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6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com

The Golden Gate Bridge, Hearst Castle, Yosemite: these iconic California locations are also reminders of major events in the state's history. For nearly 30 years after its construction, the Golden Gate Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge, Hearst Castle was the home of newspaper magnet (and the man behind the yellow journalism of the Spanish-American War, William Randolph Hearst, and Yosemite was the first land put aside for public use (though it wasn't the first national park--Yellowstone holds that title).

Even if you've never set foot in California, you've heard of these three places, which speaks to just how important they are.

But, California is a huge state--the third largest after Alaska and Texas--and that much area has more history that those three aforementioned iconic places can offer!

If you're a history buff like me, make sure to add these lesser known, but still incredible, historical sites to your next California itinerary. Not only will you get to see various part of California, but you'll also come away with a much more comprehensive view of the state's rich history.

1) Mission San Diego de Alcalá

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user prayitno | creative commons}
Before California became a state, it was visited by English and Spanish explorers and later claimed by Mexico. Head over to San Diego to see the first Spanish mission site (established in 1769) and to learn more about this early period in California's history. Here, you can discover how the earliest Spanish missionaries worked to convert the Native Americans living in the area (and the conflict that arose from this) and the sicknesses and hardships that those settlers endured in the name of their religion.

2) Hollywood Heritage Museum

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Holly Hayes | creative commons}
When looking at the state's history and sites, you can't mention California without talking about the film industry, too. If the earliest days of American movies interests you, don't miss out on a visit to this iconic building. Although it looks quite simplistic from the outside, this museum, located in the Lasky-Demille Barn, was where the first full length western was produced in 1914. Although the company had outgrown the barn as an office by 1926, the company retained the building as a gym. Over the years, the building has been moved several times; it was placed in its current location in the early 1980s.

3) Beringer Winery

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Guy Huntley | creative commons}
Napa Valley currently boasts over 400 wineries, which can make selecting one quite a task. If you'd like a side of history along with your wine tasting, you might want to head to the Beringer Winery, which is the oldest continually running winery in the Valley. You can learn about the company's 140 years of winemaking and the construction of the 1884 Beringer Mansion.

4) Fort Ross

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Dennis Jarvis | creative commons}
Although most people know about California's Spanish and Mexican ties, the fact that Russia held a large swatch of land here in the 1800s usually comes as a surprise. Fort Ross, located in Sonoma County, was once the southern tip of Russia's holdings in North America. Today, it's a state historical park with a campground, an ongoing ecology program for children, surfing, and hiking. Tours of the historic Russian compound are held daily.

5) Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Nick Ares | creative commons}
No other era has changed the population and topography of California like the Gold Rush did. From 1848 to 1855, more than 300,000 people moved to the state to search for the elusive nuggets that could change their fate. Today, visitors can see the spot inside the state park where the James Marshall found the first gold flakes at Sutter's Mill, explore the ghost town at Coloma, and learn about the gold rush through the onsite exhibits.

6) John Steinbeck House

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Steve Brown | creative commons}
Of all of the writers who have tried to capture life in this state, few have stood the test of time  like John Steinbeck and his works. Known for his works Of Mice and Men and East of Eden, it was his novel The Grapes of Wrath that won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for its stark depiction of a family traveling from Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl. Fans of Steinbeck can visit this property to see where he was born and where he lived until he left for Stanford University in 1919. Tours are given during the summer, but the house is open as a restaurant year-round.

Whether you're a native Californian taking a long weekend trip or a first time visitor from Europe, adding one (or all!) of these sites to your itinerary will help you get a better understanding of California's rich history.

What's your favorite off-the-beaten-path attraction in California?

6 Lesser-known (but Still Incredible) Historical Sites in California | CosmosMariners.com
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