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California  is a state on the west coast of the USA. It is also the third largest state by area and the largest state by population in the USA. The state offers something for everyone: Southern California is home to such popular attractions as Disneyland, Hollywood and the beaches that inspired the television show Baywatch, while the northern part of the state offers the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of San Francisco, and the vineyards of Napa Valley. Further away from the state's major cities California is home to some of America's most rugged national parks, incredible skiing opportunities, and quiet northern forests.
California varies greatly, ranging from the forested northern coastal regions to the rugged interior mountains to the harsh southern desert. Sandwiched in the center of the state is the fertile Central Valley, home to a massive amount of agriculture.
These are some of the major cities of California.
 Other destinations
 National Parks
 California State Parks
The state of California was home to thirty different tribal groups prior to the arrival of European explorers in the 1500s. The Spanish were the first European power to build a settlement in California, establishing twenty-one missions in the state by the late 1700s. Many of these missions survive today, with examples including the mission in Santa Barbara.
After the Mexican War for Independence in 1821 California became a part of Mexico, and remained a part of that country until it was annexed by the United States in 1847 following the Mexican-American War. In 1848 the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada mountains kicked off the California Gold Rush, and the state's non-native population surged from 15,000 to over 300,000 within two years, resulting in statehood for California in 1850.
During the 20th Century the state population increased steadily, and today California is the most populous state in the United States with over 33 millions residents.
With over 160,000 square miles (411,000 km2) the landscape of California is vast and varied. The state contains extremes in elevation, with Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet being the tallest mountain in the lower-48 states, while less than 200 miles away Death Valley, at 282 feet below sea level, is North America's lowest point.
The state's border to the west is made up of a rugged coastline along the Pacific Ocean. The coastal mountains rise up from the ocean and are home to redwood trees in the state's northern half. The Central Valley bisects the state from north-to-south before giving way to the Sierra Nevada mountains, home of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and other natural wonders. The southeastern part of the state is dominated by desert, which covers 25% of California's total area. The Mojave is a high desert, with elevations ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. This area receives less than six inches of rain each year.
The state's climate varies from temperate at the coast to the brutal winters of the mountains, to one of the world's hottest regions in the desert. Rainfall is more common in the northern part of the state than in the south, and snow is rare except in the mountains.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, 134°F (56.6°C) was at Death Valley in 1913, and temperatures regularly exceed 120°F (49°C) during the summer. In contrast, winter temperatures in the mountains can drop below 0°F.
California is a very diverse state with many ethnic groups. California large immigrant populations of Mexicans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, Armenians, Iranians, Jews, Chinese, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thai's, and Hmong's. California also has large populations of African Americans and Native Americans.
Californian's have a wide variety of political views. The Central Valley and Orange County tend to be more conservative, while the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (except for Orange County) and the San Francisco Bay area tend to be more liberal.
Remember, California is a very large populous state, with very different cultures in each region.
 Get in
All major road and airport entrances (including entrances from other US States) to California have agricultural inspection stations to ensure that some fruits and vegetables do not cross into a region where they may come into contact with the farms in the Central Valley. Often, travellers are subject to border inspection (somewhat strict for domestic travel) and asked if they have been on a farm or are carrying organic matter with them. These measures are likely to be increasingly stringent as extreme biosecurity problems arise from travel-carried fruit and vegetables, imported plants and animals, or even from packing material that may carry bioinvader species.
 Get around
California is the third largest state in terms of land size, and is larger than many countries. However, getting around California can be quite simple.
 By car
In addition to interstates and US highways, California has one of the most expansive state highway systems in the United States. As with all trips in the United States, a car is usually the best way to get around and see all destinations. However the trip from the top of California to the bottom can take well over ten hours.
The network of freeways in major population centers are often confusing and intimidating to those unfamiliar with the area so having a good map is very helpful. Almost all exits from freeways are on the right. At interchanges between freeways, in most cases, the flow of traffic continues through the left lanes with the transition to the other freeway being in the right lanes.
Most highways have free access, although there are a handful of toll roads, mostly in Southern California.
In major metropolitan areas, the access ramps to a freeway may have two lanes, one marked with a diamond and the other with a traffic signal. The diamond lane is for vehicles with two or more persons and motorcycles. Vehicles with a single person must use the lane with the traffic light. During high-traffic times, the traffic light spaces out the vehicles attempting to merge onto the freeway. Be sure to read the sign below the light as some ramps allow two or three vehicles per green. A few interchanges between freeways are now using controlled access lights to lighten the gridlock at interchanges.
Some freeways have a carpool lane located along the center divider. This lane is marked by a double-yellow line and signage on the wall separating the two sides of the freeway. In most cases, this lane is for two or more persons per vehicle. A few selected areas, notably some of the bridges in the Bay Area, require three or more per vehicle so check the signage before entering a carpool lane. Motorcycles may also use carpool lanes. Carpool lanes have limited access points marked by a dashed white line. This is the only point at which a vehicle may legally enter or exit a carpool lane.
California requires all persons in a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt at all times. Motorcycle riders must wear a helmet. Starting on July 1, 2008, cellphone users are required to use a hands-free headset if talking on the phone while driving. Unless otherwise signed, right-turns are permitted at red lights following a full stop.
 By plane
Flying may be a more reasonable option from crossing large expanses of the state. Many major (like American and United) and low fare airlines (like jetBlue and Southwest) link cities within the state of California.
 By train
The state's various rail services provide a cheap and reasonably comfortable way to see and get around much of the state. Amtrak  operates a few long-distance routes through and out of California (visit this Wikitravel article for more information), as well as the three Amtrak California  routes: the San Luis Obisbo-Los Angeles-San Diego Pacific Surfliner, the Oakland/Sacramento-Bakersfield San Joaquins, and the San Jose-Sacramento Capitol Corridor.
In addition, there are several commuter and regional services in the state's metro areas: Caltrain, Altamont Commuter Express and BART operate in the Bay Area, Metrolink runs throughout the Los Angeles region, and the COASTER runs along the coast of San Diego County. There are also light rail systems in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose.
English is the official language of California. However, in reality California is a multilingual state. Spanish is very widely spoken by California's large Hispanic population, and the state is highly influenced by the Spanish language. In fact, many of California's cities were named after Spanish bishops or phrases (such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose). Store and street signs are sometimes written in English and Spanish in major metropolitan areas, and "Spanglish" (a mixture of English and Spanish) is often used and heard throughout the state. Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnames, Hindi, Punjabi, and Cambodian are also widely spoken among Asian American populations.
Some of the most famous sights in California include:
Almost anything you can imagine can be found somewhere in California. Immigration has had a strong influence on the state's culinary landscape, with the cuisines of Central America and Asia heavily represented, and those of nearly every other country available to a lesser-extent. More "American" fare includes everything from burger shacks to vegetarian, organic and even completely vegan restaurants; the Californian love for food has left it with one of the most diverse restaurant scenes in the States. The large cities have the most variety, while things get simpler and more meat-heavy as you get more rural.
California is known for its fine wines. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino are premier wine districts north of San Francisco, but there are others in the Central Coast region and even the San Diego region where suitable microclimates have been found. The inland Central Valley region has hotter summers and traditionally produced inexpensive bulk wines, but quality has been improving with winemaking innovations.
Californians tend to view wine as a natural accompaniment of food or socializing, overlooking its alcoholic content more easily than with distilled spirits. However police crackdowns on drinking and driving are increasingly severe with roadblocks and random checks. Conviction for driving with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent is likely to bring serious legal and financial consequences. Drivers with lower blood alcohol can still be convicted for DUI (driving under the influence) if they fail field sobriety tests such as walking a straight line. You must be 21 years of age to drink any alcoholic beverage.
 Stay safe
 Get out