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A strong surf culture, the innovative hub of Silicon Valley, hundreds of miles of coastline, the movie stars of Los Angeles, and an eco-friendly edge make California stand out from every other state. You might think you know the Golden State pretty well after you visit the national parks, explore the quaint beach towns, and spend a weekend in San Francisco. But the truth is, there are plenty of little-known strange facts about California that will still surprise you.
1. California is named after a mythical island from Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo’s best-selling novel Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Deeds of Esplandián).
2. Route 66 saw a peak in tourism when Disneyland Park opened in 1955.
3. California is home to the highest and lowest points in the continental U.S.
4. San Jose was California’s first state capital, followed by Vallejo and Benicia (respectively) before Sacramento was named the permanent capital in 1879.
5. California was an independent country—known as the independent California Republic—for one month in 1846.
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6. SoCal’s Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is the best place to see the state flower.
7. The grizzly bear on California’s state flag is based off of one captured by media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who he named Monarch.
8. Oil fields were discovered beneath Los Angeles in the 1890s, and by 1930, California was responsible for a quarter of the world’s petroleum production.
9. More movies have been filmed in California than in any other state in the U.S.
10. General Sherman, the largest tree in the world (by volume), resides in Sequoia National Park. It’s estimated to be around 2,700 years old and measures 102 feet around the base.
11. Approximately 750 million people have visited Disneyland since it opened.
12. Spread across roughly 600,000 acres, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California.
13. According to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the Bay Area’s Mount Diablo State Park offers the best view in the country. On clear days, 40 of the state’s 58 counties are visible, covering over 8,500 square miles of California.
14. Burney Falls in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is the tallest waterfall in a California state park, towering 129 feet high.
15. Numerous culinary creations originated in California, including fortune cookies, Cobb salads, San Francisco sourdough bread, French dip sandwiches, popsicles, California-style pizza, and San Diego’s famous California-style burrito.
16. Hula hoops, skateboards, videotape recorders, wetsuits, and blue jeans were also invented in the Golden State.
17. Otis Redding developed his well-known song “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” by the water in Sausalito.
18. Hyperion, the Guinness World Record–holding tree, resides in Redwood National Park. As of 2017, the tree measured 380 feet and 1 inch.
19. California is known for some pretty strange laws, including limiting the number of bathtubs and prohibiting bowling on the sidewalks in certain cities.
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