The most populous U.S. state (and third largest behind Alaska and Texas), California dominates the West coast - covering more than 1,000 miles from San Diego on the Mexican border to the dramatic headlands of the Pacific Northwest - and lives large in the imagination of the rest of the world.
From the ever-unfurling red carpet in Hollywood to San Francisco’s majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the state seems to be defined by its iconic images. (It’s even governed by a former movie action-hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Here everything rates an “Awe-some!” And almost everybody you meet is transplanted from somewhere else. California dreamin’ is alive and thriving in Hollywood starlets and fledgling winemakers in the Napa Valley, Santa Barbara surfers waiting for the perfect tube, and software nerds, for the next round of venture capital.
While California’s history may be a blip on civilization’s timeline, it’s also the birthplace of Apple, innovative cuisine fusions and the next pop culture craze. Sure, it can be exasperatingly superficial. But bottom line: almost every day is sunny and warm. The extraordinary landscape ranges from cactus flowers in the Palm Springs desert to the majestic coastal redwoods, the world's tallest trees. From the country's highest peak (Mt Whitney) to the continent's lowest point (Death Valley), national and state parks showcase California's extreme beauty, crowned, many believe, by Yosemite. From spring skiing in the High Sierras - on snow in the morning and Lake Tahoe after noon - to adventures along its photogenic coast. Totally awesome.