Texas is the only minority majority state


The People: Tree Huggers to Techies

Believe (almost) what you've heard - Northern Californians are a different breed. Typically, they represent a vibrant and lively sensibility that explains how ultra-left hippies and ultra-right libertarians coexist across the region. And while it may seem absurd to ponder the similarities between young tech managers from Silicon Valley and old loggers from the far north, they both pride themselves on their independent thinking, the linchpin of Norwegian culture.

Marriage equality for all

Forty thousand Californians were already registered as domestic partners when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom approved same-sex couples on Valentine's Day weekend in 2004. This contradicted a statewide ban on same-sex marriages and made San Francisco the first place in America to legally recognize gay marriages. City Hall stayed open all weekend, and couples waited for hours in the rain in queues winding around the block while other Franciscans in love arrived with umbrellas, biscuits, champagne, and musical instruments to calm the waiting couples.

The following month, 4,000 same-sex couples married until the courts blocked further licenses pending a law review. In November of that year, the California Supreme Court ruled that the mayor had no authority to circumvent state law and declared the marriages null and void. Later legal disputes were led by the couples whose marriages had been annulled. In May 2008, the Supreme Court lifted the nationwide ban and found it unconstitutional. For half a year, couples from all over the world came to California again to get married, until in November 2008 the electorate passed by a narrow majority (48% to 52%) Proposal 8, which changed the state's constitution to the effect that that same-sex marriage was banned. This left those couples who had legally binding marriage certificates in the balance.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen other states had begun allowing same-sex marriage, either through court rulings, state legislation, or referendums. In 2013, the US Supreme Court overturned Motion 8 and retained the validity of the licenses issued before the ban. Some legally married couples now have two licenses: one dating from 2004 and one from 2008. In June 2015, the US Supreme Court banned same-sex marriage nationwide. You heard it first in San Francisco.

Who is up in that tree?

Although many people in Northern California are active environmental advocates, few demonstrate the zeal of Julia Butterfly Hill, who protested the deforestation of redwood forests in Northern California by breaking a 180-foot tree nearby on December 10, 1997 of Scotia climbed. And then she stayed there. Hill's Tree, a 1,500-year-old coastal redwood that she called "Luna", was threatened by the Pacific Lumber Company. In an astonishing act of civil disobedience, Hill lived for 738 days - over two full years - on a platform 6 feet by 6 feet that could endure the cold, rain, and prolonged harassment by loggers.

Hill's actions caught the nation's imagination and she became the face of radical environmental actions as well as a punch line for talk show hosts. In the end, Luna was spared and a $ 50,000 deal was made with the Pacific Lumber Company. Not that the campaign to protect old redwood was over - a proposal by CalTrans to widen and straighten Highway 101 threatened to bring chainsaws to over 40 trees in Richardson Grove State Park until the 2014 courts ruled that the State Highway Agency no t followed the law in assessing the impact on trees.

In 2016, the redwoods faced a new enemy - climate change and especially drought. A recent study predicted that in a worst-case scenario, a hot and dry future, coastal redwood forest could decrease by 79%. In response, the California Department of Parks and Recreation partnered with the Save the Redwoods League to restore 10,000 acres of redwood over the next five years.

Regional identities

In the Bay Area, politics are liberal and people are generally open-minded, with a strong sense of social justice and a passionate devotion to nature. Over the years, the tech boom has led to a wild surge in property prices, changing the demographics of many of San Francisco's neighborhoods, which are gradually starting to resemble the demographics of the predominantly wealthy and white Marin County just above the Golden Gate Bridge. Both have tremendous feelings of self-satisfied civic pride. San Francisco has recently suffered a loss of diversity despite its broad image. East Bay and Alameda Counties, which make up Oakland and Berkeley, have greater ethnic diversity and a mix of the middle class. However, due to the prohibitive real estate prices in San Francisco, prices are also rising in these counties.

It's a whole different scene all the way north of San Francisco. In the districts of Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte, people flee from other people and form a small, self-choosing population. There aren't many people in the far north - and there isn't a lot of money either. At least no legal money.

Despite the fact that medical marijuana is legal in California and weeds will be used for recreational purposes as of January 2018, the remote forests of the far north are still home to enormous illegal marijuana farms that bring with them an underground culture of breeders and migratory pickers. Some are on the rise, growing "medicine" (or "flowers") for legal urban cannabis clubs, but since the pot breaks federal law, even when required by law, the DEA flies in every year and destroys many farms (Usually the land is not confiscated, just the pot. Other operations are dodgy, drug cartel-run fly-by-nighters who set up for a season on public land that is being destroyed by growth. That pot is going out of the state. Jump In the far north, never walk over "private property" fences to avoid hearing gunfire.

The more progressive liberals of the state also live in the north and have cultivated a strong and innovative culture of sustainability. (If you see a battered old diesel Mercedes-Benz chugging on the freeway, it's likely running on biodiesel or recycled french fry fat.) That faction is firmly anchored against another big electoral bloc: the conservative contingent in the northeast, which are still largely dependent on logging and mining.

The Central Coast with its smaller population strata begins to the left of the center of Santa Cruz and extends into the relaxed, liberal university town of San Luis Obispo. On the way there, Highway 1 meanders past the working class Monterey, made famous in John Steinbeck's novels. the bohemian Big Sur coast; the conservative villages in the upper crust of Carmel-by-the-Sea; and Cambria, where the "newly wed and nearly-dead" have million dollar homes.

The Central Valley is the most socially conservative part of the state with a predominantly agricultural economy. This is the land of cowboys, farmers, fruit barons, and migrant workers - but as prices continue to rise in coastal towns, it's a new frontier for the creative class too. The identity of the region is also dramatically affected by the presence of a Latin American workforce harvesting the vast agricultural plains. Highway billboards warn you about getting on with God, and AM radio is playing mariachi music.

The socially conservative small towns of the Gold Country are among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada; Many locals are retired. Further east, the high mountains of the sierra have fewer cities due to the deep winter. High mountain residents are also more conservative, but are made up for by the hordes of families in the Bay Area who have weekend homes in the Lake Tahoe and Truckee areas, where skiing and hiking are the main attractions.


Creativity, imagination and intellectualism define the characteristics of Northern Californians, who pride themselves on their “green” reputation and their sensitivity to environmental issues. Overall, Californians are ahead of the national energy consumption curve and have bought more hybrid, fuel efficient, and electric cars than any other state. In recent years, airports, businesses, motorway service stations and parking lots have been equipped with charging stations for electric vehicles, which have become the world's leading market for electric vehicles. Additionally, California voters passed the first statewide ban on plastic bags in 2016, and San Francisco's goal is to stop producing waste by 2020 - not just recycling, but composting food scraps across the city.

With an average household income of $ 64,500, few Californians can afford a dream beach home. Many people rent their homes because buying has become unaffordable in recent years: 18 of the 25 most expensive US real estate markets are in California. Almost half of all Californians live in cities, but the other half live in suburbs where the cost of living is as high or even higher. Marin County and Santa Cruz are among the most expensive places to live in America. San Francisco consistently tops the national quality of life indices and is right behind New York City and Honolulu as one of the most expensive cities in the country.

Of the adult Californians, one in four lives alone and nearly 50% are unmarried. Of those who are currently married, 33% will no longer be in 10 years. More and more Californians are pushing for ice: The number of unmarried couples living together has risen by 40% since 1990.

Politically, Northern California is one of the most liberal places in the US, especially in the coastal areas. In the 2016 election, voters overwhelmingly rejected Donald Trump, who lost the state by more than four million votes. After the elections, no other state expressed such dissatisfaction with the result.

Self-help, fitness, and body modification are major industries across California that have been successfully marketed as "lite" versions of religious experience since the 1970s - all the agony and ecstasy of the major religious brands without those strict commandments. Exercise and good food contribute to the fact that the Californians are among the strongest in the country. Still, over 758,607 Californians are apparently sick enough to deserve medical marijuana prescriptions.

The homeless

Homelessness is not part of the California dream, but it is a reality for at least 118,142 Californians. In recent years, cities like San Francisco and Sacramento have seen a 3% increase, and nearly half of California's homeless people are on the streets, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Given the added impact of the housing boom and demographic changes in San Francisco, some suggest that the numbers are actually much higher. The sheer visibility of the homeless in Northern California, especially San Francisco, comes as a shock to many visitors.

It is not easy to understand the causes and population structure of the homeless in Northern California. Some are teenagers who ran away or were kicked out by their families, but the largest contingent of homeless Californians are U.S. military veterans. Some say the problem started in the 1960s when Ronald Reagan, as governor of California and later as president, cut funding for mental health facilities, drug rehab programs, and low-income housing programs. In the decades that followed, many Californians suffering from mental illness and drug addiction had few options.

The poor are also lining up in shelters for the homeless and in food banks who, despite recent increases in minimum wages, are unable to cover rent and expenses. Rather than tackling the root causes of homelessness, some California cities have made loitering, panhandling and even sidewalk sitting a criminal offense and further marginalized the homeless.

The bottom line is that no one knows how to approach the problem, and by then, panhandlers will be part of the experience of visiting cities in Northern California - San Francisco in particular. It's up to you whether you offer cash or food, of course, but generally a polite “no thanks” is enough if you'd rather not.


California has more professional sports teams than any other state, and there is great loyalty to local NFL soccer, NBA basketball, and major league baseball teams. Still, San Francisco doesn't necessarily have the sports fanatics in large numbers like other American cities. That said, people in the Bay Area get angry before a big game - just try to find tickets to see the San Francisco 49ers. After a dizzying season in 2010, the San Francisco Giants won the Baseball World Series, turning San Francisco's typically apathetic population into rabid fans in orange and black. After two more World Series victories, they hit the streets again in 2012 and 2014.

Although studies have shown Californians are less likely to be couch potatoes than other Americans, the streets are deserted, the bars full, and all eyes glued to the tube when one California team plays another. The biggest grievances are between the San Francisco Giants and LA Dodgers, Oakland A and Anaheim's Angels, and San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, although the Raiders recently announced a future move to Las Vegas. The team will stay at Oakland's Coliseum in 2017 and possibly 2018 before moving to a new stadium in Vegas. Oakland fans these days are much happier with their Golden State Warriors, who won the 2015 and 2017 NBA championships.

Check out the men's or women's basketball (WNBA) in Sacramento or the professional hockey or soccer in San Jose. Or catch small baseball teams across the state, especially the victorious San Jose Giants.

Aside from the championship play-offs, the regular season for Major League Baseball runs from April to September, soccer from April to October, WNBA basketball from late May to mid-September, NFL soccer from September to early January, NHL ice hockey from October through March and NBA basketball November through April.

Sidebar: satellites

After President Trump threatened to defeat NASA's Earth Science division, including some satellites tracking climate change, California Governor Jerry Brown said, "If Trump kills the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite."

Sidebar: minority majority state

California is defined as a "minority majority state" in which no ethnic population is in majority. In March 2014, Latinos outnumbered non-Hispanic whites as the largest ethnic group in the state at 39% of the population.

Sidebar: Sacramento

In 2002, Sacramento was named America's Most Diverse and Integrated City by Time Magazine and Harvard University's Civil Rights Project. According to the Sacramento Bee, this was still the case 10 years later.

Sidebar: NorCal Slang

Southern California is known for its surfer flair, but Northern California also has its own mix of idiosyncratic slang. The most famous examples? 'Hella' and 'Hecka', technically defined by linguists as amplifiers.

Sidebar: Surf

Surfing is the coastal spectator sport of choice. The waves reach heights of 100 feet at the annual Mavericks competition near Half Moon Bay.

Sidebar: Olympics

California is the only state that has hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The land and the wildlife

Northern California has breathtaking landscapes. The Mediterranean climate - characterized by dry summers and mild, humid winters with only high snow depths - makes it a year-round travel destination.Although the north is more sparsely populated than the south, together they make up the largest population in any US state and have the highest projected growth rate in the country. This places enormous stress on the natural environment, which is constantly threatened by logging, drought, water diversion and urban sprawl.

Almost an island

Much of California is a biological island, delimited from the rest of North America by the towering mountain wall of the Sierra Nevada. As on other islands in the world, evolution has produced unique plants and animals in these biologically isolated conditions. As a result, California is the national leader in endemic plants, amphibians, reptiles, freshwater fish, and mammals. What's even more impressive is that 30% of all plant species in the United States, 50% of all bird species, and 50% of all mammal species are found in California.

Feature: The big ones

Although the San Andreas Fault has apparently been rumbling for millennia, the California earthquake was registered as early as 1769 when it struck members of the Spanish Portolá expedition near LA. Here are some of the biggest rattlers in Northern California since then:

  • 1868 Hayward Earthquake - Mentioned by Mark Twain in Roughing It, this magnitude 6.8 quake destroyed every building in the Bay Area suburb of Hayward.
  • 1872 Lone Pine Earthquake - Though not measured, scientists believe this Owens Valley earthquake matched the intensity of the 1906 event. It apparently woke John Muir, who ran out of his Yosemite cabin and shouted, "A noble tremor!"
  • 1906 San Francisco Earthquake - The grandfather of all, this 7, 8 and subsequent fires left San Francisco homeless and deserted nearly 75% of the city. It was felt as far north as Oregon.
  • Good Friday 1964 Earthquake - Although the epicenter of this quake was near Anchorage, Alaska, it sent tsunami waves down the coast and devastated much of downtown Crescent City.
  • 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake - Set in the mountains of Santa Cruz, this quake rocked players preparing for the 1989 World Series and caused a section of the bridge between Oakland and San Francisco to collapse.
  • South Napa Earthquake 2014 - Countless bottles of wine fell from shelves when this 6.0 quake south of downtown Napa caused more than $ 300 million in damage.

California's Cap & Trade

In October 2011, California legislature passed a cap-and-trade system on air emissions to help the state meet its ambitious goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and becoming a leader in climate policy. The complex market system sets a price for heat trap pollution from California's dirtiest industries - coal, oil, and manufacturing - and enables them to trade carbon credits. As of 2012, the state's largest carbon emitters were required by law to comply with caps or buy loans.

Originally endorsed by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the program faced a number of legal challenges and at times faced low demand given uncertainty about the future. Still, the system has raised a few hundred million dollars each year, a third of which was donated by Governor Jerry Brown to fund the California high-speed rail link that will link San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours by 2029. At the time of the investigation, a state senator had just proposed a bill to revise the cap-and-trade program, clarify its legal issues, and set one of the world's highest prices for carbon dioxide.

To survive, the new move would have to get a two-thirds majority in both the California State Assembly and the Senate, where the Democrats had a small majority in 2017.

Watch elephant seals

Elephant seals from the north follow an exact calendar. In November and December, male bull seals return to their colony's favorite beaches in California and begin ritual battles to assert supremacy. Only the tallest, strongest, and most aggressive "alpha" men collect a harem. In January and February, adult women who were already pregnant last year give birth to their pups and soon mate with the dominant men who immediately set off for their next feeding migration. The seal's motto seems to be: love and leave!

At birth, an elephant seal pup weighs about 75 pounds, and while being fed by its mother, it gains about 10 pounds a day. In March, female seals leave the beach and leave their offspring behind. For up to two months, the young seals, now known as "weaners", frolic in groups and gradually learn to swim first in tidal pools and then in the sea. Then they too will leave by May after losing 20% ​​to 30% of their weight during this prolonged fast.

Between June and October, fewer elephant seals of all ages and both sexes return to beaches to molt.

Wildflower observation

California's famous "golden hills" are actually the result of European grasses drying up in preparation for the long, dry summer. Originally, before these invasive species took root, California's hills stayed green with native grass year-round. Other plants have adapted to long periods of almost no rain by growing vigorously in California's mild, humid winters and coming to life with the first rains of fall and blooming as early as January. As the snow later melts at higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park is a prime spot for wildflower walks and photography. The main flowering season is usually in late June or early July.

Lay of the land

The third largest state after Alaska and Texas, California, covers more than 250,000 km², making it larger than 85 of the smallest nations in the world. California is bordered by Oregon to the north, Nevada and Arizona to the east, Mexico to the south, and 3,427 miles of Pacific coast to the west.

Geology & earthquakes

Overall, California is a complex geological landscape made up of fragments of rock and earth's crust scraped together when the North American continent drifted westward over hundreds of millions of years. Northern California has crumpled coastal areas, the sloping Central Valley, and the still burgeoning Sierra Nevada. all testify to the gigantic forces that occur when the continental and ocean plates are pressed together.

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Everything changed about 25 million years ago when the ocean plates stopped colliding and instead began to slide against each other. This created the massive San Andreas Fault, which now averages two inches a year. Since this contact zone does not slide smoothly, but rather catches and slides irregularly, it rattles California with a sustained succession of quakes and earthquakes.

In the San Andreas Fault, the Pacific Plate (which runs under the floor of the Pacific Ocean and much of the California coast) meets the North American tectonic plate. The fault extends for more than 650 miles and has produced numerous smaller faults that extend towards the coast. Earthquakes are common, although most are too small or too far away to be detected without sensors. Fear not: Small earthquakes are good news, proof that the plates are moving in their paths rather than storing kinetic energy and causing larger quakes later.

The state's most famous earthquake in 1906 was 7.8 on the Richter scale and devastated San Francisco, killing more than 3,000 people. Follow the Earthquake Trail at Point Reyes National Seashore for an up-close lesson in plate tectonics: a broken line of fence shows how the 1906 quake moved the earth in less than 20 feet. The Bay Area hit the headlines again in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake (6, 9) collapsed part of the Bay Bridge, and in 2014 when the South Napa (6, 0) earthquake hit an estimated $ 300 million Caused damage and loss.

The coast to the Central Valley

Much of the northern California coastline is surrounded by rugged coastal mountains that trap the water-laden storms of winter and block the passage of summer mist, except at the Golden Gate, where the mist slides inland over San Francisco Bay. San Francisco roughly divides the Coast Ranges in half. The misty north coast is still sparsely populated, while the central coast and lower regions of the Bay Area have a milder climate and many more people.

In the northernmost sections of the Coast Ranges, over 30 cm of rain falls each year, and in some places persistent summer fog adds an additional 30 cm of rainfall. Nutrient-rich soils and abundant moisture encourage forests of giant trees, including stands of towering redwoods that grow as far as Big Sur and north to the Oregon border, where their habitat suddenly ceases. Because of this unique arrangement of mountains and weather, the most reliable sunny time to visit the north coast is autumn, when moisture (in the form of fog) is not drawn in by the rising air currents of the hot Central Valley.

On their eastern flanks, the Coast Ranges drop into rolling hills that give way to the vast Central Valley. Once an inland sea, this shallow inland basin is now an agricultural powerhouse producing roughly half of America's fruits, nuts, and vegetables, valued at over $ 17 billion annually. Its abundance is evident in the drive through the region - large fields of food stretch from horizon to horizon. The productivity of the region is a modern agricultural achievement: Around 800 km long and 80 km wide, there is roughly as much rainfall in the Central Valley as in the desert, but huge amounts of water flow from the Sierra Nevada (despite the drought between 2012 and 2017) . Before the arrival of Europeans, the valley was a natural wonderland - a region of vast swamps, flocks of geese that darkened the sky, and meadows with countless flowers and plants grazed by millions of antelopes, moose and grizzly bears. Virtually all of this landscape has been plowed and replaced with alien weeds (including arable crops) and farm animals.

Heights of the mountains

On the east side, the Central Valley borders California's most famous topographical feature: the world-famous ridges of the Sierra Nevada. At 400 miles long and 50 miles wide, this is not only one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, but also home to vast wilderness areas and 13 peaks over 14,000 feet. Most of the 150-mile region from Sonora Pass south to Mt. Whitney is over 9,000 feet and is known as the High Sierra. This is a breathtaking and secluded landscape of glaciers, sculpted granite peaks, and secluded canyons. It's nice to see from a distance but difficult to get to, and crossing it was the greatest challenge for settlers trying to reach California in the 19th century.

The soaring Sierra Nevada captures winter storm systems and diverts them from their waters, with most of the precipitation falling as snow above 5,000 feet. The average snowfall in middle locations on the western slope make the Sierras a first-class ski and winter sports destination. The region saw record snowfalls during the 2017 ski season: more than 500 inches were covered in Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Heavenly, Northstar, Mammoth and other ski resorts. In some cases, ski lifts and ski surveillance huts have been buried. The snowpack eventually flows into eleven major river systems on the western slope and several on the eastern slope, which provide most of the water for agriculture in the Central Valley and meet the needs of the major metropolitan areas from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Most of the Sierra Nevada is covered in dense coniferous forests, with oak stands in the lower foothills and chaparral zones. 23 species of conifers are found in the Sierra Nevada, from the stately incense cedars of the western foothills to tiny, wind-formed white bark and foxtail pines 12,000 feet above sea level. In the middle-elevation forests, there are massive Douglas firs, ponderosa, sugar and Jeffrey pines and the largest of them all, the giant sequoia.

At its northern end, the Sierra Nevada sinks and goes imperceptibly into the southern tip of the volcanic Cascade Mountains, which continue north to Oregon and Washington. This humid mountain region extends west to the coast through a tangle of ancient and geologically complex mountains that are sparsely populated and also heavily covered with coniferous forests.

National parks and state parks

The majority of Californians consider outdoor recreation to be of vital importance, and the number of wildlife sanctuaries has grown steadily due to important laws passed since the 1960s, including the 1976 California Coastal Act, which saved the coast from further development. Today, California State Parks (www.parks.ca.gov) protect nearly a third of the state's coastline, as do redwood forests, mountain lakes, desert canyons, waterfalls, nature reserves, and historic sites.

In 2011, due to budget constraints and chronic underfunding, the State of California announced the closure of 70 state parks - about 25% of the system. Terrified environmentalists, nonprofits, and park advocates sought help to track down $ 20 million for the parks, and in his 2014 budget, Governor Jerry Brown allocated $ 40 million to the estimated $ 1 billion backlog for overdue maintenance. Meanwhile, the California Parks Forward Commission was formed to make recommendations and set a new direction for the parks, and a "transformation team" was formed to implement the reforms. Miraculously, all of California's 279 state parks remain open.

In the past few years, California State Parks has taken steps to improve the visitor experience and secure funds faster and easier. In addition, automated payment systems and smartphones were added, the receipts accelerated and a new reservation system introduced in 2017. In addition to Save the Redwoods League, the parking system has started a project to save redwood forests in states and national parks that are threatened by climate change and other threats to restore 10,000 acres over the next five years. These efforts are appealing to nature lovers, but protecting the wilderness is also consistent with California's economic interests, as recreational tourism consistently outperforms competition from extractive industries such as mining and logging.

Unfortunately, some parks in Northern California are also loved to death. Overcrowding has a major impact on the environment and it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile public access with nature conservation principles. If possible, visit well-known parks like Yosemite in the off-season (not summer) to avoid the greatest crowds. Alternatively, lesser-known natural areas managed by the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/state/ca) remain relatively untouched for most of the year, so you don't need to reserve permits, campsites, or accommodations months in advance.

There are 18 forests in California operated by the US Forest Service (USFS; www.fs.fed.us/r5), including areas around Mt. Whitney, Mt. Shasta, and Big Bear Lake, as well as many other areas worth checking out are to be explored. National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) preferred by bird watchers are managed by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS; www.fws.gov/refuges). Other wilderness areas are monitored by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM; www.blm.gov/ca/st/en.html).

Northern California water

Understanding California geography requires understanding how water moves - both physically and politically. Spring to autumn are dry; Almost all precipitation falls in winter, when the weather blows across the state off the Pacific Spi, and then sticks to the ridges of the Sierra Nevada, where blizzards can last for days and throw up to 10 feet of snow at a time. In the spring, the snow begins to melt and flows down the rivers that aid white water rafting, through irrigation systems that provide water to California's famous crops, and through vast aqueducts and pipe networks that provide fresh water to the densely populated urban Bay Area.Water has a profound impact on all aspects of Northern California culture. Water has been a particularly hot topic lately. The worst drought in the state's history began in 2011 and ended in 2017. This is due to dramatic floods that destroyed bridges, damaged highways and caused widespread evacuations across Northern California.

As you move around inland of the region, you are almost certain to come across one or both of the region's two major rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin. These are the waterways into which so many other river systems flow - rivers like the Kern that flows through Bakersfield; the Tuolumne, which tumbles through the Yosemite highlands; and the American crossing the gold country. For these rivers, the end of the line is San Francisco Bay, where 65% of all of California's freshwater drains into the Pacific. In the far north, another six rivers are popular for recreation - the Trinity, Smith, Klamath, Mad, Eel, and Van Duzen.

Lakes are also a big draw for travelers. Lake Tahoe, the second deepest lake in the United States, and Clear Lake north of Wine Country are two of the region's most popular natural lakes. However, reservoirs like Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake are also popular recreational destinations.

Water policy in Northern California has serious environmental, political and social consequences. One example is the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Once a deep natural canyon, Hetch Hetchy, described by California's greatest environmental champion John Muir as "one of nature's rarest and most valuable mountain temples", was dammed and flooded in 1923 to create a pristine source of water for the city of San Francisco. (Some say Muir died of grief when Congress approved the construction in 1914.) Recently, a small but vocal minority has called for the reservoir to be emptied to restore Hetch Hetchy Valley to its natural state. Opponents argue that the pristine state of the valley is not only irreversible, but would undermine San Francisco's clean water supply if not contained. Voters agreed and with 77% of the vote they firmly rejected a 2012 election measure to demolish the dam.

California preserved

Although California is a success story in many ways, development and growth come with high environmental costs. Starting in 1849, gold diggers tore the country apart in their frantic search for the "big strike" and eventually sent more than 1.5 billion tons of debris and uncalculated amounts of toxic mercury downstream into the Central Valley, where rivers and streams were clogged and polluted.

Water, or its lack, has long been at the heart of California's epic environmental struggles and disasters. The diversion of water to LA contributed to the destruction of Owens Lake and its fertile wetlands, as well as the destruction of Mono Lake. Across the country, damming rivers and collecting water for homes and farms has destroyed countless salmon runs and drained wetlands. The Central Valley, for example, now resembles a bowl of dust, and its underground aquifer is in poor condition.

Altered and threatened habitats, both on land and on water, are an easy target for invasive species, including very aggressive species that are destroying California's economy and ecosystems. In the Bay of San Francisco, one of the most important estuaries in the world, over 230 alien species are now suffocating the aquatic ecosystem and in some areas already account for 95% of the total biomass.

Although air quality in California has improved noticeably over the past few decades, it is still among the worst in the country. Car exhaust fumes and fine dust caused by the wear and tear of vehicle tires, as well as industrial emissions, are the main causes. An even bigger health risk is ozone, the main component of smog that makes sunny days in the Central Valley look cloudy.

But there is hope. Low-emission vehicles are becoming the most desirable cars in the state, and soaring fuel costs are keeping more and more gas-guzzling SUVs off the road. The Californians recently voted to ban plastic bags and fund the construction of solar power plants. There is even talk of using the enormous tidal currents of the Pacific to produce more "clean" energy. The law requires California utilities to get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.

In addition, some of the world's most visionary sustainability practices are unfolding in Northern California. The wine regions north of San Francisco are the greenest in the world. They maximize their water and energy consumption and are pioneering techniques that have virtually eliminated the use of pesticides. Arcata's municipal government has world-leading sustainability practices. The city bought forest land to protect the integrity of its water supply and developed a revolutionary swamp-based sewage system. The wetland, built on solid waste, processes wastewater through a number of oxidation ponds and wetlands that also serve as a wildlife sanctuary. In addition, citizens of cities in the far north like McCloud and Shasta have taken pioneering measures to protect their natural resources. In 2009 they prevented the multinational Nestlé from opening up the Shasta watershed for a bottling plant.

Wild, wildlife

Northern California has an overwhelming variety of plant and animal species with five different climates. These different zones are a short distance apart. If you want, you can watch the sunrise on the beach, spend lunch under the redwoods canopy, and watch the sunset from a snow-capped mountain. Even if you don't plan on spotting wildlife, you will: herds of Roosevelt elk stop traffic, curious deer graze in meadows, and flocks of migratory birds fly overhead.

Wild things

Although the overwhelming number of animals that housed the first European settlers are now extinct, you will still see wildlife in Northern California provided you travel to the right locations at the right time of year. In your travels, you are likely to spot at least a few famous species such as coyotes, bobcats, and eagles. Unfortunately, some of them are only shadow populations, hovering on the edge of survival and being marginalized by the burgeoning human population.

Whales & other marine animals

Spend just a day on the Northern California coast and get a crash course on marine animals - from the seagulls above you (with your picnic in mind) to tide pools with starfish. Still, the king of the Northern California coast is much, much bigger: the magnificent gray whale. Gray whales roam the California coast in increasing numbers, and visitors to coastal bluffs to the north should scan the horizon for clouds of spray. Adult whales live to be up to 70 years old, are longer than a city bus, and can weigh up to 40 tons. When they dive underwater or jump out of the water, this is quite a splash.

In the summer, the whales feed in the arctic waters between Alaska and Siberia. In the fall, they move south along the Pacific coast of Canada and the United States to sheltered lagoons in the Gulf of California, in the Mexican state of Baja California. During this 6,000 mile migration, the whales migrate past California between December and April. It is believed that this is the longest migration of a mammal when traveling at a speed of around 5 km / h day and night. (Sooty shearwaters, seabirds that resemble a dark gray seagull, hold the record for the longest migration of anything in the animal kingdom, and they can be seen in Northern California as well.)

The best way to see whales is to be right on the water. During their migration season, visitors from many cities along the north coast can go on whale watching expeditions, often two hours. These are not guaranteed, but visitors can ask the boat operators about recent sightings to get an idea of ​​what to expect.

Even if you don't spot the big boys, you're likely to see other adorable little creatures, including playful sea otters and seals. These species like to cavort on public pillars and sheltered bays. Since the 1989 earthquake, the air of San Francisco's Pier 39 has been filled with the sounds (and smells) of sea lions barking, much to the delight of tourists. Another place to see wild pinnipods is Point Lobos State Natural Reserve near Monterey.

Near endangered by the late 19th century, the northern elephant seals made a remarkable comeback on the California coast. Año Nuevo State Park north of Santa Cruz is an important breeding ground for elephant seals in the north. However, California's largest colony of seal elephants is located in Piedras Blancas near Hearst Castle, south of Big Sur. There is a smaller colony at Point Reyes National Seashore.

Mountain Kings

The fact that California's most emblematic animal is the grizzly bear is ironic. The brown animal that adorns the state flag has long since disappeared. Eradicated in the early 1900s, grizzlies once roamed California's beaches and meadows in large numbers, eating everything from whale carcasses to acorns. Grizzlies were particularly common in the Central Valley, but retired to the mountains on the hunt. Conservationists occasionally talk about reintroducing the grizzly population to California, but it seems unlikely.

Now all that remains are the grizzlies' relatively small cousins, the black bears, who typically weigh less than 400 pounds. These burly omnivores feed on berries, nuts, roots, grasses, insects, eggs, small mammals, and fish, but can become a nuisance in campsites and mountain huts where food is improperly stored. Remember the old saying, "A fed bear is a dead bear" - people are calling for the destruction of these beautiful animals by carelessly leaving food unattended in their cars and campsites. It is a wonderful addition to a trip to the forest to see a black bear foraging in a high mountain meadow.

The other fearsome mammal in Northern California is the mountain lion. Sometimes called pumas, they hunt in the mountains and forests of Northern California, especially in areas teeming with deer. Lone lions, which can grow up to 3 m long and weigh 5 kg, are formidable predators, but they are very, very rarely seen. Although they panic in many cities (and warning signs can be seen in many places), these big cats are very shy and attacks on people are extremely rare. Most human encounters have taken place where interference has pushed hungry lions to their limits - for example, on the borders between wilderness and rapidly developing suburbs.

Feathery Friends & Butterflies

Northern California is on major migratory routes for over 350 species of birds that either migrate through the state or linger for the winter. This is one of the most popular bird watching destinations in North America. For example, watch the gathering of a million ducks, geese and swans in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges every November. In winter, these waterfowl head south to the shelters of the Central Valley, another area where large numbers of native and migratory species can be seen.

Year round, bird watching can be found on California's beaches, estuaries, and bays, where herons, cormorants, waders, and gulls congregate at places like Point Reyes National Seashore and the shores near Redwood National and State Parks. Monarch butterflies are wonderful orange creatures that follow a long-distance migration pattern in search of milkweed, their only source of food. They winter in the tens of thousands in California, mostly on the central coast, including Santa Cruz, Pacific Grove, and Pismo Beach.

Look up at the sky as you cruise along the Big Sur coast to spot endangered California condors that also soar over the Inland Pinnacles National Monument. Condors are the largest flying birds in the hemisphere, with a wingspan of up to two meters.They can easily be confused with the wobbly and common turkey vulture, which is also frequent guests over the coast. You can tell the difference by their roll-out pattern: turkey vultures are poorly balanced and seem to float drunk, while condors glide much more calmly. Also, keep an eye out for royal bald eagles that can be seen in the Sierra Nevada and along the north coast.

Going Native: Wildflowers & Trees

The flora in Northern California is both extravagant and subtle. Many species are so obscure and similar that only a dedicated botanist can tell them apart, but add them all together in spring and you get wild carpets of wildflowers that can take your breath away. The state flower is the orange-yellow native California poppy.

California is also a land of superlatives: the tallest (coastal redwoods with a height of almost 1.80 m), the largest (giant sequoias of the Sierra Nevada with a diameter of over 1.80 m at the base) and the oldest (bristle pines of the White Mountains) that are almost 5000 years old). Found only in California, the giant sequoia lives in isolated forests scattered on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, including Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks.

California is home to an astonishing 20 native oak species, including live or evergreen oaks with holly-like leaves and scaly acorns that thrive in coastal areas. Less common native species are the Monterey pine, gnarled trees that have adapted to harsh coastal conditions such as high winds, scant rainfall, and sandy, stony soils. You can find groves of them near Monterey.

Inland, the Sierra Nevada has three different eco-zones: the dry western foothills overgrown with oaks and chaparral, coniferous forests from around 2000 feet and an alpine zone over 8000 feet. 23 species of conifers are found in the Sierra Nevada. Solid Douglas firs, Ponderosa pines and, above all, the giant sequoia live in the forests at medium altitude. One of the deciduous trees is the magnificent trembling aspen, a tree with a white trunk whose shimmering leaves brighten many of the edges of the mountain meadows. The large, rounded leaves turn pale yellow in early fall and form some of the most spectacular scenery, particularly around June Lake in the Eastern Sierra and Monitor Pass (Hwy 4) in the High Sierra.

Sidebar: ups & downs

California claims both the highest point in the adjacent United States (Mt Whitney, 14,497 feet) and the lowest point in North America (Badwater, Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level) - and they're only 90 miles apart while the condor flies .

Sidebar: Earthquake Rates

According to the US Geological Survey, the odds of an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater in California over the next 30 years are 99.7%.

Sidebar: Yosemite

A new PBS documentary, Yosemite, examines how climate change is threatening the state's most popular park and its remarkable ecosystems.

Sidebar: drinking stations

San Francisco Airport introduced green "drinking stations" to its state-of-the-art terminal to reduce waste from water bottles. The stations came with a snappy slogan and drank a drink from the "pristine Sierra snowmelt".

Sidebar: California Coast

Browse over 1200 aerial photos at www.californiacoastline.org covering nearly every mile of the rugged California coast from Oregon to the Mexican border.

Sidebar: Natural History Guide

Get one of the great California naturalist guides published by the University of California Press (www.ucpress.edu) that are compact enough to stow in a daypack.

Sidebar: Northern Elephant Seals

The peak season for elephant seals on the Pacific coast happens to coincide with Valentine's Day (February 14th).

Sidebar: Black Bears

An estimated 25,000 to 35,000 black bears live in California's mountain forests, and their fur is actually colored from black to dark brown, cinnamon, or even blonde.

Sidebar: Audubon Society

The Audubon Society California Chapter's free website (http://ca.audubon.org) has helpful birding checklists, an updated blog, and descriptions of key species and key birding areas throughout the state.

Sidebar: Hyperion

In 2006, the world's tallest tree was discovered in Redwood National Park (its location is kept secret). It's called Hyperion and it's a whopping 379.3 feet tall.

Sidebar California's Top Parks

  • Point Reyes National Seashore
  • Redwood National & State Parks
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park

Art & architecture

You are sitting in a Taqueria in San Francisco, minding your own business, when suddenly a group of mariachis appear and break into a brass-colored ballad. This is at the heart of Northern California's relationship with art: deeply woven into everyday life, unexpected and inevitable. Northern California has always been a stronghold for creative thinkers, artists, contrarians and weirdos. Expect an encounter with the thriving culture they created: largely independent, spirited and marching at your own pace.

Feature: Punks of the North

In the 1970s, when American airwaves were overflowing with commercial arena rock, California rock critics like Lester Bangs and Greil Marcus formed the cultural front line to fight back. Tired of prepackaged hymns, teenagers in the United States and Northern California would stick used guitars into crappy, distorted amps and articulate their anger with three chords and no makeup. Punk was born.

San Francisco's punk scene was artistic and absurd, in rare form with Dead Kennedy (and future San Francisco mayoral candidate) Jello Biafra crying "Holiday in Cambodia". The Avengers opened for the Sex Pistols show in San Francisco in 1978, which Sid Vicious celebrated with an OD in the Haight that split the band.

In the mid-1990s, a new wave of influential punks of all ages grew, DIY locations like Berkeley's (now discontinued) Gillman Street Project, including bands like Operation Ivy and Rancid. None of them had more sustained success than Berkeley trio Green Day, who produced catchy pop-punk hooks about suburban doldrums, masturbation, and teenage boredom. While Green Day became an arena-sized audience over the next decade, her 2004 LP American Idiot was a mainstream hit with Bay Area ideals: her songs mocked war, capitalism, and conservative politics.

Movie in San Francisco

Although San Francisco cannot stand up to the cinematic influence of its southern neighbor, the city hosts a number of internationally renowned film festivals. The annual San Francisco International Film Festival, held every spring, is the oldest continuously running film festival in North and South America. In addition, the city hosts several other notable film festivals each year, including the Asian American Film Festival in March and the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival in June as part of the city's pride month. Film buffs coming at other times of the year should check out UC Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive.

The Bay Area is also home to some notable movie houses, including animation giant Pixar and George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch.


The essential sounds of Northern California would be a schizophrenic playlist. It would start with a track by Summer of Love icons like Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin or The Grateful Dead, include a few selected cuts of wavering, heartbreaking country heroes from the Central Valley, and finally find their way to the striking blow of the dead "hyphy" hip-hop movement from East Bay. You'd also need to have a rehearsal of haute folk nuevo acts like Joanna Newsom and a couple of arduous norteño ballads that dominate the area's AM radio, and top it off with the San Francisco Symphony, which is now among the most exciting of the Landes has orchestral bodies under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas.

Most of the music is in San Francisco. But outside of the city too, you can find fantastic outdoor festivals and spunky music scenes in university towns like Arcata and Chico. Search online and in cafes for event listings that often feature posters for out-of-town events as diverse as the Queer Music Festival and Reggae on the River.

Golden oldies

The guy buzzing in the corner of the taco shop represents one of California's longest musical traditions - Mexican folk music. This sound came before the gold rush introduced western bluegrass, bawdy dance hall ragtime, and Chinese classical music, and is still an essential sound for the region. Still, by the turn of the century, opera had become California's favorite sound. There were 20 concert and opera houses in San Francisco alone before the 1906 earthquake literally broke the houses down. One of the first public buildings in San Francisco was the War Memorial Opera House, which is the second largest US opera after New York's Metropolitan. Though the San Francisco Opera is still bringing out the same chestnuts that entertained fans after the quake, the program today includes a number of visionary modern works, including recent premieres The Bonesetter's Daughter, with a libretto by Bay Area writer Amy Tan and Dolores Claiborne , adapted from the story by Stephen King.

It doesn't mean a thing ...

Swing - imported from black neighborhoods to the east and dance halls to the south - swept northern California in the 1930s and 1940s. In the Bay Area and in Western Swing (the kind of land), the Central Valley dance halls were full of big bands. The artistic edge of swing blossomed on the stages of the underground, integrated jazz clubs of San Francisco. These scenes may sound like estranged cousins, but the essential feel of the swing - a calming, often fast-paced, rhythmic backdrop - was the common thread.

Still, the Northern California era proceeded in two distinctly separate ways: the African American communities that came to the Bay Area shipping and manufacturing industries via the Great Migration, and the satinized western swing outfits that were inspired by Texas-style violinists Bob Wills. While both San Francisco and Oakland promoted working-class blues scenes in the 1940s and 50s championed by Texas-based guitarists Pee Wee Crayton and Oklahoma-born Lowell Fulson, the hippest scene in San Francisco's Fillmore neighborhood was well known as 'Harlem of the West' - supposedly the only gig at which jazz icons Charlie Parker and Louis Armstrong have ever played together. By combining western swing and a rural working class, the Central Valley shaped Bakersfield Sound, a sharp-edged honky-tonk genre that saw the rise of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

While beat poets let off steam on improvised bass lines and the audience in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood snapped their fingers, the cool West Coast jazz movement from the 1950s emerged, with champions in trumpet Chet Baker and pianist Dave Brubeck. In the 1950s and 1960s doo-wop, rhythm and blues, and soul music alternated in San Francisco nightclubs, while the pop music nexus firmly established itself in Los Angeles studios.

The San Francisco Sound & Summer of Love

No tune captures the psychedelic sound of San Francisco better than the brilliant, twisted, totally bizarre journey of Jefferson Airplane's musical recording of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 'White Rabbit'. After the waves of musical rebellion manifested in the form of a cheeky, sultry, salty singer named Janis Joplin, all ears were on San Francisco in the 1960s. The Grateful Dead would prove to be the Bay Area's most enduring ambassadors, but they were only part of the scene. A seething, psychedelic jumble of musical exploration, sexual liberation, and mind-changing expression. It was a sound presented in lively technicolor by groups like Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana. That movement increased to 11 in 1967 when the Summer of Love brought 10,000 pilgrims to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. Golden Gate Park's 'Human Be-In' in January this year kicked off with a freeform festival with a good atmosphere, LSD and live music. In the late 1960s, Sly and the Family Stone - a funky, interracial group led by the so-called "Black Prince of Woodstock" Sly Stone - perfectly captured the all-encompassing, edgy, revolutionary zeitgeist with their hit "I Want To Take You Higher." "

Greater social tension, civil unrest, and an increasingly volatile discourse about the civil rights movement later disrupted the avant-garde of San Francisco's sound, and many of the musicians who were instrumental in the Summer of Love began a period of decline, accelerated by overexposure and overdose. Those who survived cleaned up and paid off (look at you, Mr. Santana), though the Grateful Dead continued to work until Jerry Garcia died in a Marin County rehabilitation clinic in 1995.

Alternative NorCal

Forget the 80s, spandex, commercial synth pop and hair metal. While these trends drifted north from LA like a poisonous cloud of Aqua Net hairspray, the music scene slumbered in Northern California. Aside from a few minor mainstream acts like Huey Lewis & the News, Tesla, and MC Hammer, Northern California was relatively calm and the influence relatively small. But there's something in Northern California's cultural DNA that takes pleasure in swimming against the current. When the cultural backlash against mainstream movements started in earnest with college radio, late-night MTV programming, and the emergence of the artistic post-punk underground Northern California was back with it.

As so-called "alternative music" began to gain popularity, well-packed Bay Area folk rockers like Counting Crows, Chris Isaak, and 4 Non Blondes came by and enjoyed a moment of success in the top 40. Still, the most interesting one came 90s music produced by a group of quietly influential, genre-changing groups like Jawbreaker, Pavement, Primus and Faith No More.

The dotcom boom was the death knell of San Francisco's underground music in the 2000s. Escalating rents were funded by venture capital firms, and artists watched their venues and rehearsal rooms turn into offices, sushi restaurants, and boutiques. In better news, Tycho, an indie electronic music project led by San Franciscan (and former Sactown resident) Scott Hansen, was nominated for a Grammy in 2016.

For the past decade, Northern California's music has flourished in Oakland Bay, home to bold scenes of underground rock and hip-hop. A little further away, improbable musical centers have settled - the harp-playing indie darling Joanna Newsom lives in Nevada City.

Rap & hip-hop rhythms

The Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles was the epicenter of the west coast rap and hip-hop movements in the 1980s and 1990s, but Northern California maintained a healthy grassroots hip-hop scene at the heart of the black power movement in Oakland. One of the main characters in west coast rap, Tupac Shakur, spent his school years on the not-so-mean streets of Marin County. It wasn't until the 1990s that the Bay Area sound came into its own with the "Hyphy Movement". Like the Bay Area punk and rock movements, their roots were contrary - a reaction to the increasing commercialization of hip hop. The most consistent and influential players were underground Oakland artists such as Keak Da Sneak, Mac Dre, and E-40.

Michael Franti & Spearhead from Oakland mixed hip-hop with funk, reggae, folk, jazz and rock stylings to create messages for social justice and peace in The Sound of Sunshine 2010. Meanwhile Korn from Bakersfield combined hip-hop with rap and metal to promote 'Nu Metal'.


Northern California has more to offer than bungalows and boardwalks, and the buildings here have often adapted imported styles to suit the climate and materials available - just look at the mist-resistant redwood clapboard houses in Mendocino. But after more than a century of refining inspired influences and eccentric details as the mood arises, the element of the unexpected is omnipresent: tiled Mayan decorative facades in Oakland, English thatched roofs in Carmel, street lamps in the Chinoiserie in San Francisco. California's architecture was postmodern before there was a word.

Spanish Missions & Victorian Queens

The first Spanish missions were built around courtyards, using materials that Californian natives and colonists had on hand: clay, limestone, and grass. Many missions fell into disuse as the Church's influence wore off, but the style remained practical for the climate. Early California settlers later adapted it to the rancho (ranch) Adobe style, as in the San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission in Monterey.

When the gold rush set in in the mid-19th century, Northern California's nouveau riche imported materials to build large mansions in keeping with European fashion and increased the stakes with excess ornaments. Many millionaires favored the gilded Queen Anne style. Northern California cities like San Francisco, Ferndale and Eureka have incredible examples of Victorian architecture, including Painted Ladies and Gingerbread Houses.

Art Deco & Handicrafts

Like most other states, simplicity was the hallmark of Northern California handicrafts. Influenced by Japanese design principles and the arts and crafts movement in England, the woodwork and handcrafted details marked a conscious departure from the industrial revolution. SoCal architects Charles and Henry Greene and Bernard Maybeck popularized the versatile, single-story bungalow in Northern California, which became fashionable around the turn of the century. Today you can find these bungalows all over Sacramento and Berkeley with their overhanging eaves, patios and sleeping beams that harmonize indoors and outdoors.

California was cosmopolitan from the start and couldn't be limited to a set of international influences. In the 1920s, the international Art Deco style took elements from ancient times - Mayan glyphs, Egyptian columns, Babylonian ziggurats - and compressed them into modern motifs to grace sleek facades and streamlined skyscrapers, especially in downtown Oakland and Sacramento . Streamline Moderne kept decoration to a minimum and mimicked the aerodynamic look of ocean liners and airplanes, as seen in the San Francisco Maritime Museum in Fisherman's Wharf.

Postmodern developments

California has stayed true to its mythical nature and wants to embellish the facts a little. It deviates from rigorous high modernism to give improbable postmodern shapes to the local landscape. Following in the footsteps of buildings in Southern California like Richard Meier's Getty Center and Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, San Francisco has brought forth a beautiful new crop of buildings in the new millennium.

San Francisco's postmodernism is a symbol of the Pritzker Prize-winning architects who enlarge and mimick the nature of California, particularly in Golden Gate Park. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron clad the MH de Young Memorial Museum with copper, which eventually oxidizes green to adapt it to the park landscape. Nearby, Renzo Piano has literally raised the roof for sustainable design at the LEED platinum certified California Academy of Sciences, which is surrounded by a living garden.


There is much for a traveler to love about Northern California's duo of great early literary icons Jack London and Mark Twain. After all, it was Twain whose thoughts on travel are so quotable: "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." Both men were avid adventurers, lively storytellers, and famous literary stylists.

Long before Huck Finn, Twain hitched up a story called The Celebrated Jumping Frog from Calaveras County, which he wrote while living in a cabin on the California foothills. Every year Twain's story focuses on the small green contestant contest at the Calaveras County Fair at Angels Camp. Jack London was also a troubled vagabond. Born in London, the San Francisco native ran in and out of the ports of Oakland and provided information about seafaring stories and adventure novels such as White Fang, The Call of the Wild and Sea Wolf. London's old neighborhood is no longer the salty dog ​​lawn; The Oakland waterfront is now a dining and entertainment district that bears his name.

A generation later came the Beats, a collection of poets, writers, and alternative thinkers who populated the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. The cast of characters who drifted into and out of the scene are well-known names in American literature: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti's City Lights bookstore published many of the most definitive titles of the generation, including Ginsberg's Howl and other poems that won a groundbreaking profanity case in 1957 during the repressive era of McCarthyism.

More recently, a number of Northern California writers have attracted international attention. Chinese American writer Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club was a famous work on family dynamics in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Writer, editor, and publisher Dave Eggers was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2000 memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Two literary ventures have attracted national attention: the literary magazine The Believer and the non-profit literary promotion program 826 Valencia, which bears his name for its Mission District address.

Some of the most eloquent modern day writings on Northern California, the Summer of Love, the Central Valley, and the California political circus are from Joan Didion, a Sacramento-born essayist. Didion's White Album is a collection of essays that delve deeply into the psyche of California in the late 1960s, and the discussion of the Central Valley in Where I Was From takes a thoughtful look at Ronald Reagan's governor's mansion, the water wars, and the California Odyssey Mythmaker.

Fine arts & theater

Although the earliest European artists were trained cartographers who accompanied Western explorers, their images of California as an island show more imagination than scientific rigor. This exaggerated, mythologizing tendency to portray California continued throughout the gold rush era as Western artists shifted between caricatures of Wild West debauchery and doom manifesto propaganda that urged pioneers to settle in the golden west. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869 brought with it an influx of romantic painters creating epic landscapes in the California wilderness. At the beginning of the 20th century, indigenous colonies of Impressionist open-air painters from California emerged primarily in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

With the invention of photography, the improbable truth of the California landscape and its people was revealed. Pirkle Jones saw expressive potential in post-World War II California landscape photography, while the great photographs of San Francisco-born Ansel Adams did justice to Yosemite. Adams formed the group f / 64 with Edward Weston of Carmel and Imogen Cunningham in San Francisco. Dorothea Lange, who lives in Berkeley, fully addressed the plight of California's migrant workers during the Great Depression and forced Japanese Americans to enter internment camps during World War II to produce poignant documentary photos.

As the postwar American West was criss-crossed by freeways and divided into planned communities, Californian painters captured the abstract shapes of man-made landscapes on canvas. In San Francisco, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park became leading exponents of Bay Area Figurative Art, while San Francisco-based sculptor Richard Serra captured the urban aesthetic in massive, rusty monoliths that resembled shipbuilding and industrial Stonehenges. San Francisco also developed its own brand for pop art, with the rough and pre-made beat collage from the 1950s, the psychedelic Fillmore posters from the 1960s, the earthy funk and punk from the 70s, and graffiti and skate culture from the 1980s. This tradition lives on in the Fillmore Auditorium, which distributes exhibition posters after most concerts.

The contemporary art scene in Northern California is a blend of all of these influences, shaped by the international community and complemented by social commentary led by muralists. There's also an obsessive devotion to the craft and a new media milieu steeped in the latest Silicon Valley technology. To see California art at its most experimental, visit NorCal independent art spaces in San Francisco's Mission District and the laboratory-like galleries of SoMa's Yerba Buena Arts District. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts takes center stage and offers excellent modern art programs.

San Francisco's priorities had been evident since the great 1906 earthquake, when survivors were entertained in tents erected amid the smoldering ruins and the famous theaters rebuilt well in front of City Hall. Major productions destined for the premieres of Broadway and London at the American Conservatory Theater and San Francisco's answer to Edinburgh are the annual SF Fringe Festival at the Exit Theater. The Magic Theater gained a national reputation in the 1970s when Sam Shepard was the theater's California-based playwright. Innovative dramatists from California are still premiered here today. Across the bay, the Berkeley Repertory Theater has put out acclaimed productions based on subjects as improbable as the rise and fall of Jim Jones' folk temple.

Sidebar: Oddball California Architecture

  • Hearst Castle, San Simeon
  • Tor House, Carmel-by-the-Sea
  • Sea Ranch Chapel, Sea Ranch
  • Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

Sidebar: Metropolitan Opera

When the 1906 earthquake hit San Francisco, the Metropolitan Opera lost its costumes and tenor Enrico Caruso was thrown out of his bed. Caruso never returned, but the Met played free shows in the rubble alleys.

Sidebar: Monterey Jazz Festival

The Monterey Jazz Festival is one of the longest jazz festivals in the world and has been part of the Central Coast since 1958. Its organizers include pianist Dave Brubeck and the actor, former Carmel Mayor (and occasional composer) Clint Eastwood. It takes place annually at the end of September.

Sidebar: Hearst Castle

In 1915, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned the first licensed California architect, Julia Morgan, to build his Hearst Castle. It would take decades for the commission to complete.

Sidebar: Sea Ranch

In the north coast community of Sea Ranch, buildings are subject to strict zoning guidelines that require simple timber frame constructions with wood paneling or shingles and a harmonious relationship with the surrounding area.

Sidebar: California: With classic California fonts

Timeless, rare Ansel Adams photographs are combined with excerpts from canonical Californian writers such as Jack Kerouac and Joan Didion in California: With Classic California Writings, edited by Andrea Gray Stillman.

Sidebar: Ghost Ship

In 2016, 36 people were killed in a fire that broke out during a concert in an unsafe warehouse in Oakland called the Ghost Ship.