1. A family visit to Disneyland included the Electric Light Parade.
Going on Space Mountain and the Matterhorn were the highlights of your day, but once night came the true magic show appeared: the Electric Light Parade. You knew that to get a prime viewing spot you needed to line up on Main Street early. With a warm churro in hand, it never got old watching the illuminated floats with your favorite Disney characters go past — especially when Mickey and Minnie made an appearance as the grand finale.
2. You frequented Sea World in San Diego or Marine World in Vallejo.
After watching Free Willy, you insisted that your parents take you to see the killer whales up close and personal at one of these two animal parks. You made sure to sit in the front row, where you would definitely get wet in the Splash Zone. Never mind that the water probably wasn’t the cleanest thing. As a kid in the 90s the killer whales and their antics never got old.
3. You always looked forward to Lunchables on field trips days.
Whether it was La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles or the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, your mom packed you a Lunchables, because it traveled well. Usually your parents would give you healthier lunches, but fieldtrips were special occasions where you remembered the food more than the actual place itself. Bonus points if the Lunchables had a Pacific Cooler Capri Sun.
4. Long car trips to Yosemite or on Highway 1 always included endless hours on a Game Boy.
The only time you could really play Mario Kart without your parents nagging you to go outside and play was when you were stuck in the car on a road trip. Your parents knew that if they wanted to stay sane they would let you and your sibling each play on their own and bribe you with Gushers.
5. You spent hours looking for CDs in Rasputin, Tower Records, or Amoeba Music.
Whether it was Britney Spears, N’Sync, or the Now This Is Music, you could spend hours after school and on weekends combing through the endless racks of CDs. Most of your early musical education was finding the coolest new bands and spending your hard earned allowance on them. The best part of the CD – next to the music itself – was the lyric booklet where you could finally learn the words of that one song you loved so much.
6. You dreamt of living in homes like the Painted Ladies in San Francisco or the mansions of Bel Air.
Whether you watched Full House or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air after school, you always dreamed about what it was like to live in one of those neighborhoods in San Francisco or Los Angeles. The Tanners and the Banks families were prime examples of California living. Whenever you passed Bel Air or Alamo Square, you couldn’t help but sing the theme songs to these shows. Now if only your parents won the lottery…
7. California-grown rock stars were constantly playing on your CD player.
No Doubt, Blink-182, Sublime, Sugar Ray, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind and Cake were the choices, just to name a few. School dances and dance parties were not complete without “All The Small Things,” or “Just A Girl” blaring over the sound system. You definitely saw at least one of these bands in concert, whether it was Smash Mouth at the Shoreline or Sugar Ray at the Hollywood Bowl.
8. Your go-to mall snack was Hot Dog On A Stick.
Whether you were hanging out in Stonestown in San Francisco or Westside Pavillion in LA, there was nothing better than a corn dog and a frozen lemonade. But let’s be honest those colorful costumes were also a major draw.
9. Legalizing marijuana for medical use was all over the news.
Proposition 215 was passed in California in 1996, allowing people to use marijuana for medical purposes from anxiety to helping relieve the effects of chemo. You remember this was a heated argument that the adults in your life tried to discuss when you were not in the room, but you overheard anyway. You realized later that this was just the beginning of the battle for the actual legalization of marijuana…
10. Earthquake fear was a real thing.
The Loma Prieta earthquake in the SF Bay Area at the end of 1989 and the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles in 1994 were major earthquakes that changed the way Californians thought about natural disasters. Earthquake drills in school were a regular occurrence, where you had to duck under your desk and clasp your hands around the back of your neck. It was an unforgettable part of your childhood.