Next up, Santa Carla, a charming beach community that doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by its highest-in-the-nation per-capita murder rate. Also, the locals have a strange set of traditional pastimes, like motorcycle races near cliffs, hanging from railroad trestle bridges, and sleeping in caves beneath the beach. The boardwalk amusement park gets a bit rowdy at night, but the Frog Brothers comic shop is worth a visit — just don’t ask the staff about their classic horror collection.
Seemingly the most innocuous stop on our tour of the Golden Bear state, Hill Valley is the worst excesses of California amped to 11. Urban renewal seems to rebuild and re-imagine the town’s iconic courthouse square in the blink of an eye, and not always for the better. For a moment it seemed that legalized gambling and high-rise casinos were Hill Valley’s leading industry, only for the gambling houses to disappear almost overnight, as if they never existed. Garage-workshop entrepreneurs churn out seemingly world-changing inventions that promise to reshape life as we know it, only to abandon those pursuits for Old West re-enactments and the Rockwell-esque charms of family life. By the same token, homegrown sci-fi authors and rock stars flare into prominence then disappear without further notice or fame. Perhaps worst of all, there were rumored Libyan terrorist cells active in the mid-1980s, culminating in a rocket attack and radiation spike at the Twin Pines Lone Pine Mall that has yet to be explained. And don’t get us started on how (ahem) enmeshed all the mothers seem to be with their youngest sons. Get through here as fast as possible — preferably without dropping below 88 miles per hour.
When someone says that your town is a hole, they usually aren’t being literal, but in the case of Sunnydale, the whole (pun intended) city collapsed in an absurdly localized earthquake in 2003. Prior to that, Sunnydale was home to the eccentric UC Sunnydale campus, which was distinguished only by having the most competitive Army ROTC outfit in the country. Sunnydale High was nationally renowned for its high dropout and student violence rates, culminating in the assassination of the town’s mayor and the school’s principal during the graduation ceremony for the class of 1999. Oh, and the only fast food joint in town was the wretched Doublemeat Palace, which makes In-&-Out Burger look like a health food joint. Not surprisingly, there’s a souvenir stand next to the still-smoldering crater of the former Sunnydale. Suitable for restroom purposes only.
Have a favorite fictional California locale not listed here, or simply want to suggest other state’s cities for a similar list? Sound off in the comments section.