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The more you know about California, the more you're likely to enjoy and appreciate everything the state has to offer. In fact, it's California's incredible diversity and rough-'n'-tumble history that make it one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. With two of the nation's largest megalopolises -- the San Francisco Bay Area and the greater Los Angeles basin -- California has the largest, wealthiest, and most urbanized population of any state in the nation. Yet it's also an agricultural wonderland with a bounty that runs the gamut from artichokes, raisins, garlic, and asparagus to some of the finest wine-making grapes in the world. And it still manages to be home to much of the country's most striking and varied wilderness -- from purple mountains' majesty to arid, marvelously barren desert to coastlines of unsurpassed beauty.

The pages that follow include a brief enlightening tale of how California came to be the most plentiful and powerful state in the nation, but the best advice we can give you about California is to just go. Bring an open mind and a sense of adventure -- the rest is waiting for you.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.