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What is California Known For? 19 Famous Things!

What is California known for, you ask?

Well, that’s a loaded question. 

California is famous for TONS of things. 

It’s loaded with stunning landscapes. It’s packed with famous landmarks. It’s known for producing tasty foods and drinks. It has a one-of-a-kind culture and vibe. And, while many awesome things come from California, some bad things do as well. 

In this guide, we’ll cover it all.

Let’s dive in.

What is California known for?

From TV and film production to hipster culture to housing world-famous landmarks like Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier — California is known for some awesome things. 

The state is full of activities and sights that make it a wonderful place to vacation, and if you can afford it, to live. With such a variety of climates, you could hike through the mountains, traverse through desert-land, and hit the beach all in the same day.

man hiking Lake Tahoe, California
California is known for the jaw-droppingly beautiful Lake Tahoe

But there are plenty of things that people don’t know California is famous for, such as being the birthplace of the internet and home to the largest tree on earth.

So, let’s check out all the great (and a few of the not-so-great) things California is known for, and hopefully, it will inspire you to check it all out in person.

What is California known for producing?

California is famous for producing many products, from agriculture to wine to your favorite movies and TV shows.

Californians are quite busy, for they produce most of the nations’ supply of many popular commodities.


movie film cut

Film and TV production is arguably what California is most known for. Though production has increased all over the world thanks to the growing number of streaming services, Hollywood will always remain TV and movie royalty. 

Aspiring actors flock to Hollywood, and it’s a popular place for freelance models as well. 

Los Angeles is home to many television and movie studios, such as:

▶️ Universal Studios Hollywood
▶️ Warner Brothers Studios
▶️ Sony Picture Studios

And countless other big names responsible for some of the most classic movies and TV shows. 

We’re talking classics like Casablanca (1942), Mary Poppins (1964), To Catch a Thief (1955), Friends (1994), and countless others.

In California, you don’t just watch them — you can actually take a trip behind the scenes and check out preserved sets (such as the couch from Friends) to make you feel like you’re living in your favorite classics.


glass of wine

Wine is another one of the biggest things California is known for producing.

Napa Valley is the closest we Americans can get to Tuscany. And as of 2020, California produced 635,477,242 gallons of wine (the country produced 718,103,881 as a whole.)

California has the perfect environment for grape-growing thanks to areas with a Mediterranean climate combined with nutrient-rich soil.

In 1976, a blind wine taste test called “Judgement of Paris” was held in France. Wines made from Napa Valley grapes took home the gold, and California has ranked as a top wine destination ever since. 


California oranges
Orange trees in Santa Barbara, California

California is also known for its harvest. 

The state has quite an agricultural reputation, accounting for more than 13% of the country’s total agricultural value.

California’s most-produced foods are:

☑️ Dairy products, milk
☑️ Strawberries
☑️ Avocados
☑️ Almonds
☑️ Oranges 
☑️ Cherries
☑️ Apricots
☑️ Grapes
☑️ Cattle

If it weren’t for California, the U.S. would have to import way more of these products. 

Famous California beaches and parks


mountains, waterfalls, and trees at Yosemite national park

Yosemite is one of the most famous national parks in the United States, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world. 

It’s a bucket-list location for hikers, campers, and nature lovers, and was first protected back in 1864. It’s mostly known for its gorgeous waterfalls, but you’ll also discover 1,200 square miles of deep valleys, meadows, ancient giant sequoias, and seemingly endless wilderness areas.

There are many ways to explore Yosemite, from camping to biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, stargazing, winter sports, fishing, volunteering — the list is endless.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, California

Constructed in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier is a classic famous landmark in California.

Leading from the beach into the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Pier is packed with activity for tourists or local beach-goers with food, games, shops, sight-seeing, and the famous Ferris wheel. 

There are also plenty of concerts and events held year-round on the pier.


Disneyland castle, california

Located in Anaheim, Disneyland has been “the happiest place on earth” for over 60 years.

Disneyland opened its doors in 1955, and though many Disney parks have since been constructed around the world, this is where it all began, right here in California.

Death Valley 

Death Valley, California

Contrary to its name, Death Valley is actually full of life. And it’ll certainly give you an adventure. 

In the winter of 1849-1850, a group of pioneers traveled across the region and thought they were going to die (though only one suffered that fate). Thus “Death Valley” was born. 

Death Valley houses the lowest spot in the United States, 282 feet below sea level. It also once reached the hottest temperature in the world — a whopping 134 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius). 

Though Death Valley is one of the landmarks California is most known for, the majority of people know it incorrectly. Many believe that Death Valley is a barren, dry landscape of only sand and heat. And while that is partly true, it has much more variety. 

Death Valley has plenty of barren landscapes that make you feel like you’re on the moon. But some areas grow beautiful wildflowers. 

There is even a small body of water called the Devil’s Hole, where you can see fish. But the true magic of Death Valley is after dark when the depths of the galaxy expand before your eyes. It’s a beauty that everyone should see at least once in a lifetime.

Redwood National Park

giant redwood trees in redwood national park, california

California is also home to the tallest trees in the world, found at Redwood National Park.

Some of these trees stand at 370 feet (113 meters) tall, five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty. 

The park consists of over 200 miles of trails, where you can hike, bike, or even ride horseback. And if you’re just looking for a drive, there are scenic routes galore.

Besides the trees, you can also find plenty of wildlife in the forests, such as Roosevelt Elk, whales, seals, seasonal wildflowers, as well as plenty of hills and lakes.

Famous California landmarks and tourist sites

Golden Gate Bridge

the golden gate bridge at sunset

Located in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is also one of the most famous landmarks in California. 

The bridge spans almost two miles across San Francisco Bay to connect the city of San Francisco to Marin County, CA. After four years of construction, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public in 1937. 

It’s an engineering marvel, believed to be the most photographed bridge in the world.


Off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz is known for its complex history as a prison island.

In the 1850s, Alcatraz Island was made into a federal penitentiary due to its distance from the bustling city of San Francisco and its difficulty of escape (currents, tides, and cold water temperatures). 

It was a military prison until the 1930s when it became a civilian penitentiary. 

One of its prisoners is as famous as the prison itself — Al Capone.

As a tourist, you can take a ferry to the island and walk around the now-empty prison, then visit the Agave Trail, which was planted by prison guards and their families.

The island holds some dark secrets that you can learn about here:

The Hollywood sign 

Possibly the landmark California is most known for, the Hollywood Sign stands proudly overlooking the city of Los Angeles, signifying the entertainment industry.

california's famous hollywood sign

Funnily enough, the sign initially had nothing to do with the entertainment industry. It was an outdoor ad for a suburban housing development called “Hollywoodland.” It has been restored and preserved since 1970. 

Seeing the Hollywood Sign sitting atop the hills in Los Angeles is quite the scenic treat, but it doesn’t stop there. 

There are also several hiking trails leading to the sign. At the top, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world with one of the best views of Los Angeles.

On the most popular trails, you even pass familiar spots from well-known car commercials.

What is California culture known for?

Spanish and Mexican heritage

mexican flag

If it wasn’t obvious from the names of many cities (i.e., Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego) California is full of Spanish and Mexican heritage.

Spanish colonization of California began over 300 years ago, and their influence stayed. 

California has preserved much of its Spanish history with various landmarks and parks, such as Sonoma State History Park.

Hipster culture

hipster girl

California is known as the most hipster state in the nation.

You can see it simply walking along the street in any California city, with streets lined with bohemian clothing styles and individualistic styles.

But you can also see it by analyzing businesses.

There are more non-chain coffee shops, record stores, music dealers, and entertainment events in California than in any other state.

Progressive Politics and Culture

sign that says you belong

California is famous for its progressive, all-inclusive vibe. 

The majority of Californians are open people. Well, at least in the sense that they accept and celebrate differences — whether that be skin color, religious affiliation, gender identity, vegan and vegetarianism, or literally any other type of diversity.

This diversity mindset stems from the fact that Californians themselves are a diverse bunch.

Similar to NYC, California is a melting pot. People migrate to California from all over the world, from a wide range of backgrounds. And as a whole, they celebrate their uniqueness.

Interesting facts about California

California once declared itself its own country

…For one month.

On June 14, 1846, the settlers in the area rose up against the Mexican reign and declared their independence. 

For one glorious month, California was a country. The rebels even fashioned their own flag, to name California “California Republic.” 

However, the leaders of this uprising (which would later be known as the “Bear Flag Revolt”), were unaware that the United States had already declared war on Mexico. 

Once America raised its flag over California, the rebels gave up their attempt at independence, and California became the 33rd state in the United States.

Interestingly, some California’s never gave up the idea of being their own independent nation, and there was a campaign to “divorce” on Valentine’s Day, just a handful of years ago – check it out:

California is the birthplace of the internet

Here’s a possibly little-known fact about California — it was the birthplace of the internet.

On October 29, 1969, Professor Leonard Kleinrock and a group of his students at UCLA sent the first message over the internet. 

That message was “Lo”. 

It was supposed to be “Login”, but, well, the system crashed after the first two letters. 

Home of the famous Microsoft “Bliss” wallpaper

Everyone is familiar with the Microsoft Windows wallpaper, titled “Bliss”. But did you know that the photo was taken in California? 

wallpaper that california is known for

Yep. That’s right. California is famous for being the site of one of the most-recognized desktop wallpapers in the world.

The wallpaper was taken in Sonoma County. Best of all, the photo is not even edited. That’s a pure California filter, guys.

Bad things California is famous for

It’s expensive AF

Whenever the topic of Los Angeles is brought up, the crazy cost of living often follows. 

Los Angeles, California has earned a spot on the world’s top ten most expensive cities to live in

In the world

Not only that, just a few months ago, Los Angeles was voted the “most expensive, inconvenient, and overrated city in North America”.

I tend to agree. We spent six months RVing out west. And the second we crossed into California, our van living expenses exploded.

LA is polluted AF

los angeles pollution

Something else California would rather not be known for is smog. 

Mostly centered in their highest-traffic cities like Los Angeles, smog is an unfortunate part of California. 

There have been many attempts to improve air quality — such as mandates and regulations on types of cars allowed — and while the smog has improved significantly, a haze still hangs in the air. 

Back in the day, the smog in Los Angeles was so bad that many civilians wore gas masks as daily protection from the terrible air quality. This is common in other cities around the world, like Bangkok, but it’s weird to think it happened in California.

If California continues its fight against pollution, perhaps we’ll be able to remove this con someday. 

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