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Photo tour: Beautiful California

Photo tour: Beautiful California
One out of every eight people in the U.S. live in California,

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One out of every eight people in the U.S. live in California, the 31st state to join the Union. That’s just the start of the superlatives. It’s the most populous, the third largest by size, has the most national parks, the lowest point in North America and the highest peak in the Lower 48.

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The oldest and largest trees in the world can be found

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The oldest and largest trees in the world can be found within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, both located side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada range.

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Located between Truckee and Tahoe City on the shores

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Located between Truckee and Tahoe City on the shores of magnificent Lake Tahoe, Alpine Meadows has more than 100 trails winding across 2,400 acres of skiable terrain.

Tom Zikas, Alpine Meadows

Lover's Point Park in Pacific Grove is one of the region's

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Lover’s Point Park in Pacific Grove is one of the region’s most popular spots for picnicking, and it’s also one of the few spots in the state where you can watch the sun rise over the water.

Chris Leschinsky, Visit California

Think California glamour, and more often than not,

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Think California glamour, and more often than not, Beverly Hills comes to mind. The iconic Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard embodies timeless Hollywood glamour. Since it opened in 1912, the hotel has hosted scores of celebrity clientele.

Dorchester Collection

One of the largest ski areas in the United States,

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One of the largest ski areas in the United States, Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics and spreads across six peaks with over 4,000 acres of skiable terrain.

Tor Johnson, Squaw Valley

Crossing the Sacramento River in the middle of Redding,

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Crossing the Sacramento River in the middle of Redding, the Sundial Bridge was designed by famous Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.

Andreas Hub, California Travel and Tourism Commission

Pleasant year round temperatures make California a

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Pleasant year round temperatures make California a golfer’s paradise, and while public courses can be found throughout the state, Palm Springs (pictured) has garnered a reputation as one of California’s best golf destinations.

Greater Palm Springs CVB

San Francisco often ranks among the world's greatest

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San Francisco often ranks among the world’s greatest cities, and for good reason. The 50-square-mile city is packed with world-class dining, a top-notch theater and art scene, plenty of iconic architecture and a hip vibe.

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From the Cinder Cone trail in Lassen Volcanic National

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From the Cinder Cone trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park, hikers have excellent views over the strange and beautiful Painted Dunes.

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California is the nation's biggest wine-producing state,

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California is the nation’s biggest wine-producing state, and while it boasts a number of wine regions, none match the prestige of Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Pictured here is the Carneros Inn in Sonoma, one of the region’s most highly rated hotels.

Carneros Inn

Fifty feet tall and 150 feet wide, Mossbrae Falls flow

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Fifty feet tall and 150 feet wide, Mossbrae Falls flows down a canyon wall into the Upper Sacramento River.

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium draws in nearly two million

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The Monterey Bay Aquarium draws in nearly 2 million visitors per year with its collection of interactive exhibits on aquatic life.

Tyson V. Rininger, Monterey Bay Aquarium

Mono Lake, the second oldest lake in North America,

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Mono Lake, the second oldest lake in North America, is instantly recognizable by the unusual rock pillars, called tufa, jutting from its glassy surface.

Ryan Killackey, Visit California

The quirky stretch of shore known as Venice Beach in

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The quirky stretch of shore known as Venice Beach in Los Angeles has long attracted surfers, street performers and basketball players – it’s quite possibly one of the best people watching spots in the entire nation.

Andreas Hub, California Travel and Tourism Commission

Nowhere is California's multicultural heritage more

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Nowhere is California’s multicultural heritage more evident than at Mission San Juan Capistrano. Built with Spanish colonial flair, the mission started as a self-sufficient community of Spanish padres and American Indians; today it’s a historic landmark and museum.

Courtesy of AOCVCB

Los Angeles, the most populous city in the United States,

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Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the United States, defies definition as a travel destination. It’s got it all: shopping, world-class museums, beaches, hiking, award-winning restaurants and architectural landmarks.

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Named for the Dr. Seuss-like yuccas that grow throughout,

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Named for the Dr. Seuss-like yuccas that grow throughout, Joshua Tree National Park can be visited on a day trip from Palm Springs, though it’s worth staying the night to see the sunset and array of stars in the desert sky.

Brad Sutton, NPS

Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City USA, is one of SoCal's

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Huntington Beach, a.k.a. Surf City USA, is one of SoCal’s most iconic stretches of sand. It’s also home of the International Surfing Museum and Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of AOCVCB

Huntington Beach may be most famous for its surfing,

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Huntington Beach may be most famous for its surfing, but if you’re a local, you’ll know it as the nation’s beach bonfire capital, with 600 fire rings available on any given night.

Andreas Hub, California Travel and Tourism Commission

Yosemite

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California houses more national parks than any other state (nine in total), including the iconic Yosemite, a 1,200-square-mile park famous for its plummeting waterfalls and towering peaks (Half Dome pictured here).

DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

California houses more national parks than any other

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Half Dome, Yosemite’s famous granite peak, rises 4,700 feet above the valley floor. It’s such a popular bucket-list climb that hikers have to luck out and get a permit by lottery to tackle the 8.5-mile (one way) trail.

Kenny Karst, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.

Perhaps the most recognizable (and beautiful) bridge

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Perhaps the most recognizable (and beautiful) bridge in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge stretches 1.7 miles from San Francisco to Marin County.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Another recognizable San Francisco site is Lombard

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Another recognizable San Francisco site is Lombard Street. It’s known for its steep hills and twisty turns.

Eric Risberg, AP

Set in a basin below sea level, Death Valley National

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Set in a basin below sea level, Death Valley National Park is the largest national park outside Alaska and home to the lowest point in the United States. Pictured here are the Mesquite Flat Dunes.

California Travel and Tourism Commission/Bongo

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, or Coachella

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The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, or Coachella for short, began in 1999 and has become of the nation’s largest music festivals with an attendance of over half a million people.

Greater Palm Springs CVB

The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlesbad, Calif.

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The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch in Carlesbad feature 50 acres of brilliant color overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

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In 1955, the first visitors entered the 'Happiest Place

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In 1955, the first visitors entered the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Today, Disneyland Resort has expanded to include a second much-loved theme park, California Adventure (pictured).

Paul Hiffmeyer, Disneyland Resort

Some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet

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Some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet lies just off Highway 1 in Big Sur, just south of Carmel.

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One of the most scenic sights in beautiful Big Sur

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One of the most scenic sights in beautiful Big Sur is McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall flowering directly into the sea.

Simon East, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Big Bear Lake, California's alpine playground, offers

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Big Bear Lake, California’s alpine playground, offers a lakeside getaway in the San Bernardino Mountains that feels worlds away from the typical beach scene of SoCal.

California Travel & Tourism Commission/Bongo

A trip to Big Bear Lake isn't all about water sports

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A trip to Big Bear Lake isn’t all about water sports either. The four-seasons resort area also offers mountain biking and hiking amid stunning alpine scenery.

Ryan Killackey, Visit California

The University of California, Berkeley is one of nine

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The University of California, Berkeley is one of nine schools in the University of California system and is often considered one of the best and most prestigious public universities in the world.

California Travel and Tourism Commission/Bongo

Ranked as one of the world's best parks, Balboa Park

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Ranked as one of the world’s best parks, Balboa Park in sunny San Diego comprises 1,200 acres of museums, galleries and other cultural attractions, earning it the nickname “Smithsonian of the West.”

Lowe Llaguno, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Stepping off the boat in Catalina Island, located just

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Stepping off the boat in Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, feels like stepping into the Mediterranean.

Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce

Beginning in mid-February, the rolling hills of Antelope

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Beginning in mid-February, the rolling hills of Antelope Valley get blanketed in orange California poppies and other wildflowers.

Flickr/Ada Be

Alcatraz Island sits in San Francisco Bay, where each

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Alcatraz Island sits in San Francisco Bay, where each day thousands of visitors come to wander the cellblock that once held some of the nation’s most notorious criminals.

Red and White Fleet

SeaWorld San Diego, the oldest of the SeaWolrd parks,

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SeaWorld San Diego, the oldest of the SeaWorld parks, has seen 155 million visitors pass through its gates since it opened in 1964.

Mike Aguilera, SeaWorld San Diego

The iconic Hollywood Sign sits on Mount Lee and overlooks

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The iconic Hollywood Sign sits on Mount Lee and overlooks the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

Robert Hanashiro, USAT

Sitting under The Hollywood Sign is the Griffith Observatory,

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Sitting under The Hollywood Sign is the Griffith Observatory, where tourists can catch striking views of Los Angeles.

Anthony Cook, Griffith Observatory

The Hollywood Walk of Fame gives visitors the chance

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The Hollywood Walk of Fame gives visitors the chance to see the names of celebrities from today and back in the day.

Robert Hanashiro, USAT

Universal Studios is another Hollywood attraction.

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Universal Studios is another Hollywood attraction. Experience the cinema theme park’s rides, restaurants and shops based on popular Universal shows and movies.

Patrick T. Fallon, Bloomberg

Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco features

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Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco features sea lions, restaurants, shops and entertainment.

DANIEL SLIM, AFP/Getty Images

The legendary Hearst Castle was built by publishing

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The legendary Hearst Castle was built by publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst in San Simeon, Calif. The mansion is now a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark.

Joe Johnston, AP

The San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals.

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The San Diego Zoo is home to more than 3,700 animals. It also offers a Safari Park where guests can see wildlife up close.

Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Park

Chinatown in San Francisco is blocks of restaurants,

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Chinatown in San Francisco is blocks of restaurants, bakeries, shops, cocktail lounges and karaoke bars.

Jeff Chiu, AP

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