Thus read the title of a provocative article in the Sunday New York Times magazine about four years ago.  I just returned from a three week visit to the “Golden State” and am once more reflecting on the comparison between that state and my present home, Florida, or as properly pronounced by locals, “Flor-duh,” a two syllable, not three syllable, word. 

This last census confirmed the faster growth of Florida over California in the last decade since the result of the census is that Florida will pick up two new seats in the US House of Representatives, while, for the first time in 80 years, California will get no new seat.   The pace of population growth in Florida, until closed down by the “Great Recession,” was literally 1000 new residents each day! 

But how do the two states compare?  First, they both share one common element - sunshine.  Both states provide lots of sunshine and mild climates that have led to their being the first and third most populous states in the Union.   While they share this common element, they differ in other ways.

On this last visit I was once more mightily impressed by the sheer scenic beauty of California.  No other state has the endless variety of landscapes one finds in California.  Snow capped mountains, desolate deserts, incredibly fertile farmlands, the intimate valleys of Napa and its surrounding wine country,  and its spectacular coastline ranging from the broad beaches, such as Hunting Beach, home of the Beach Boys, to the wild beaches of Carmel by the Sea, to the dramatic bluffs of Big Sur, to the many other small coves and bays that lure surfers from everywhere.  No, not Florida nor any other state comes close in presenting such rich and varied scenic splendor. 

But beaches define Florida.  No one is ever more than 60 miles from the sea in any part of the state.  There is an almost endless chain of barrier islands that comprise most of the beaches, from the best known Miami Beach and Key West to Ft Myers beach, Sanibel, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and more.   Added to these are the truly impressive wide beaches of Florida’s panhandle with their almost incredible dunes of fine, powdery sand. 

However, as impressive as the beaches of Florida may be, the state has few other notable scenic treats.  Yes, the rolling hills around Ocala offer  a host of elegant horse farms.  The many estuaries almost covered by tropical forests are fun to explore by kayak.  And the Everglades offer a different environment which I personally find totally boring. 

While Florida does not offer the scenic variety of California, it does exceed that state in the breadth of its flora and fauna.  To put it succinctly, no other state has as wide a range of vegetation and critters.  I chill visitors by reminding them that Florida has the most varieties of snakes in the USA and that every body of fresh water south of Orlando - lakes, streams, ponds - has an alligator.  In fact there are an estimated 4-5 million of these reptiles in the state. 

No one can deny the attractions offered by California and Florida.  They are truly blessed by nature and good homes for those who love natural beauty, both scenic and organic.  While I am a bit leery of calling Florida the “New” California, there is no question that the Golden State has a worthy competitor for the title of being our most favored land.