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10 Surprising Things You DIDN’T KNOW About California!

California is a state full of surprises.

California is known for Hollywood stars, sunny beaches and towering mountains….but there’s so much more to this amazing place!

In this post, we’re going to reveal some things about California that you probably didn’t know. 

From hidden ghost towns to wild parrots, California has some awesome secrets to share.

1. Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie ghost town in California.

Bodie is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the United States. It’s like stepping back in time to the Wild West. 

It was once a bustling gold mining town in the late 1800s, full of miners searching for gold with busy streets, shops and even a railway. 

But when the gold ran out, people left and Bodie became a ghost town, now preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” 

Today it’s a State Historic Park where you can walk through the old streets and see buildings like the old general store, saloon and schoolhouse just as they were left, frozen in time. 

It’s said that Bodie is haunted, with tales of ghostly figures and strange sounds at night.

Related Reading: The 7 MOST HAUNTED Places In California 🤯

2. Lowest and Highest Points

Badwater Basin at Death Valley National Park in California.

California is a land of extremes, home to both the lowest and highest points in the contiguous United States. 

The lowest point is in Death Valley, at a place called Badwater Basin. 

It’s 282 feet below sea level, making it a super hot and dry spot that looks like another planet. 

In fact, this spot is actually the lowest point in North America!

Not too far away, there’s Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous US, standing at a breathtaking 14,505 feet. 

What’s really cool is that you can actually see both these places from each other on a clear day! 

Mount Whitney is a favorite for hikers as it offers amazing views from the top. 

It’s amazing to think that in just one state, you can go from the depths of a scorching desert to the top of a snowy mountain peak.

Related Reading: The 5 Highest Viewpoints In California

3. Diverse Microclimates

Joshua Tree National Park in California.

California is known for its diverse geography which leads to a wide range of microclimates. 

You can experience desert, Mediterranean, alpine and coastal climates all within the same state! Seems crazy right!?

Imagine stepping from the cool, foggy conditions of San Francisco, where you might need a jacket even in summer, into the scorching heat of Death Valley, one of the hottest places on Earth. 

Or traveling from the lush, rain-soaked forests of the North Coast filled with towering redwoods, to the dry desert landscape of Joshua Tree in the south. 

An interesting fact about California’s microclimates is that you could ski in the snow-covered mountains near Lake Tahoe and surf in the warm waves of San Diego – all in the same day! 

This unique range of climates, all packed into one state, is truly a marvel of nature.

4. Wild Parrots of San Francisco

Wild parrots in San Francisco, California.

Visitors to San Francisco might be surprised to encounter vibrant flocks of wild parrots that have made the city their home.

These aren’t your typical city birds – they’re beautiful, bright green parrots called Cherry-headed Conures. 

They originally come from South America but now they live freely in parts of San Francisco, especially around Telegraph Hill and the Ferry Building. 

It’s believed that these parrots were once pets that either escaped or were released and then formed flocks in the wild. 

These friendly and noisy birds have become a quirky and beloved part of the city, often seen flying around or hanging out in trees. 

If you’re in San Francisco, keep your eyes (and ears!) open for these colorful, chatty birds – they’re a unique and fun part of the city’s wildlife.

5. Earthquake Activity

Damage to San Francisco from earthquake in 1906.
Damage to San Francisco from earthquake in 1906.

California is actually famous for its earthquakes as it sits on what is known as the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, a region known for seismic activity. 

The state is crisscrossed with many fault lines, with the San Andreas Fault being the most famous. 

This fault line is a massive crack in the Earth’s crust that can cause big earthquakes when it moves. 

An interesting fact about California’s earthquakes is that the state experiences thousands of them every year, but most are so small that people don’t even feel them. 

However, the big ones, like the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, can be very powerful and cause a lot of damage.

This makes California a fascinating place for scientists studying earthquakes and for people interested in how the Earth moves.

6. Ethnic Diversity

Diverse group of people in California.

California is like a giant melting pot of different cultures and people from all over the world. 

It’s home to many different ethnic groups which makes it one of the most diverse places in the entire United States. 

In fact, over a third of the population speaks a language other than English at home.

You’ll find large communities of Hispanic, Asian, African American and Native American people, each adding their unique traditions and languages to the state’s rich cultural mix. 

Many people come to California for jobs, education or just the beautiful weather and landscapes. 

An interesting fact is that California has more people who speak Spanish at home than any other state, and in cities like Los Angeles, you can hear over 200 different languages!

7. Avocado Capital

avocado

California produces over 90% of the avocados in the United States, making it the Avocado Capital of the country.

The sunny weather and perfect soil conditions in California make it an ideal place for avocado trees to thrive. 

Most of the avocados are grown in the southern part of the state, where the climate is just right. 

An interesting fact is that there’s a type called the “Hass avocado” which is the most popular kind in the U.S. 

It was first grown by a mail carrier named Rudolph Hass in California in the 1930s.

8. Haunted Hotels

Haunted Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.
Haunted Hotel del Coronado in San Diego.

California isn’t just sunny beaches and movie stars – it also has a ton of spooky haunted hotels! 

Take the famous Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, where it’s said the ghost of a woman named Kate Morgan, who mysteriously died there in 1892, still wanders the halls. 

Then there’s the Queen Mary in Long Beach, an old ship turned hotel, known for its ghostly visitors, like the spirit of a sailor who died in the engine room. 

Up in San Francisco, the grand Queen Anne Hotel supposedly has a friendly ghost named Miss Mary Lake, a former headmistress, who likes to tuck guests into bed at night. 

These haunted places add a bit of mystery and excitement to California’s history and are intriguing places to visit for those who love a good ghost story.

9. The Largest Living Tree

General Sherman Tree in California.
General Sherman Tree.

The General Sherman Tree in California’s Sequoia National Park is a true giant and a natural wonder. 

It’s not just any tree – it’s the largest tree in the world by volume! 

Standing tall at about 275 feet, which is almost as tall as a 27-story building, and over 36 feet in diameter, it’s truly a sight to behold. 

This giant sequoia is believed to be around 2,200 years old meaning it was already a sapling during the time of the ancient Romans. 

Named after General William Tecumseh Sherman, a Civil War general, the tree is a popular California attraction. 

Imagine looking up at this massive tree and realizing it’s been there for centuries, witnessing history unfold.

Related Reading: Fun California Trivia Quiz 🧠

10. Unique Celestial Events

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California.
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

California is a great place for stargazing and astronomical events with observatories like Palomar and Griffith offering public programs.

With its vast deserts and high mountains, the state offers some of the best spots in the entire U.S. to look up at the stars. 

Places like Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park are famous for their dark skies, making them perfect for seeing constellations and shooting stars. 

High up in the mountains, you’ll find the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, where you can explore space through telescopes and learn about the universe. 


And that’s it!

From the depths of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney, California is a land full of incredible contrasts and surprises. 

We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the lesser-known facts about California.

Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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