July 26, 2012

California – “The Golden State”


California Map


Just the Facts…


bird – California Valley Quail
flower – California Poppy
tree – Redwood
capital – Sacramento
union – 31st state on September 9, 1850
population – almost 38 million




The Basics 

A lot of people live in California!  In fact, more people live in California than any other state.   Not only that – LA County alone has more people than most other states (42 in fact)!  And, it has the largest minority population of any state (a third of its residents are of Mexican descent).

California has a little bit of everything – mountains, deserts, forests, and beaches!  Northern California is lush and wooded, while southern California is dry desert.  California has two mountain ranges – one by the Pacific Ocean and one by the eastern border with Nevada – in between lies a fertile valley (it is the heart of California’s agriculture).  Death Valley is in the southeast corner of California and has the lowest point in America.  Not even the Grand Canyon is lower!

Some people think the name “California” came from a Spanish fictional story.  California was settled by the Spanish first – they established missionaries all over southern California, to try to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism.  California then passed to Mexican hands and all those missions became “ranchos” – cattle farms.  After the Mexican-American War was over, much of northern California passed to America and became a territory.  But, southern California remained in Mexican hands until it became a state in 1850.

California has so many people, but so little water.  It has very few natural springs, rivers and lakes, especially in southern California.  Over the years, California has had to be creative about how it gets water.  Some of its water comes from places as far away as the Colorado River.  In addition, the California Aqueduct is about 700 miles of pipeline that brings water from the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California to communities farther south.


Its Claim to Fame

Gold was found in northern California right after it became a state!   The California Gold Rush brought people from all over America and other countries who tried to get rich by finding gold.  Towns popped up overnight.  The population grew so fast that no one could keep up – people couldn’t build houses and towns fast enough.  At first, traveling to California was hard and dangerous.  Families would spend months traveling by wagon across the great plains, through the Rocky Mountains, over the desert, and across another set of mountains into California.  Eventually, railroads connected California with the rest of America and then there was no stopping the population boom!

Hollywood is the home of American movies and television.  It was settled around 1900 – the first film companies came soon after and have never left!   Animation was invented in Hollywood by Walt Disney – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and so forth.  If it weren’t for Hollywood, you wouldn’t have cartoons to watch in the mornings!

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is considered to be one of the modern Wonders of the World!  The bridge is about 1 1/2 miles long and crosses the San Francisco Bay.  It is the tallest suspension bridge in America.  Suspension bridges are unique because the road “hangs” from large cables, or steel wires.  The support comes from above the road, rather than below the road like many other bridge designs.  The Golden Gate bridge was built in the 1930’s and allows for both car and pedestrian traffic.


What Makes it Tick

Many people don’t think of California as a major agricultural state.  In fact, California grows at least 50% of all fruit sold in America.  Much of the fruits and vegetables are grown in California’s central valley, which has fertile soil.  Add a little water and the growing conditions are perfect!  I bet you eat at least one thing each week that is grown in California – grapes, strawberries, melons, oranges, lettuce, tomatoes and almonds.  Not to mention its cows and all the milk and dairy products.  Take a look in your refrigerator, or check out the produce next time you go to the grocery store – I bet you can find quite a few things that are made in California!

Silicon Valley is home to many technology companies – like Apple, Google, eBay, and HP.  In fact, personal computers were started in the Silicon Valley area of California.  You probably have a lot of items in your house that were designed in Silicon Valley – especially computers and printers.  And, don’t forget those iPads, iPhones, and iTouches!

Since California is on the Pacific Ocean, it has quite a few ports.  And, some of America’s biggest ports are in California – such as Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.  A lot of goods pass through those ports – almost everything imported from Asia goes through a California port.  Do you have a Sony television? Or a Toshiba DVD player?  Or a Nintendo Wii?  Chances are those electronics came to America on a ship that unloaded its cargo in California.


If You Visited

If you visited California, you may visit the Giant Sequioa Trees.  The giant sequoia’s are the oldest and largest living thing in the world – they are larger than any other plant or anima!   They grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and you can find them inYosemite National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Kings Canyon National Park, or Sierra National Forest.  Many of the oldest and biggest Sequoia’s have names, like “Grizzly Giant,” “Wawona Tree,” “General Grant,” or “Agassiz Tree.”

Or, you may go to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.  Tar Pits? In Los Angeles? Yes, the La Brea tar pits are actually open pools of tar.  And, they have lots of fossils in them!  Even today, scientists are finding fossils of animals that walked this earth long, long ago.

You might spend a day at one of California’s many amusement parks.  Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Legoland, Sea World, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – the list goes on and on!

Or, you might play on one of southern California’s many beaches.  You could even learn to surf in Santa Monica!  Or boogie board in Malibu!  Or brave the colder water in Half Moon Bay.  With over 2,500 miles of beaches, there is something for everyone.  After you get your fill of water sports, you may stay on Coronado Island.  Or take a ferry out to Catalina Island.  Or, travel up to Monterey Bay to watch the sea otters!


Want to Know More? 

Check our California state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in California?  Or, maybe you have visited California?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about California?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of California to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about California.  Visit these websites to learn more: