California, United States

About California

California is the most populous state of the United States. Located on the Pacific coast of North America, it is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east and southeast in the United States, and Baja California to the south. The state's four largest cities are Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. California is known for its Mediterranean climate and ethnically diverse population. California's diverse geography ranges from the sandy beaches of the Pacific coast to the rugged, snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the northeast. The central portion of the state is dominated by the Central Valley, one of the most vital agricultural areas in the country. The Sierra Nevada contains Yosemite Valley, famous for its glacially-carved domes, and Sequoia National Park, home to the largest living organisms on Earth, the giant sequoia trees, and the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney. The tallest living things on Earth, the ancient redwood trees, paste the coastline, mainly north of San Francisco.

California Tourism and Recreation

California has been the number one travel destination in the United States for a number of years. While the state's mild, sunny climate and varied scenery of seacoast, mountains, and desert lure many visitors, the San Francisco and Los Angeles metropolitan areas offer the most popular tourist attractions. San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and Ghirardelli Square are popular for shopping and dining; tourists also frequent the city's unique cable cars, splendid museums, Opera House, and Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, comprising 68 sq mi (176 sq km) on both sides of the entrance to San Francisco Bay, includes Fort Point in the Presidio park, Alcatraz Island (formerly a federal prison) in the bay, the National Maritime Museum with seven historic ships, and the Muir Woods, located 17 mi (27 km) north of the city. South of the city, the rugged coastal scenery of the Monterey peninsula attracts many visitors; to the northeast, the wineries of the Sonoma and Napa valleys offer their wares for sampling and sale.

The Los Angeles area has the state's principal tourist attractions: the Disneyland amusement center at Anaheim, and Hollywood, which features visits to motion picture and television studios and sightseeing tours of film stars' homes in Beverly Hills. One of Hollywood's most popular spots is Mann's (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theater, where the impressions of famous movie stars' hands and feet (and sometimes paws or hooves) are embedded in concrete. The New Year's Day Tournament of Roses at Pasadena is an annual tradition. Southwest of Hollywood, the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area was created by Congress in 1978 as the country's largest urban park, covering 150,000 acres. The Queen Mary ocean liner, docked at Long Beach, is now a marine-oceanographic exposition center and hotel-convention complex.

The rest of the state offers numerous tourist attractions, including some of the largest and most beautiful national parks in the US. In the north are Redwood National Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park. In east-central California, situated in the Sierra Nevada, are Yosemite National Park, towering Mt. Whitney in Sequoia National Park, and Lake Tahoe on the Nevada border. About 80 mi (129 km) east of Mt. Whitney is Death Valley. Among the popular tourist destinations in southern California are the zoo and Museum of Man in San Diego's Balboa Park and the Mission San Juan Capistrano, to which, according to tradition, the swallows return each spring.

California Climate

California's climate is often compared to that of the Mediterranean, due to warm, dry summers, and mild, wet winters. On the coast, average yearly temperatures range between the low 40s°F (4.4°C) and in the high 70s°F (21.1°C) and 80s°F (26.7°C). Farther inland, summers are hot and dry, and at higher altitudes the weather is more typical of a four-seasons cycle with cold, snowy winters. The contrast is clear in the state’s two largest cities, where you’ll find very different weather patterns. San Francisco is famous for its fog — especially in the summer, and Los Angeles is known for its consistently sunny, desert-like, coastal climate.

You’ll find the weather along California’s Central Coast to be consistently mild, varying down the coast with rainfall and coastal fog. Keep in mind that rainy season runs from November through April. Nestled between mountain climate to the east and coastal climate to the west, Gold Country enjoys hot, dry summers, and winters, usually in full swing by November, are cooler and wet with rain — or snow, depending on how far up in the foothills you go. The most important thing to know about the High Sierra's alpine climate is that weather can change quickly, especially if you’re changing altitude while hiking, climbing, or driving. The area is famous for lots of sunshine and big-time winter snow. Summers are typically warm and dry. Redwood trees love the North Coast's foggy climate: not too hot, not too cold. Average daily highs range from the mid-50s°F(10°C) in winter to the mid-60s°F (15.6°C) in summer. Venture inland a few miles, and the temperature might increase or decrease significantly — sometimes up to 50 degrees. Rainy season is November through March.

California Transportaion

California's transportation system is dynamic and usually functional, however, in a state with over 30 million people, rapid population expansion, and diverse terrain and weather, that system is under pressure to stay ahead of population growth and transportation needs. California is known for its car culture, and its residents typically take to the roads for their commutes, errands, and vacations, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion.

Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state's 58 counties.

Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak California, which manages the three busiest intercity rail lines in the US outside the Northeast Corridor. Integrated subway and light rail networks are found in Los Angeles (Metro Rail) and San Francisco (BART and MUNI Metro). Light rail systems are also found in San Jose (VTA), San Diego (San Diego Trolley), Sacramento (RT Light Rail), and Northern San Diego County (Sprinter). Furthermore, commuter rail networks serve the San Francisco Bay Area (Caltrain, ACE), Greater Los Angeles (Metrolink), and San Diego County (Coaster). Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus lines as well. Intercity bus travel is provided by Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Coach.