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10 Quintessential Facts for First Time Travelers to California

by Christina Kantzavelos Aug 23, 2017

1. The Pacific Ocean is freezing.

Do not expect warm tropical water when visiting the Pacific Ocean — even in the summer. Although the ocean is beautiful, it averages 51-60 degrees Fahrenheit. If visiting outside of the summer months, pack or rent a wetsuit.

2. Earthquakes are frequent, but often of negligent magnitude.

Although we have small earthquakes daily, a lot of Californians have never actually felt a quake. We don’t get warnings, and larger earthquakes rarely happen. In addition, the epicenters are generally in unpopulated areas. Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes and more extreme storms, there is no regularity to earthquakes. The scariest part is the unpredictability, but this shouldn’t deter you from visiting. Be prepared by ensuring your gas tank is always at a half-tank full or fuller, and that you have food and water stored. P.S. Oklahoma officially has more earthquakes than California (thanks to good old’ fracking).

3. Plan your visits to National Parks far in advance.

California’s most popular parks include Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, Sequoia and King’s Canyon, Redwood and Channel Islands. Some are better to visit in warmer or colder seasons, so be prepared for extreme heat, or snowfall (closed down roads), if you venture during the wrong time of the year. Due to the popularity of the parks, camping sites, lodging and permits can sell-out/fill up quickly. Do your research, and enjoy the breathtaking country.

4. You can surf, snowboard and visit the desert all in one day.

Southern California is one of the unique regions on earth that host all three climates. If visiting during the winter or spring months, be sure to complete the Trifecta Challenge, where you can challenge yourself to play in all three climates in one day.

5. Please don’t refer to California as ‘Cali’.

The easiest way to tell you’re not from California…

6. San Francisco and Los Angeles are not the only cities worth visiting.

Although both are beautiful and great cities, they are also riddled with traffic, tourists, and over-expectations. Be sure to check out some other cities, like San Diego, Palm Springs, Monterey Bay, Mammoth, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley and Big Sur.

7. Hollywood isn’t as glamorous as you’d expect.

Of the 18 blocks in Los Angeles considered the Walk of Fame, many are filled with trash. You will find street performers who aren’t performers, plenty of panhandlers and your quintessential tourist traps. You will soon realize that everything in Hollywood is heavily photoshopped, including the city itself.

8. State Route 1 (aka Pacific Coast Highway) will be one of the prettiest drives you ever take.

This highway has been voted the prettiest highway drives, time and time again, and for good reason. This 655-mile span will get you from Dana Point (Southern California) to Legget, CA. Some notable stops along the way, include but are not limited to Redwood national and state parks, Big Sur and Pfeiffer State Beach, Santa Ynez Mountains, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Palace of Fine Arts (San Francisco), Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Queen Mary (Long Beach) Hearst Castle (San Simeon), Venice Beach, Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo), Dana Point, Malibu, Santa Monica, Point Lobos State Reserve, Morro Rock, Bixby Bridge, Glass Beach (Fort Bragg), Santa Barbara, Muir Woods, and Monterey Bay. The list can seriously go on, and on.

9. Anytime is a good time to visit the Golden State.

There are various websites rating and confirming California as having perfect weather all year long. San Diego has specifically been rated ‘The Most Pleasant Place to Live.’ Mediterranean climates rule.

10. Prepare to taste what real Mexican food (outside of Mexico) is supposed to taste like.

Living in California has made me a Mexican food snob, as I’ve grown accustomed to eating it nearly every day. When craving Mexican food outside of the state, I’ve been disappointed time and time again. Prepare to have your taste buds light up when you bite into a giant California burrito or a sizzling street taco.

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