Northern California? What is great about this is that it has been in operation all these years since 1964!

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