15 Nicknames for California That Will Surprise You

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A port with many ships near trees in the foreground
California has many monikers that are based on its rich history and scenic landscapes

Stretching along half of the West Coast of the USA, California is the third-largest state by area and the largest based on population. The state boasts a long and colorful history featuring glitz, glamour, and plenty of gold. Therefore, it's no surprise that there are plenty of nicknames for California used by locals and tourists alike.

Stemming from the Gold Rush era, California has long been known as the land of opportunity and adventure. One of the most common nicknames to come from this period is the Golden State, first used in the early 1800s. The likes of El Dorado State and Eureka State also relate back to this time.

The fun nicknames don't end there, either. From the Grape State to the Land of Milk and Honey, California has been blessed with a huge number of monikers. Get ready because this article is going to take a look at the most popular.

15 California Nicknames

California Nicknames Video

Check out our highlights video of California nicknames.

A white building with pillars and a dome top in the middle
The shortened version of the state's name, Cali, is used often as it's easy to say


First up, a nickname you're guaranteed to have heard: Cali. This is the most common way to refer to California, as it's simply a contraction of the state's full name. It has been used for more than 20 years, though it's widely believed that LL Cool J helped popularize the term with his 80s hit song Going Back to Cali.

While it's arguably the most popular nickname for California, many of the residents really dislike this name and dispute its use. You will definitely hear this name when visiting California, though you might want to stick to some of the other nicknames if you want to sound like a local.

The Golden State

California's most iconic nickname is the Golden State. This was designated as the official state nickname in 1968 and refers to the discovery of gold in California in 1848 and the prosperous period that followed this. Millions of people fled to California in search of their fortune, and the state quickly became known for its wealth and opportunity.

You'll notice that plenty of landmarks and items around the state are given the golden moniker, from the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most famous California landmarks, to the Golden State Warriors, San Francisco's beloved basketball team.

The Sunshine State is one of the iconic nicknames for California
California's sunny and warm climate makes it a top vacation destination

The Sunshine State

When it comes to California state names, the Sunshine State is a very common misnomer. This name is widely used to refer to California; however, this is actually the official state nickname for Florida due to its tropical weather.

Still, it's very tempting to dub California the Sunshine State as it is blessed with warm and idyllic weather year-round. Not sure where to book your next vacation? Palm Springs is an excellent choice as it boasts around 350 days a year of glistening sun!

Golden Poppy State

California is also commonly referred to as the Golden Poppy State. This is thanks to the pretty golden poppy flower, which grows in the wild throughout California's rugged landscape, especially during spring. The best places to see the flower are in Antelope Valley, Malibu Creek State Park, and plenty of locations throughout California Valley.

One of the most interesting California facts is that the golden poppy became the official state flower in 1903. Better yet, April 6th is the designated California Poppy Day. This is when you can see the flowers in full bloom, so keep an eye out for them on your next trip.

A field of lettuce near a mountain in the background
Land of Milk and Honey pays homage to California's rich agriculture industry

Land of Milk and Honey

Although it's not used too often in popular culture, many people throughout history have referred to California as the Land of Milk and Honey. This phrase was first used in the Bible (though not in reference to California) to refer to a land of prosperity.

This has then been used to draw comparisons to California as a land of abundance. From its fertile land and natural resources to its unmatched opportunities for jobs, it's easy to see why. Additionally, California has a wealth of natural resources, including oil, gas, timber, and minerals. The state's coastline is also home to a thriving fishing industry.

The Land of Dreams

California has often been called the Land of Dreams thanks to a concept known as the California Dream. This describes the psychological phenomenon that took place after the Gold Rush, where thousands left their homes in search of greener pastures and more money. Not much has changed since, as California is still seen as a place where people can start over and make a new life for themselves.

Today, this California state nickname also refers to its status as a global center of entertainment and technology. This is especially the case with Silicon Valley and Hollywood, both of which attract people from all over the world who are looking to make their mark on the world.

City buildings near trees under a blue sky
California is home to top tech companies, with many in Silicon Valley

The Tech State

The Tech State is a relatively new nickname for California but is widely used in business fields. This is mainly in relation to Silicon Valley, currently one of the most innovative and important tech hubs in the world.

This is the region where companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook have headquarters. Silicon Valley continues to attract the brightest minds in technology from all over the world. However, California is also home to a number of other tech hubs, such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Golden West

The nickname Golden West is a reference to both California's beautiful sunsets and its rich history and opportunities. The sun sets in the west over the Pacific Ocean, and the sky often turns a golden color at sunset. It's a beautiful sight and one of the many things that make California so special.

The nickname Golden West also symbolizes the West Coast's wealth and opportunities. The state has a strong economy and is home to a diverse population of people from all over the world. California is a place where people can come to make their dreams come true.

Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock.com
A gate entrance with signage saying "Centennial Farm" near a silo
California is a top producer of grains, corn, and nuts

The Cereal Bowl of the Nation

It's not one of the most common CA nicknames, but the Cereal Bowl of the Nation has often been used to refer to the state's important role in cereal production. California produces a huge amount of cereal crops, including wheat, corn, and oats.

California is also the leading producer of almonds in the United States, which are a major ingredient in many breakfast cereals. Plus, California produces a variety of other fruits and vegetables that are used in breakfast cereals, such as grapes, berries, and bananas. Next time you tuck into a bowl of your favorite cereal, check to see if it has come from California!

Land of Perpetual Sunshine

California has often been dubbed the Land of Perpetual Sunshine thanks to its warm, dry climate and plenty of sunshine. California's Mediterranean climate means that it has hot, dry summers and mild winters.

This is ideal for growing crops like grapes and avocados. Additionally, this sunny weather also influences the wildlife that can be found in California, with the likes of bears and mountain lions populating the more rugged regions.

Old abandoned houses and cars
Many nicknames for California, like El Dorado State, allude to its gold rush

El Dorado State

Another nickname that reflects California's golden history is the El Dorado State. El Dorado translates to "the Golden" in Spanish and is the name of a mystical city supposedly located somewhere in the Americas and famed for its abundance of gold.

The 1848 gold discovery at Coloma in El Dorado County attracted hundreds of people and is responsible for this unique nickname (though the county wasn't renamed from Mud Springs until nearly 10 years later). But that's not the only place in California that struck lucky. Both Bodie, a gold rush ghost town, and Calico, a silver rush ghost town, both became popular places to visit in search of wealth during the 1800s.

Where Stars Are Buried

California is sometimes, rather morbidly, known as Where Stars Are Buried. Though you might hear the state being referred to as Where Stars Are Born, too. This is because the state, and especially in and around Los Angeles, is home to a number of famous cemeteries. Some of the most well-known are the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hillside Memorial Park, and Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

These cemeteries are the final resting places of many of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Michael Jackson, Brittany Murphy, and Elizabeth Taylor. These gravesites are popular tourist destinations for fans of the entertainment industry; many people make the pilgrimage to California just to see their favorite star's grave.

A river surrounded by rocks and trees near a mountain
Eureka was exclaimed when gold was first found in the American River in California

The Eureka State

California is widely known as the Eureka State. This stems from the Gold Rush when miner James Marshall is said to have exclaimed this word in 1848 when he found gold in the American River.

The term "eureka" is a Greek word that loosely translates to "I have found it." It is believed that the ancient Greek scientist Archimedes muttered this word when he conducted a successful experiment to measure the weight of gold.

Eureka is the official state motto for California and can be found on the official seal used on state documents. The moniker was first used in 1849, and it was officially adopted as the state motto in 1963.

The Surf State

Thanks to its beautiful beaches and sizable waves, California is often referred to as the Surf State. Because of its position, the coastline receives good swells from both the North and the South Pacific, resulting in epic waves. There are so many incredible places to catch a wave along the West Coast, but Malibu and Pismo Beach are famous as the best spots to go surfing.

In fact, since 2018, surfing has been the official state sport. Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1782 into law, making it official, while Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi stated at the time that surfing "represents the California Dream better than any other sport."

A view over a vineyard under a blue sky
California has numerous vineyards and is known globally for wine production

Grape State

The Grape State is a nickname that references California's plethora of vineyards. Some of the most popular wine regions in California include the famous Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and the Sierra Foothills.

California's climate is ideal for growing a variety of grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes. This results in some of the finest wine in the world being produced in California - many people travel across the states (and beyond) to California to sample its wines.

In Summary

California has long been known as a land of opportunity and adventure, from the Gold Rush era to the present day. And these California names illustrate the area's culture and history. For example, the Golden State describes the California Gold Rush of the 1800s, while the Land of Milk and Honey charts the area's impressive agricultural landscape.

Then there's the simple Cali, a nickname touted as uncool by locals. Whether you're looking for a place to strike it rich, indulge in plenty of wine, or simply soak up the beautiful scenery in California, this state has something incredible to offer everyone.

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Written by Lauren Kendrick

lozkend WRITER Lauren is a travel-obsessed writer from the UK. She is usually dreaming about all the different cuisines she has yet to try…

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