Destination Guide: California

Introduction

The legend of California, the embroidered image portrayed by Hollywood’s worldwide film and television industry, really does exist. Days are warm and sunny, the mansions of Beverley Hills are the height of luxury, beautifully-sculpted bodies roller-blade along the beachfront boardwalks, blonde-haired surfers compete for waves and the allure of Hollywood’s fame and fortune is as strong as ever.

Everyone either adores or despises the Golden State, the ‘spoilt kid’ of the USA, who brushes off the barbs of envious resentment with indifference, confident in the knowledge that California offers one of the most varied and exciting places to live in America. The world-renowned cities of the West Coast are strung along miles of magnificent coastline with cliffs, soaring redwood forests and beaches. The high snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and the magnificent glacier-carved valley of Yosemite National Park contrast with the shimmering heat of spectacular desert landscapes and the neat rows of leafy vineyards in the Napa Valley, one of the world’s best-known wine growing regions.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA at sunset.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA at sunset.

The Golden Gate Bridge, steep roller-coaster hills and the formidable island of Alcatraz are instantly recognisable images of San Francisco, while the welcoming beach lifestyle and family-fun attractions make San Diego a popular vacation destination. Undoubtedly the city with the most razzle-dazzle is Los Angeles, a high-energy conglomeration of wealthy neighbourhoods, beaches and excessive standards of living. It lives up to its reputation as ‘the entertainment capital of the world’ presenting the attractions of Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland, as well as first-class shopping, fine restaurants and a lively nightlife.

As the most populous state in the USA, California is blighted by pollution, congested freeways, crime and overcrowded attractions, but it remains a leader in social tolerance, as well as being a forerunner in the film, entertainment and music industry. The state also lives with the constant threat of earthquakes, being cut through by the San Andreas Fault. Despite the ever-present fear that ‘the big one’ will strike, California remains one of the most popular states in which to live, work and play.

Time Zones

GMT -8 (GMT -7 from March to November).

Climate Info

The weather in California is temperate and pleasant for most of the year. In general, summers are hot, winters are mild and humidity is low. Offshore breezes keep the beach communities of Los Angeles and San Diego cooler in summer and warmer in winter than those further inland. Generally the weather is warm and dry in all seasons, with 354 days of sunshine a year. Temperatures in the summer can get well over 90°F (32°C) and smog can become a problem. The desert winds known as the ‘Santa Anas’ bring dry, sandy air to southern California in the summer. In winter temperatures get down to around 55°F (12°C) and rain is a possibility. San Francisco, a little further north, is a little cooler and breezier and there is regularly fog over the harbour until about midday. Winter weather in San Francisco can require a warm coat.

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