We know it mostly as the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, miles of protected coastline, and some of the world’s best vineyards. But then, there’s a lot more to California – a state which has been racking up the weirdness since even before it became a state, all the way back in 1850.
Here are a few weird and wonderful facts about the Golden State for SoCal home buyers.
LA used to have a much longer name.
We really do mean ‘much longer.’ Los Angeles, City of Angels, was originally called ‘El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora Reina de Los Angeles Sobre el Rio Porciuncula, or ‘River of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula.’ The full name is long gone, shortened to Los Angeles presumably because it just took too darn long to say. However, you can still visit the original main street – Olvera Street in Downtown LA.
From grizzly to golden.
While we know it now as the Golden State, California was originally known as the Grizzly Bear State, and the grizzly can still be seen on the state’s official flag. The California grizzly in question is named Monarch, and is based on a real bear – of the same name, of course, who was captured in the Ventura Mountains all the way back in 1889. Monarch lived out the rest of his days in captivity, and is now a taxidermy exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences.
California got its new name not because of all the golden sunshine, but because of the Gold Rush. The specific subspecies of California grizzly bear the state was originally named for is now, sadly, extinct.
San Francisco is the home of the fortune cookie.
The story of precisely where and when the fortune cookie was invented has several versions. The prevailing wisdom is that Makoto Hagiwara, who worked at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, was the first person ever to serve them. He didn’t make them, however. Local San Francisco bakery Benkyodo got that honor. The right to claim the invention of the fortune cookie went to court in Los Angeles in 1918, after David Jung claimed he had actually invented it. However, Jung lost the case, and Hagiwara retained the credit.
McDonald’s was invented there.
The first-ever McDonald’s opened in San Bernardino, California in 1948 as the brainchild of Dick and Mac McDonald. The brothers invented a new way of serving food – cooking it in advance and then keeping it warm instead of cooking everything to order. This allowed them to sell a lot of burgers for very low prices. The company was sold to investor Ray Kroc in 1961 and now has tens of thousands of stores worldwide. The original site is now a museum.
It’s home to the world’s avocado capital…
If you live outside of California, chances are you’ve never heard of Fallbrook, but this sunny city has the unofficial title of ‘avocado capital of the world.’ You can even go to an avocado festival held there annually, which draws people from all over the world. They’re avocado fans, presumably.
… and the world’s artichoke capital.
The world’s artichoke capital is Castroville, which also has its own celebratory festival. In 1948, famous actress Marilyn Monroe was crowned as the first-ever Castroville Artichoke Queen.
Beverly Hills used to be all about beans.
90210 might be the home of all our most famous stars now, but back in the day, it was a straightforward Spanish lima bean ranch. Its current form started to take shape early in the Golden Age of Hollywood, when studio titans Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks bought land there and built a huge ranch. Now, it’s the only place to live for people who have ‘made it.’
It snows watermelons.
Not really (it rarely snows in much of the state), but at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, you’ll find snow that’s tinted pink, sometimes referred to as ‘watermelon snow.’ Apparently, it also tastes a little bit like watermelon, but we don’t plan on ever finding out firsthand if that’s true. That’s because the pink color is caused by the algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis.
It’s the world’s fifth largest economy.
California isn’t just geographically bigger than several countries. It’s one of the world’s biggest economic powerhouses. If it were an independent nation, it would sit comfortably in fifth place, between Germany and the United Kingdom, as the world’s fifth biggest economy.
Hollywood happened by accident.
When moving pictures first became a thing, most filmmakers struggled to get anything done because Thomas Edison (yes, that one) owned most of the patents for filmmaking equipment at the time. In the hope that Edison simply wouldn’t notice what they were up to, filmmakers moved out to the West, where the courts were legally against patent claims. It worked out rather well, and Hollywood was born.
San Francisco has delicious water.
Almost all of the water that comes out of San Francisco’s taps is snow-melt from nearby Yosemite National Park, and is directly piped in to the city. This makes it some of the freshest, best-tasting tap water in not just the state, but the entire country as well. Those lucky pups.
It has only one president…
The only California native to ever hold the country’s highest office was Richard Nixon. Unfortunately, he was also the only president ever to resign the post.
… but nine national parks.
It’s not all famous people, kids. California is home to some of the United States’ most beautiful scenery and holds the record for the country’s most national parks, with nine.
It has serious highs and lows.
In an odd turn of events, California is home to both the highest and lowest points of the continental United States – Mount Whitney being the highest and Death Valley the lowest. Even weirder is the fact that these two locations are just 76 miles away from each other.
Hollywood used to be called Hollywoodland.
Well, that’s what the famous sign used to say, anyway. It was originally built as an advertisement for a real estate company called ‘Hollywoodland’ and had nothing at all to do with the film industry. The ‘land’ was removed in 1949.