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The Awesome Wonders of California

California is an incredibly diverse state, the third largest in land mass, and the most populated state in the United States. Its eco-system is believed to be one of the richest and most divegent in the world. It is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the east, the Mojave desert in the south and ,Oregon with the Redwood-Douglas fir forests in the north. In the central part of the state lies the Central Valley, which is believed to be one of the most productive agro areas in the entire world. The four largest cities in the state are: Los Angeles (second most populated city in the US), San Diego (the 8th), San Jose (the 10th) and San Francisco (the 13th). Once an area called Alta California, the Spanish Empire ruled the country from the late 1700s until Mexico became a republic in 1821. Then with the conflict between Mexico and America, the state was ceded to the US in the mid-1800s. On September 9, 1850 California became the 31st state in the union.

The way that California grew is as phenomenal as the state itself.  The gold rush brought people by the droves, from all over the country, as well as from all over the world.  The economic boom was felt most especially in San Francisco that grew from a small tent town to a boomtown of world renown, and since it is on the coast, it brought people in ships as well.  The excitement and dreams of striking it rich brought people from all walks of life from every corner of the globe.  They walked, rode horseback, wagon trains, railroads, riverboats, and ocean ships. They brought their families, friends, animals, belongings (that made it over the treacherous mountains and Indians), hopes, dreams and desire to succeed.  By the way that the state grew, and grew, and grew some more; it is obvious these stout-hearted, hard-working Americans fulfilled their dreams and built a state of incredible influence and magnitude in these United States.  Not to be outdone in growth, the Los Angeles area began its blossoming in the early 20th century with the invention of film making and American entertainment began a rise that still goes on today and is more exciting and phenomenal than ever before.  As the state grew, tourism began to grow also. People came to visit and many ended up staying as agriculture spread, and other industries emerged. Among these are petroleum, aerospace and finally, but by no means in the least; Silicone Valley. If the state were a country on its own, it would be the 35th in the list of GDP producers, and 59th in size. This state alone, today, produces about one-third of this country's food, and the wine industry continues to excel among the world's finest vintages.

As different as the people living there, the landscape is equally as diverse. Almost half the state is covered with forests, and only Alaska has more, with trees in the White Mountains the oldest living organisms in the world. One such spectacular Bristlecone pine has an estimated age of 4,700 years. The state can also boast about its giant sequoia trees, these being the largest living trees in the world. In fact, California can pride fully boast that it has the oldest, largest and tallest trees in the entire world. It is home to some of this country's most beautiful national parks, rivers, lakes and glaciers. The southernmost glacier in the country is Palisade Glacier. The highest peak in the continental US is Mt. Whitney, and the lowest is in Death Valley; both of which are in California and the distance between them, in height, is almost 200 miles.

During its infancy, traveling to California was difficult and quite often, dangerous. In 1869, with the finalization of the Transcontinental Railroad, the way was opened for hundreds of thousands of Americans to come west. Go west young man, go west, became the slogan of the late 19th century and the deluge began. They discovered the land was suited for growing an abundance of fruit trees (especially oranges in the south), vegetables, cotton, cereal crops, and nuts. From 1900 to 1965, when the population was less than a million, with the completion of the Lincoln Highway and the infamous Route 66, California became the most populous state in the country. Today, it is considered to be the country's center of agri crops, entertainment and music, engineering and technology. Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world, Silicone Valley is the high tech, Central Valley the agricultural center and the wine regions of Paso Robles, Sonoma Valley, Santa Barbara, Temecula and Napa Valley are unequaled.

In 1937, with orange paint and its gorgeous scenic view of the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge was finished, becoming an attraction for visitors as well as allowing bicyclists and walkers to span the famous landmark. With 2 major international airports on the coast; Los Angeles and San Francisco, the Pacific and the states are easily traveled. Also in LA, is an enormous port complex that joins with Long Beach in Southern California and become the largest in the states and handles almost a quarter of the container cargo in the US. In the greater Los Angeles, Riverside-San Bernardino, and San Francisco bay areas; almost 70 percent of the population for this great state thrive and live.

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Tours in California

Home to the first theme park in the US, southern California has Knott's Berry Farm. It is there that Mrs. Knott started her world famous chicken dinner. On the property is the original restaurant, a hotel, a replica of Independence Hall, a water park called Knott's Soak City Orange County, Camp Snoopy for the children, and many coaster rides, one of the best rated being Ghostrider. A bit further north is Universal Studios Hollywood that opened in 1964 taking excited visitors to behind the scenes of tv and movie production studios. Also there is a shopping and entertainment complex that will give you the thrill of the studios. North of this is the amusement park referred to as Walley World in the Griswolds' vacation, but more appropriately known as Six Flags Magic Mountain. In the northern part of the state, Marriot opened Great America in 1976, as an amusement park. With additional thrilling rides and a water park, it is owned today by Cedar Fair Entertainment and one price takes care of the whole shebang. Originally opening as Marine World, this aquatic park featured dolphins and killer whales, but has since brought in many land animals including giraffes and elephants. Various roller coaster and amusement rides fill the park out. It is now known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. A park for kids of all ages opened in San Diego county near Carlsbad called LEGOLAND. Not too many thrills and chills, but plenty of rides and an overabundance of attractions. Just to south you will find the San Diego Seaworld.

A one-time cannery has been refurbished into the Monterey Bay Aquarium, with over 35,000 spectacular
species and over a thousand volunteers and employees to make sure visitors will see and learn about these
fantastic creatures and the sea around them. A very special place to visit. Take a walk on the wild side
along Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with its beachside amusement park and many unique boutiques and shops.
A very well known place to appreciate the summer evenings, is in the Hollywood Bowl, which is the biggest
amphitheater in the country. Although in the middle of a huge city, this enchanting setting is always
enjoyed by attendees. While in the city, everyone has to spend a day or evening on Sunset Strip. The
most famous area of the Sunset Boulevard, running through downtown Los Angeles to Malibu, is a mile and a
half strip that is very well known and awed by visitors. In the same area, is Rodeo Drive, most famous
for its extravagant shops and boutiques. Just don't visit on Sundays since the majority of the stores
are closed. Free to look and see who is shopping from the rich and famous.

Moving north, there are numerous places to enjoy and tantalize yourself in San Francisco. Union Square
is the third biggest shopping place in the country and has been a shopping bonanza since the early 20th
century; home decor, art works and clothing are the main items, but can be expensive. For the visitor,
it is a marvelous area to window-shop and people watch. This Chinatown is the second largest in the
country, hustling and bustling the most in the afternoon. Delight in the excellent food and shop the
souvenir shops, with tours available. There are many wonderful sights and sounds emanating in this city
and you can enjoy much more at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Street musicians, jugglers and other
performers will keep you entertained and the eateries here are quite well known and the food is
unbelievable. If you aren't too faint of heart, visit the infamous island of Alcatraz, but you will need
to book in advance, as many visitors can't leave this city without a tour of the island.

One of the best rated zoos in the country is in San Diego, with the familiar animals, and some not so
familiar; but if you also love plants, there are over 6500 exotic plants in this botanical setting.
Another unusual and haunting place to visit, is the Winches Mystery House, made famous by the movie Red
Rose. The house contains 160 rooms, some unfinished and many unusual and mysterious like doors in the
floor, staircases going nowhere, 13 windows in bathroom 13, and even a 12-lght chandelier that is holding
13 lights. The number 13 seems to be all over the house, evidence that the owner, Sarah Winchester held
a strange enthrallment with that number. Balboa Park and Museums is one place you'll have to see to
believe; considering it to be the biggest outdoor cultural park in this country and perhaps the world.
From this city, you are close enough to visit the very well known Mexican city of Tijuana. In more
movies about this neighbor to the south, it holds mesmerizing sights, sounds and smells for everyone.

When you feel overpowered by the high level excitement of the big cities and the beaches have soaked the
oils from your bodies, you are ready to visit the wineries in either Napa or Sonoma Valley. The wine
train runs through giving you expansive colorful vistas of vineyards, rolling hills and sweet smelling
fresh air. In Napa, there are spouting geysers, Old Faithful being the best known, the Safari West that
offers tours both walking and riding to see the many exciting animals from far off places. Everyone will
enjoy the Petrified Forest, called Trees of Stone, where you can hike among the statues and learn how
they can about. Some well known vineyards are located here and offer tours and tastes; among them is:
Schramsber, Swanson, Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Sterling, Darioush, Del Dotto, Sutter Home and Robert
Sinskey. The winery list for Sonoma is even more expansive, but to name a few: Arrowood, Benziger,
Chateau St. Jean, Glen Ellen, Kenwood, Landmark, Mayo Family, Moondance, Ravenswood, Sebastiani, Stone
Creek and Wellington.

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Things to do in California

In the state of California, there are over 35,000 restaurants, amusement parks; most notably Disneyland and Universal Studios, over 12, 000 accommodations, 4732 things to do and if you should run out, you can always spend the day at the beach or people-watching.  It would take a long time and quite a few dollars to visit all the marvelous sites in this state.  With glaciers, valleys, lakes, rivers, to lure and entice the water related sports enthusiasts; there are many fantastic national parks.  One such is Yosemite in the valley of its own. Another is the Sequoia National Park, with its huge trees that blot out the sun and castes an eerie spell over the beholder. Lake Tahoe is another and famous throughout the country for its seasonal spectaculars, in the state of California and Nevada. Clear Lake is the largest lake in the state, although Tahoe is bigger, but part of 2 states.  On the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas is Owen Valley and Mono Lake, which are part of a huge migratory bird habitat and very important to the migration of the various birds that visit.  Salton Sea is in the southern part of the state and is the largest salt lake in the state.  That would be an awesome place to swim.  Almost 25 percent of the state's surface is in deserts.  The Mojave is one such desert that has held stories and memories for many Americans from the past and present.  Death Valley is to the north and east of Mojave and there you will discover the hottest, lowest place in North America; appropriately called "Badwater Flat".  The state is in the Neartic ecozone, spanning terrestrial ecoregions and includes a few of the most endangered ecological sites in the world.

With the influx of people, industries, cities, homes, highways and a multitude of tourist attractions, urbanization as it is called, coupled with, logging, overgrazing and outside species being introduced into the environment, a large number of the native trees and plants have died out. In the Calaveras Big Trees State Park, this is quite evident with smaller stands of trees that have become extinct elsewhere, take for example, the Catalina Ironwood. Although there are many rivers in the state, 2 of the most important are the Sacramento and San Joaquin that drain the Central Valley and flow out to the Pacific through San Francisco.  The Colorado is in the southern part of the state and the Klamath is in the north and these rivers offer some of the most exciting, unbelievable rides and thrills of your life.  Well worth the visit.

If you should ever discover that you haven't found enough to do, then here are some more suggestions. You could go watch an Angels baseball game at their stadium in Anaheim, and depending on the time of day or night it is, take some time to visit the open air farmers market where you can find the freshest fruit s and vegetables imaginable. Or go horseback riding in the Agoura Hills, where the scenery and fresh air smells will mesmerize you into having the best night's rest in a long time. There's always Disney's newest theme park, the California Adventure with an old wooden roller coaster that has been modernized with hair raising twists and turns, that has been computerized for that utmost thrill in coaster riding. You could visit the flight simulator in Anaheim or go spelunking in the California caverns with a tour that takes about 3 hours; only don't be claustrophobic. In Apple Valley jump into the Deep Creek Hot Springs afterwards. Visit the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake in the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and do some hiking on their fabulous trails. In any number of areas you can stop in and have a glass of wine to prepare your palate for a scrumptious dinner, and take a tour while you are there.
Spend a day on Catalina Island with its beautiful sandy beaches, museums and adventure tours. They even have ocean rafting and snorkeling. Afterwards, enjoy a meal at one the local restaurants, and watch the sun setting on the best day of your vacation.

Barstow offers up some terrific hiking and plenty of outdoor activity at the Rainbow Basin Natural Park. There is always the Calico Early Man Site where you can see some of the oldest artifacts of homo sapiens in this country; found right where you are standing. For the real thrill seekers, head on over to Bear Valley where you can snow board, snow tube, ski, cross country ski or mountain bike all year long.

California is the optimum for tours and things to do in a state. There are a bountiful amount of
 national parks and forests here, including: Angeles National Forest, Carlsbad Caverns, Channel Islands,
 Cleveland National Forest, Death Valley, Eldorado National Forest, Golden Gate, Inyo National Forest,
 Mojave National Preserve, Muir Woods, Modoc National Forest, Plumas National Forest, Mendocino National
 Forest, Redwood, Los Padres National Forest, San Bernadino National Forest, Joshua Tree, Santa Monica
 Mountains, Klamath National Forest, Sequoia Kings Canyon, Lassen National Forest, Six Rivers National
 Forest, Yosemite, Sequoia National Forest, Tahoe National Forest, Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Sierra
 National Forest and the Stanislaus National Forest. These are magnificent parks to hike, bike or take
 pictures. Enjoy the wild life and nature that has been preserved in these magical trees. The list for the state parks would take up most of this page and most of your time perusing. With almost 90 in the list with trails for hiking and biking, they are the ultimate scenes to bask in the glory of waterfalls, landscapes from dreams, rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, fishing, bird watching and the most fantastic picturesque sights you will ever encounter. Is it any wonder that after visiting this unbelievable state that you will consider moving here permanently. There are areas to parachute, horseback riding, golfing, glaciers, lakes, rivers, valleys, sports complexes, almost 100 museums ranging from historical to bizarre and camps, forts, adventure parks, theme parks, water parks and as mentioned earlier, more restaurants than you could ever eat at in a lifetime.