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California sunset © Damian Gadal/Flickr
California sunset © Damian Gadal/Flickr

Top 10 Differences Between NorCal And SoCal

Picture of Sarah Ndjongo
Updated: 9 February 2017
California is truly a large, unique state. With its diverse groups of residents, gorgeous weather, and fantastic scenery, it’s no wonder that tons of outsiders love to visit. Within the state, however, there seems to be some tension as to whether NorCal or SoCal rules the land. So how about you join the debate and decide for yourself.



NorCal has a vast array of foods. Often called a foodie heaven, NorCal is the birthplace of the farm-to-table movement, home of wine country, and the location of four of the US’s 12 three Michelin-star restaurants.

SoCal, on the other hand, has great tasting and authentic Mexican food, as it’s much closer to the Mexican border. Plus, you can find popular fast food restaurant chains pretty much everywhere.



NorCal is known for its overall gloomy weather. It’s generally cooler and allegedly rainier in this part of California. However, the sunshine does come along occasionally.

SoCal has weather that validates the claim that California is a place full of sunshine. Most of SoCal is a warm desert, so expect rays of sun to beam down on your skin as you stroll around and lay down on its plentiful beaches.



Speaking of beaches, NorCal has some at places such as Carmel, Half Moon Bay, and Monterey, but they’re not exactly what you imagine a beach to be. Most are rugged and unkempt patches of sand.

In contrast, SoCal’s beaches generally fulfill the vision of the beaches you see in the movies. Well maintained and matched with their own resort towns. Great examples are Laguna Beach, Santa Monica, La Jolla, Catalina Island, Coronado, and, of course, Huntington.



Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, and sadly, NorCal doesn’t have one. Yet, it has a Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and a few other parks and attractions such as the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge.

SoCal has a Disneyland, and it’s home to other theme parks and attractions just as worthy of recognition. Examples include the San Diego Zoo, Six Flags, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios.



NorCal gets visits from celebrities, particularly in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose during film screenings or concert events. Also, within NorCal is the state capital of Sacramento, which is filled with politicians. Lastly, the innovative Silicon Valley allows entrepreneurs and influential individuals alike to gather and dwell in NorCal’s presence.

SoCal is generally the place you think of when you hear the word ‘celebrity.’ Los Angeles and Hollywood are cities that contribute to fame, and because major events happen within these cities 24/7, the image of celebrities walking these streets is commonly in mind.



A couple of NorCal’s well-known universities are rivals: University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University. Most students from these universities end up participating in the tech spirit and entrepreneurship of NorCal.

SoCal has rival universities as well: University of California-Los Angeles and University of Southern California. While the entertainment industry is more popular in SoCal overall, sports are a favorite, too.



Speaking of sports, NorCal has recently been represented well in basketball with an NBA team. The Golden State Warriors. Residents generally love the Giants for baseball. The San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders go head-to-head each season in the Battle of the Bay. The San Jose Sharks are a big deal for hockey fans.

In SoCal, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers represent in basketball. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels go head-to-head each season in the Freeway Series. There are also the San Diego Padres, the Anaheim Ducks, and Los Angeles Kings in hockey.



Thanks to the lovely city of San Francisco, NorCal has stunning and impressive architecture, with beautiful parks and a gorgeous landscape. As one visitor puts it, ‘San Francisco looks like you’re walking around a well-built architecture museum.’

SoCal has fantastic museums such as LACMA and buildings such as the Disney Concert Hall



NorCal has a great public transportation system with the BART and buses constantly running through San Francisco and the Bay Area.

SoCal residents tend to rely on cars as a means of transport, as a public transportation system isn’t really established there yet. There is a Metro train, however.



Although there generally isn’t a language barrier between those living in SoCal and NorCal, most people find that NorCal residents say the words ‘hella’ and ‘y’all’ often and pronounce the word ‘yeah’ like ‘yee-ahuh,’ whereas SoCal residents tend to say ‘really’ and ‘you guys’ often and pronounce the word ‘yeah’ like ‘yahh.’ However, NorCal and SoCal residents are similar in that they both confirm the status of Californians as frequently saying the words ‘like’ and ‘totally.’


By Sarah Ndjongo