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California is the largest state of the United States by population, and the third largest by area, located on its coast to the Pacific Ocean. California has natural attractions as well as theme-parks and bustling city life: Southern California is home to such popular attractions as Disneyland, Hollywood and the beaches in Malibu that inspired the television show Baywatch, while the northern part of California offers the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, the hills of San Francisco, the vineyards of Napa Valley, Silicon Valley, and the capital, Sacramento. Outside California’s major cities one finds some of North America’s most rugged national parks, incredible skiing/snowboarding opportunities, and quiet and ancient northern forests including the highest mountain peak in the contiguous USA, Mt. Whitney.

Regions

California varies greatly, ranging from the forested northern coastal regions to the rugged interior mountains to the harsh southern desert. Sandwiched in the center of California is the fertile Central Valley, home to a massive amount of agriculture.
Southern California
Home to Los Angeles, San Diego, Disneyland, and miles of famous beaches.
Desert
Palm trees, blazing sun, and quirky resorts.
Central Coast
An isolated stretch of land that features cool mountains and rugged coastline.
San Joaquin Valley
Breadbasket of California and home to a large percentage of America’s fruit and vegetable supply.

Sacramento Valley
Home of Sacramento. the state capital.
Sierra Nevada
California’s alpine and skiing region, including Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
Gold Country
Historic foothills to the Sierras.
Bay Area
Home to San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose/Silicon Valley.
North Coast
Home to the world’s tallest trees, the coast redwoods as well rugged coastline and remote nature adventures.
Shasta Cascades
Hills and mountains in the state’s northeast corner that are off the beaten path for most visitors.

Cities

These are some of the major cities in California.

  • Sacramento – This metropolitan area sited amongst the fertile flatlands of the Central Valley, between the San Francisco Bay and Sierra Nevada mountains, hosts the state capitol and the 19th century historic area Old Sacramento.
  • Bakersfield- The largest city of the southernmost San Joaquin valley, this is an important producer of oil and agriculture. Blazing hot in the summer with poor air quality, but at the foot of the Sierra Nevada’s cooler and clearer altitudes and midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The world’s largest Basque population outside of Spain is found here and fine Basque restaurants abound.
  • Fresno- Urban center of the Mid-San Joaquin Valley. Gateway to the prime national parks of the highest Sierra Nevada mountains: Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.
  • Palm Springs- Desert recreation with golf, spas, resorts, casinos, and the famous aerial tramway.
  • Los Angeles – The state’s largest city, and 2nd-largest in the nation. L.A. is home to Hollywood, Venice, The Getty Center, and Griffith Park.
  • San Diego- Beach towns, Balboa Park, Old Town, SeaWorld, San Diego Zoo, and nearby Tijuana, Mexico.
  • San Francisco- Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, America’s largest Chinatown, cable cars, Victorian houses, mecca of cultural, ethnic and sexuality.
  • San Jose- Near San Francisco but with a distinct identity, home of the Winchester Mystery House, and the center of Silicon Valley, which is home to many technology companies.
  • Santa Cruz – A central coast city. The home of the historic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Mission Santa Cruz, and the Mystery Spot.

Other destinations

Disneyland
  • Lake Tahoe — A large, gorgeous lake great for water sports and excellent skiing in the winter.
  • Napa Valley — Spas, wine tasting, wine tours.
  • Big Sur — one of the most scenic spots along the Pacific Coast Highway
  • Siskiyou County — is in the Shasta Cascades region of California.
National Parks
  • Channel Islands National Park – five remarkable islands (Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Rosa Island, San Miguel Island, and Santa Barbara Island) and their ocean environment
  • Death Valley National Park – The lowest point in North America. Desert park and brutally hot in summer.
Joshua Tree National Park
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park – witness a brief moment in the ancient battle between the earth shaping forces of creation and destruction
  • Redwood National Park – Stand at the base of a coast redwood and even the huckleberry bushes tower over you
  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks – These twin parks hold monuments to nature’s size, beauty, and diversity
  • Yosemite National Park – one of the first wilderness parks in the United States
  • Pinnacles National Park – Large rock formations and great hiking
  • San Bernardino National Forest – Wilderness preserved against sprawling urban development in the region.
California State Parks

California has many state parks, approximately half of which are located near urban centers. A few are highlighted below:

  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
  • Richardson Grove State Park
  • Calaveras Big Trees

Understand

History

Human occupation in California goes back 50,000 years; California was home to thirty different tribal groups prior to the arrival of European explorers in the 1500s and now over 120 tribes are left. The first Europeans were the Spanish and Portuguese, who built a settlement in California, establishing twenty-one missions in California by the late 1700s. Many of these missions survive today, including that in Santa Barbara.

After the Mexican War for Independence in 1821, California became a part of Mexico for 25 years until 1846 where it briefly became a sovereign nation, California Republic, before it was annexed by the United States in 1846. In 1848 the discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada mountains kicked off the California Gold Rush, and California’s non-native population surged from 15,000 to over 300,000 within two years.

California was recognized as a state in 1850, and its population increased steadily since then. Today California is the most populous state in the US with over 38 million residents.

Landscape

With over 160,000 square miles (411,000 km2) the landscape of California is vast and varied. The state contains extremes in elevation, with Mount Whitney at 14,505 feet (4,421 m) being the tallest mountain in the lower-48 states, while less than 200 miles away Death Valley, at 282 feet (-82 m) below sea level, is North America’s lowest point.

California’s border to the west is made up of a rugged coastline along the Pacific Ocean. The coastal mountains rise up from the ocean and are home to redwood trees in the northern half. The Central Valley bisects California from north-to-south before giving way to the Sierra Nevada mountains, home of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and other natural wonders. The southeastern part of California is dominated by desert, which covers 25% of California’s total area. The Mojave is a high desert, with elevations ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level. This area receives less than six inches of rain each year.

Climate

The state’s climate varies from temperate at the coast to the brutal winters of the mountains to one of the world’s hottest regions in the deserts. Rainfall is more common in the northern part of the state than in the south, and snow is rare except in the mountains.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere, 134°F (56.6°C) was at Death Valley in 1913, and temperatures regularly exceed 120°F (49°C) during the summer. In contrast, winter temperatures in the mountains can drop below 0°F.

People

California is a very diverse state with many ethnic groups. California has large populations of people of varied backgrounds such as Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Armenian, Iranian, Irish, Italians, Jewish, Chinese, Russian, Filipino, Eastern Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, and Hmong. California also has large populations of African Americans and Native Americans.

Californians have a wide variety of political views. The Central Valley, Orange County, San Diego, and Palm Springs area tend to be more conservative, while Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay area tend to be more liberal.

California is a very large and populous state, with very different cultures in each region.

Get in

By car

You can enter California from Oregon,Nevada,Arizona and Baja California Mexico All vehicles traveling from other states on major roadways will undergo California Department of Agriculture Inspection checkpoints. Be aware of produce that you have.

By plane

Like most American cities, most cities in California have an international airport. The largest is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with flights to six continents. Another major international airport is the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). SFO has many flights to Europe and is an important gateway to and from Asia, given its relatively close proximity to the continent. There are also several smaller airports in the vicinity of SFO (Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento) and LAX (Burbank, San Diego, Santa Ana, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, Ontario), but the largest selection (by far) of domestic and international flights can be found at these two airports. Many of the smaller airports in the state have flights to Western U.S. hubs such as Denver, Phoenix or Seattle.

By train

Amtrak has hubs in Emeryville and Los Angeles Union Station, with service on routes in the Western U.S.

By bus

Greyhound, Megabus and others come from Portland, Reno, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Mexico.

Get around

California is the third largest state of the US in terms of size. It compares in size with Sweden. However, getting around California can be simple. Also, California has a variety of climate you can choose to live/visit in; from deserts to beautiful beaches to cold beaches to snowy areas to dry-hot areas to overcast cities to farmland to open grass hills and more! A wonderful place if you want to experience these different climates throughout the year without breaking the bank.

By car

In addition to interstates and US highways, California has one of the most expansive state highway systems in the United States. As with all trips in the United States, a car is usually the best way to get around and see all destinations. However the trip from the top of California to the bottom can take well over ten hours. The coast route (State Route 1 and US 101) is much slower and windier than Interstate 5, and GPS travel estimate times may be inaccurate – especially on Highway 1.

Most California drivers are courteous and careful (although speeding is rampant), and the safety and ease of driving in California is comparable to most First World industrialized countries. Exceptions may be found in the most congested areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, where road rage, reckless driving and red-light running are commonplace.

California uses the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices) lane marking system standard throughout the United States, in which dashed white lines divide lanes of through traffic and yellow divides opposing traffic (with single dashed indicating passing and double solid indicating no passing). In many urban areas the lane markings are replaced by Botts dots for additional tactile feedback when crossing lanes.

The network of freeways in major population centers is often confusing and intimidating to those unfamiliar with the area, so having a good map is very helpful. Almost all exits from freeways are on the right. At interchanges between freeways, in most cases, the flow of traffic continues through the left lanes with the transition to the other freeway being in the right lanes.

Note that at certain freeway interchanges, Caltrans is notorious for posting advance direction signs that do not correctly explain which lanes correspond to which ramps. Additionally, Caltrans does not always consistently post signs warning of upcoming lane drops or merges.

For example, where a freeway has three through lanes and the central lane splits into two lanes, thus resulting in two ramps with two lanes each, the advance signage may incorrectly imply that only the right lane will break off for the upcoming right-side ramp, thus causing visitors driving in the middle lane to merge unnecessarily into the right lane. And the two lanes on the right-side ramp may suddenly merge into each other without any warning.

These issues frequently result in tourists making wild last-minute lane merges. The 2009 national MUTCD is intended to remediate this problem (as seen in California and several other states) by mandating the use of detailed arrows on direction signs that clearly show which lanes split into new lanes at upcoming interchanges, but only a handful of California interchanges rebuilt after 2009 have implemented the new MUTCD standard. Thus, one should always approach major freeway interchanges in California with caution.

Mile-based exit numbering is currently in progress but is still very erratic in areas; an exit number may not be marked at all, may be marked on the last directional sign before the exit, or may be marked on the final “EXIT” sign itself where the exit ramp separates.

Most highways are freely accessible, although there are a handful of toll roads in Orange County, Riverside County, and San Diego. All major bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area have toll plazas on traffic in only one direction. All California toll plazas have cash lanes, with the exception of those at the Golden Gate Bridge, which no longer accepts cash tolls.

Cash toll lanes are usually manned by human toll collectors, but some of the Orange County toll roads use only vending machines in the cash lanes which accept bills and coins. California toll plazas do not have “exact change” lanes where drivers may toss change in a basket. All California toll plazas also have lanes for FasTrak electronic toll collection transponders which can be used throughout the state. FasTrak is not compatible with any other state or country’s ETC system. Driving through a FasTrack only lane without a transponder or a active account is illegal and will result in you paying a huge fine. All toll bridges and toll roads have signage for a “last exit before toll,” which you should take if you do not have a FasTrak transponder or enough cash to pay the toll.

In major metropolitan areas, the access ramps to a freeway may have two lanes, one marked with a diamond and the other with a traffic signal. The diamond lane (called the “carpool lane”) is for vehicles with two or more persons and motorcycles. Vehicles with a single person must use the lane with the traffic light. During high-traffic times, the traffic light spaces out the vehicles attempting to merge onto the freeway. Be sure to read the sign below the light as some ramps allow two or three vehicles per green. A few interchanges between freeways are now using controlled access lights to lighten the gridlock at interchanges.

Some freeways have a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane located along the center divider. This lane, also called the carpool lane, is marked by signage on the wall separating the two sides of the freeway, and in Southern California is additionally marked by a double-yellow line (or in a few places, a double-white line in accordance with the newest version of the MUTCD).

In most cases, this lane is for two or more persons per vehicle. Some carpool lanes in Northern California are in effect during rush hour only, and a few selected areas, notably in the Bay Area, require three or more per vehicle, so check the signage before entering a carpool lane. Motorcycles may also use carpool lanes. Carpool lanes in Southern California are usually in effect 24 hours a day, and have limited access points marked by a dashed white line. These points are the only points at which a vehicle may legally enter or exit a carpool lane, since under the MUTCD, drivers are not allowed to merge across a double yellow line. The minimum fine for unlawful use of a carpool lane is $341.

State law requires all person in a vehicle to wearing a seatbelt. Failing to do so can result in the driver and all passengers can be individually ticketed. Motorcycle riders must wear a helmet. Cellphone users are required to use a hands-free headset if talking on the phone while driving, and texting while driving is illegal. Unless otherwise signed, right-turns are permitted at red lights following a full stop. If it is raining hard enough to require you to use your windshield wipers, California law requires that your headlights be turned on.

California does not have stationary photo radar cameras like in other countries, and mobile manned photo radar units are rare and still experimental. However, most police officers in California do carry radar guns and use them often, and on highways, freeways, the California Highway Patrol occasionally flies aircraft overhead to spot speeders and help ground units hone in on their positions. Red light enforcement cameras are in use at many urban intersections, but are usually marked only by a single “PHOTO ENFORCED” sign before the intersection. Even more confusing, all approaches to an intersection may be marked with “PHOTO ENFORCED” signs when only one or two actual movements across the intersection are really photo-enforced. The cameras must obtain a clear view of the driver’s face and license plate before a ticket may be issued.

California’s laws against driving under the influence of alcohol are very strict. The maximum permissible blood alcohol concentration for drivers of noncommercial vehicles is 0.08%; for commercial vehicles, it is 0.04%. All drivers are strongly encouraged to call 911 to report drunk drivers.

By plane

Flying may be a more reasonable option from crossing large expanses of the state. Many airlines such as American Airlines and American Eagle, Alaska, United & United Express, Jetblue, Virgin America, Delta and Delta Connection and Southwest offer intra-state (within the state) service.

The primary (commercial) airports are in:

  • San Francisco Bay Area–San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK) and San Jose Mineta (SJC).
  • Los Angeles area–Los Angeles International (LAX) , Burbank Bob Hope (BUR) , Orange County John Wayne (SNA), Ontario (ONT) (Inland Empire doesn’t get a movie star), and a small airport at Long Beach (Jetblue’s western hub) (LGB)
  • San Diego (SAN)
  • Sacramento (SMF)
  • Reno, Nevada (RNO) for the Lake Tahoe area
  • Fresno-Yosemite(FAT)
  • The next busiest second tier airports are Santa Barbara (SBA) and Palm Springs (PSP) .
By train

The state’s various rail services provide a cheap and reasonably comfortable way to see and get around much of the state. Amtrak operates a few long-distance routes through and out of California (visit this Wikitravel article for more information), as well as the three Amtrak California routes:

  • Pacific Surfliner travels between San Luis Obispo-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles-San Diego
  • San Joaquins is the Oakland/Sacramento-Yosemite-Bakersfield route (which ‘continues’ to Las Vegas & Los Angeles on Thruway Motorcoach buses)’
  • Capitol Corridor San Jose-Oakland-Vallejo-Sacramento
  • Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach (buses) connect between ends of the train routes such as the San Jose – Santa Cruz – San Luis Obispo or a continuation of a train route such as the Emeryville – downtwon San Francisco route. There are multiple Thruway routes throughout the state.

In addition, there are several commuter and regional services in the state’s metro areas:

  • CalTrain travels between San Francisco and Gilroy through Burlingame, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Jose, etc
  • Altamont Commuter Express goes between San Jose and Stockton through the Altmont Pass
  • BART operates in and around the SF Bay Area on multiple routes.
  • Metrolink runs throughout the greater Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and San Bernardino County region on multiple routes
  • COASTER runs along the coast from Oceanside to downtown San Diego in San Diego County.
  • There are also light rail systems in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose.
  • A comprehensive map of the various California rail services can be found at California Rail Map, including connection points between services.
By bus

The bus is not the most glamorous way to get around the state, but usually the cheapest. Greyhound serves about 100 locations statewide, though these are not all actual stations, some are merely stops. In general, Greyhound serves the same routes that Amtrak does, though in some cases the dog is cheaper, faster, or more frequent. There’s fairly frequent service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, and Sacramento and Los Angeles. There’s hourly “clocker” buses between Los Angeles and San Diego. The bus stations in San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Diego are all well-located, but in Los Angeles the station is over a mile east of the downtown core. On the other hand, the Santa Barbara Greyhound station is immediately behind the very upscale Saks Fifth Avenue store!

Greyhound Lines, (toll free: 1 800 231 2222).

In addition to Greyhound there are other choices with:

  • Cruceros & Autobus Americanos, (toll free: 1 800 231 2222). are the Greyhound subsidiaries in the US for travel in California & the southwestern states and from the US to Mexico. They share the same stops & terminals as Greyhound in many places. Onward travel further south into Mexico through their partner on Grupo Estrella Blanca.
  • CA Shuttle Bus, ☎ +1-408 294-1798 (sales@cashuttlebus.com). offers service San Francisco, San Jose & Los Angeles. edit
  • Coach America Airport Bus of Bakersfield, 1717 B Golden State, Bakersfield, (toll free: 1 800 858 5000). Goes to Bakersfield from under the green “FlyAway, Long Distance Buses & Vans” sign in front of each terminal at the airport (LAX).
  • Coach America – All West, 7701 Wilber Way, Sacramento 95828, ☎ 916-423-4000. Operates mainly as a charter but they have one scheduled service between Sacramento & Reno edit
  • El Paso – Los Angeles Limousine Express. Travels the I-10 corridor between Los Angeles (El Monte & Colton), Indio, Phoenix and El Paso on one route and up along I-15 from Colton to Las Vegas & N Las Vegas on another..
  • Hoang Express. offers service to the Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland & San Jose), Los Angeles area (Los Angeles, Westminster, Long Beach) & Phoenix (include Tempe & Chandler).
  • InterCalifornias, Av Paseo Tijuana 9030; Zona Rio Tijuana, BCN, ☎ +1 213 629 4885 in Los Angeles or 664 683-62-81 in Tijuana. From Los Angeles they go north to Madera via San Fernando, Bakersfield, Fresno and other smaller towns along the I-5/CA-99 corridor. Branches north to Stockton & San Jose from Madera.
  • Lux Bus America, 321 W Katella Ave, Suite #81, Anaheim, ☎ +1 877 610-7870
  • Megabus, The stop is located at Bus Bay #1 of Union Station’s Patsaouras Transit Plaza at t One Gateway Plaza., ☎ 1-877-462-6342. Express bus service to/from San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland & Los Angeles.
  • TUFESA. Offers bus service to/from various points in Mexico (Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California Norte, Jalisco & Michoacan states), Southern California & Arizona.
  • The Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS), 369 W.18th Street, Merced, CA 95340, (toll free: 877-989-2787).
  • See 511.ORG for a trip planner program on getting around the greater San Francisco Bay area which consists of Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Benito, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma County by public transport. Each county and some of the cities within operate their own public transport (bus and cross bay ferries) service in addition to BART, Capitol Corridor Train, and Caltrains.
  • See ie511.org for a trip planner program and links to various public transport providers in the greater Los Angeles metroplex which consists of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. Each county and some of the cities within operate their own public transport service in addition to Metrolink Trains.

Talk

The California Constitution states that English is the official language of the state of California, Californian English is the main language and Spanish is the de facto second language, and a knowledge of even rudimentary Spanish is useful, but not a necessity in most places. Los Angeles has some of the largest Hispanic populations north of Mexico. The state is highly influenced by Spanish culture, as California was one part of the Spanish empire until 1821, and then to Mexico for a short while after until ceded to the USA in 1848. In fact, some of its residents declared it an independent country for about a month (The Bear Flag Republic) in the midst of the Mexican-American War 1846-1848, and many of California’s cities were named after saints or phrases in Spanish (such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Jose). Store and street signs are sometimes written in both English and Spanish in major metropolitan areas, and “Spanglish” (a mixture of English and Spanish) is often used and heard throughout the state. Most businesses in California have at least a few employees that are bilingual in English and Spanish. Also, Armenian, Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Korean, Vietnamese, Hindi, Punjabi, and Khmer are also widely spoken among Asian Californian populations.

Despite all the languages that are spoken, a foundational knowledge of either English or Spanish is more than enough to ensure a successful trip to California. All people that you are likely to encounter speak English, and Spanish is studied as a second language in schools by many young people and is also spoken natively by many service industry workers. That said, English is emphatically the more useful of the two.

See

Some of the most famous sights in California include:

  • Los Angeles, home to the world-famous Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, the Graumann’s Chinese Theater, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, and miles of wide, sandy beaches.
  • San Francisco, with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, a large Chinatown, Italian North Beach, cable cars, and numerous hills.
  • San Diego has a world famous zoo and separate safari park (formerly the wild animal park), the Sea World marine theme park, and a vibrant, renovated downtown core complete with major league baseball stadium
  • Anaheim, home to the literal ancestor of all modern theme parks, Disneyland
  • Santa Barbara, city on a south-facing coast which styles itself, with some justification, as “the American Riviera.”

Do

  • Ski at one of the great resorts near Lake Tahoe or Big Bear.
  • Try your hand at surfing or work on your tanning Orange County or Santa Monica.
  • The long coastline offers some great California scuba diving.
  • Climb a mountain and camp in the Sierra Nevada or Shasta Cascades.
  • See California’s amazing wildflowers.California Wildflower Hotline, (818) 768-3533. From March through May, the California Wildflower Hotline at (818) 768-3533 or visit www.theodorepayne.org offers the latest information on the best places to view wildflowers throughout Southern and Central California. The hotline and website are updated every Thursday evening. More than 90 wildflower sites are included. The hotline, operating more than 25 years, is run by the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants, Inc.
  • Northern California Blues Festival, Fastest growing festival of its kind comes in June to Sacramento County around Father’s day each year and usually features a spectacular line-up of Blues artists. Event benefits Through the Mind, a non-profit providing free alternative mental health to America’s Veterans.

Buy

California sales tax varies from 7.5% in rural areas to as high as 10.0% in certain cities. The State Board of Equalization maintains up-to-date charts of sales taxes for all California cities and counties. Sales tax is charged on all goods but not services. It is not included in prices (with the exception of gasoline) and is normally calculated and charged at the cashier. California retail receipts always show a “subtotal,” then the amount of sales tax, then the real “total” obtained by adding the two.

Like most U.S. states, California sales tax is not refundable for tourists from out-of-state. Regardless, because sales tax is charged only at the final point of sale (unlike a value-added tax which is levied on every producer in the chain), California prices (even after tax is accounted for) are often still very affordable for tourists visiting from countries that charge high import tariffs and VAT for the same goods.

The major department stores in California include Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, and Kohls. The first four are considered upscale. Macy’s is mostly midrange and most stores feature its own store brands. However, Macy’s also carries upscale designer label merchandise at select stores in wealthy areas like San Francisco and Costa Mesa. JCPenney, Sears, and Kohls target a middle-class to working-class market.

If you are visiting California on an escorted tour package and will be visiting San Francisco and Los Angeles in the same trip, plan on doing most of your department store shopping at the giant West Coast flagship stores in Union Square in San Francisco. Although Los Angeles is the second largest city in America and the most populous in the state, none of the major chains has ever developed a full-size flagship store in that city comparable to the ones found in New York, Paris, or other world cities. The closest equivalent in Southern California is the cluster of three Macy’s stores (women’s apparel, men’s apparel, and home and furniture) at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

In Northern California, the most important shopping areas are Union Square in San Francisco, Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, and Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. In Southern California, the most important shopping areas are Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (mostly for window shopping as few visitors can actually afford anything), Westfield Century City, Santa Monica Place (and the adjacent Third Street Promenade), Beverly Center, South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island in Newport Beach, and Horton Plaza and Fashion Valley in San Diego.

The Premium Outlets chain operates several factory outlet centers in California, of which the most important are located at Livermore, Vacaville, Gilroy, Camarillo, Cabazon, and Carlsbad.

California is famous as the home of the Fry’s Electronics computer retail chain, which operates superstores throughout Silicon Valley and in other suburban areas throughout the state. Unfortunately, most Fry’s stores are not conveniently located from a tourist perspective and are very difficult to reach without a rental car. The stores closest to areas of interest to tourists are in Palo Alto (near Stanford University), Manhattan Beach, and Huntington Beach (near South Coast Plaza).

As in the rest of the U.S., the leading convenience store chain in California is 7-Eleven. The two other major convenience store chains are am/pm stores (always found at Arco gas stations) and Circle K.

For basic supplies, try to use supermarkets and pharmacies if possible, as they have better selection and provide better value for your money than convenience stores. The major pharmacy chains in California are CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid. The major supermarkets in the Bay Area are Safeway, Lucky’s, and Nob Hill Foods, while in Los Angeles, major supermarkets include Vons, Pavilions, Ralphs, and Albertson’s. The state’s inland metro areas feature smaller supermarket chains like WinCo and Raley’s. Whole Foods Market is the leading organic/natural supermarket throughout the state; other organic/natural chains include Trader Joe’s and Sprouts Farmers Market. Bristol Farms is the dominant upscale supermarket in Southern California (with a single NorCal store near San Francisco Union Square) while Draeger’s is the dominant upscale supermarket in the Bay Area.

The ubiquitous discount store chains Walmart and Target both offer some groceries (Walmart Supercenters and SuperTargets offer a full selection of groceries) and also usually have pharmacies on site. However, with the exception of the relatively new CityTarget stores in downtown Los Angeles and San Francisco, most of their stores are located in suburbs and are difficult to reach unless you have a rental car.

Eat

The culinary style known as Californian Cuisine is noted for its use of fresh often local ingredients and imaginative fusion of several styles. The burrito also has its origins from California, born in the Mission District of San Francisco. Almost anything you can imagine can be found somewhere in California. Immigration has had a strong influence on California’s culinary landscape, with the cuisines of The Americas and Asia heavily represented, and those of nearly every other country available to a lesser-extent. More “North American” fare includes everything from burger shacks to vegetarian, organic and even completely vegan restaurants; the Californian love for food has left it with one of the most diverse restaurant scenes in the North America. The large cities have the most variety, while things get simpler and more meat-heavy as you get more rural.

Upscale restaurants can be found in nearly all large cities, as well as some of the smaller areas. Only the rural areas, which tourists rarely have interest in, are devoid of high-end establishments. Nearly all cuisines, from French to Japanese, can be found in each Californian city.

Drink

The legal drinking and purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is 21. Under age drinking is taken very seriously so if you are in a club or bar and appear to be under 30 you should be ready to present identification showing your age. However, California is one of the 17 states that doesn’t penalize a minor for consuming alcohol if he/she is discovered to have been drinking alcohol through his/her reporting a medical emergency for another under age drinker.

California is known for its fine wines and gourmet beers. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino are premier wine districts north of San Francisco, but there are others in the Central Coast region and even the San Diego region where suitable microclimates have been found. The inland Central Valley region has hotter summers and traditionally produced inexpensive bulk wines, but quality has been improving with winemaking innovations.

Californians tend to view wine as a natural accompaniment of food or socializing, overlooking its alcoholic content more easily than with distilled spirits. However police crackdowns on drinking and driving are increasingly severe with roadblocks and random checks. Conviction for driving with a blood alcohol level over .08 percent is likely to bring serious legal and financial consequences. Drivers with lower blood alcohol can still be convicted for DUI (driving under the influence) if they fail field sobriety tests such as walking a straight line. For beer, California also has a large population of microbreweries. Sierra Nevada, located in Chico, is one of the biggest microbreweries in North America. In the Central Coast the midsized brewery Firestone Walker in Paso Robles is a good addition to the local wineries in the area. In San Diego, Stone Brewing Company offers a great variety of beers that can be purchased throughout the state. The Russian River Brewing Company, located in Santa Rosa, is home to a wide variety of beers that have received accolades worldwide. There are over 212 microbreweries in California.

The DigiMarCon Difference

Business and marketing professionals have a lot of choice in events to attend.
As the Premier Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Conference & Exhibition Series worldwide
see why DigiMarCon stands out above the rest in the marketing industry
and why delegates keep returning year after year

Global Event Series

DigiMarCon is the Largest Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Conference & Exhibition series in the world, with annual events held in all continents (North America, Latin America, Europe, UK, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) in 13 countries (United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Singapore, India, United Arab Emirates and South Africa), across 33 cities (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, Miami, Denver, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Honolulu, London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dubai, Sydney, Auckland, Singapore and Sao Paulo). All DigiMarCon Events can be attended in-person or online. Wherever you are located there is a regional DigiMarCon event nearby you can attend.

5-Star Luxury Event Venues

DigiMarCon Conferences are held in top luxury 5-star event venues across the world such as; Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships, Olympic Stadiums, Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre and Wynn, JW Marriott, Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency, InterContinental, The Westin, Renaissance, Hilton, Conrad, W, Sheraton, Loews and Sofitel Hotel properties. Discount hotel room rates at each venue hotel means no hassle getting to and from the venue each day.

Extensive & Memorable Networking Experiences

Building relationships matter! At DigiMarCon Conferences we have more networking breaks on our program than others. On average there are 8 Networking breaks at each event giving delegates ample opportunities in a relaxed atmosphere to meet others over the 2-days at the event; from 1-hour round table networking luncheons to 3-hour dinner receptions. These networking breaks are set in picturesque locations to facilitate memorable experiences while fostering new relationships. Such experiences include enjoying cocktails and the Sunset over the Pacific Ocean on a private Ocean Terrace in Santa Monica, to being on the Sydney Olympic Stadium playing arena at night enjoying cocktails under the lights, to dining at the 360 Revolving Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto for a Dinner Reception, enjoying cocktails on a private promenade overlooking Times Square in New York City, or having fun at the Dazzles Night Club onboard the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas for a Farewell Party, etc.

Industry Thought Leaders from Leading Brands

DigiMarCon Keynotes, Panels and Master Classes are facilitated by the foremost thought leaders in the industry, from celebrity social media influencers to CMO’s from the largest Fortune 500 company brands that are disrupting the digital marketing, media and advertising industry, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, Adobe, eBay, Netflix and more. All presentations are pitch-free, and include actionable takeaways, case studies, strategies and tactics, ready to be applied when back in the office.

Premium Comfortable Meeting Spaces

At DigiMarCon Conferences you are never ‘left in the dark’…. literally, in a large room far away from the stage and speakers, crushed in tight theater seating, without even a table, while sitting in the dark. At DigiMarCon all delegates have premium meeting space in luxurious ballroom well-lit spaces, with comfortable seating with table enabling delegates to use their laptop to take notes with ample charging facilities onsite in a comfortable space to learn and thrive. All tables are situated close with direct view of the stage.

Value for Money & Generous Discounts

DigiMarCon Conferences are affordable to attend, from single-day event passes up to two-day VIP options at a fraction of the cost of other industry events. We offer significant discounts for early bird registrations. Additionally, on top of time-limited discount pass rates, because budgets are tight, we want to make sure all groups have a chance to attend DigiMarCon. For government employees, students, academic, startups, non-profit organizations and teams, we offer generous discounts off the prevailing registration price.

Collaborative Learning & Audience Participation

Attend DigiMarCon and you become part of the show! DigiMarCon Conferences tap into the talent of the room, drawing from the knowledge and experience of the professionals in the audience. All DigiMarCon events include regular interactive question and answer sessions with speakers and the audience ideal for collaboration, audience polls, along with ice-breaker and group exercises, steered by charismatic Emcees.

Meet the Speakers in Person

DigiMarCon Conferences put you right up and close with the speakers giving you the opportunity to meet these social media influencers which you follow in person. Speakers are never hidden in private speaker rooms away from the audience, they are in the auditorium sitting right beside you and participating.

Exceptional Customer Service

Attending a conference is a well-researched decision. There are many factors to consider such as location, time, venue, cost, speakers, content, etc. At DigiMarCon our results-obsessed Customer Service team are at your service before, during and after the event to help with your needs. It’s at the core of what we do — it drives our business. Offsite, we are ready to assist you via phone, ticket or chat. Onsite at our Conferences, friendly DigiMarCon staff serve as your hosts. They welcome your input and are happy to assist you.

TECHSPO Technology Expo

At all DigiMarCon Conferences is the co-located exclusive event TECHSPO Technology Expo, which showcases the new generation of technology and innovation, including; AdTech, MarTech, Internet, Mobile and SaaS technologies. Be inspired, amazed and educated on how these evolving technologies will impact your business for the better. Unlimited Access to TECHSPO Technology Expo is included with all DigiMarCon passes.

On Demand Library Access

DigiMarCon All Access & VIP Passes include a 12-month on demand access to hundreds of hours of DigiMarCon speaker keynotes, panels and master class presentations from recent DigiMarCon Conferences, including videos, slide decks and key takeaways, available on demand so you can watch what you want, when you want.

The Largest Digital Marketing, Media & Advertising Community

Attendees of DigiMarcon Conferences gain membership to an exclusive global Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Community of over 500,000 worldwide subscribers to our award-winning digital marketing blog and over 100,000 members to the International Association of Digital Marketing Professionals (visit https://iadmp.org). This global community comprises of innovators, senior marketers and branders, entrepreneurs, digital executives and professionals, web & mobile strategists, designers and web project managers, business leaders, business developers, agency executives and their teams and anyone else who operates in the digital community who leverage digital, mobile, and social media marketing. We provide updates to the latest whitepapers and industry reports to keep you updated on trends, innovation and best practice digital marketing.

Safe, Clean & Hygienic Event Environment

The events industry has forever changed in a world affected by COVID-19. The health and safety of our guests, staff and community is our highest priority and paramount. The team at DigiMarCon is dedicated to ensuring a great experience at our in-person events, and that includes providing a safe, clean and hygienic environment for our delegates. Some of the key areas we have implemented safe and hygienic measures include;

  • Limiting Venue Capacities to allow for Social Distancing
  • Health and Safety Protocols
  • Safe Food and Beverages and Food-handling
  • Sanitation Stations with Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes Dispensers
  • Sanitation and Disinfection of Common and High-Traffic Areas
  • Physical Distancing Measures Between Attendees
  • Social Distancing Room and Seating Configurations
  • Non-Contact Thermal Temperature Scanning

Hybrid Events: Attend In-Person or Online

DigiMarCon has always been industry leaders of the Hybrid Event experience for years (a hybrid event combines a "live" in-person event with a "virtual" online component), no one needs to miss out on attending our events. Each DigiMarCon Conference can be attended in-person (with a Main Conference, All Access or VIP Pass) or online (with a Virtual Pass) giving attendees a choice for the experience they want to have. Attending virtually by viewing a Live Stream or On Demand enables participation by people who might be unable to attend physically due to travel or time zone constraints or through a wish to reduce the carbon footprint of the event. If you would like to meet the speakers, network with fellow marketing professionals at refreshment breaks, luncheons and evening receptions, check out the latest Internet, Mobile, AdTech, MarTech and SaaS technologies providers exhibiting then it is highly recommended to attend DigiMarCon in-person. As the largest Digital Marketing, Media and Advertising Conference series with events in 33 international cities worldwide, across 13 countries, there is bound to be a DigiMarCon Event near you to attend in-person if you can.

High-Profile Audience From Leading Brands

DigiMarCon Conference Series is the annual gathering of the most powerful brands and senior agency executives in your region. The Sharpest Minds And The Most Influential Decision Makers - Together for Two Days.

Who Attends Our Conferences
Brands • Agencies • Solution & Service Providers • Media Owners • Publishers • Entrepreneurs • Start-Ups • Investors • Government • Corporates • Institutes of Higher Learning