The Best California-Centric Podcasts

Travel, food, true crime politics—there’s a show for everyone.

PUBLISHED MAR 4, 2022 3:28 P.M.
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Want to know more about California? These podcasts are a great place to start.

Want to know more about California? These podcasts are a great place to start.

There’s no better way to get your head into a state of California Dreaming than podcasts, and thankfully there are dozens of shows out there that will tell you more about the Golden State than you could ever want to know. Travel, food, true crime politics—there’s a show for everyone. Here are a handful of highly rated shows to get you started.

1. California Foodways

Calling all foodies! Journalist Lisa Morehouse takes listeneners on a road trip around the state in California Foodways, where she seeks to travel to every county in the state to feature stories about food, agriculture and the people who make the magic happen. The show pulls off the challenging trick of making a food podcast entertaining even though you can’t quite enjoy the delicacies you’re hearing about. And serious bonus points for organizing content by counties so if you’re on the road, you can find your destination county and listen to a show or two that piques your hunger and gives you the backstory of what you’re about to enjoy. 

5 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

2. California Now

The California Now podcast is like a blueprint for what you wish every state’s travel bureau would do to promote its travel magic without coming off as too promotional. Host Soterios Johnson, a veteran radio journalist from New York City, moved to California in 2018 and is using his journalism skills to learn every fascinating thing about his new home state in 60-plus episodes. He interviews travel experts, chefs, local guides and many others who help bring the state alive through fresh eyes.

4.7 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

3. Then There’s California

Then There’s California is a relatively new podcast featuring members of the California State Senate Democratic Caucus discussing legislative priorities, policy and other related issues, sometimes alone and sometimes with a co-senator or guest. Less boring and more produced than you might think and it’s easy to pick out the subjects or personalities you care about. 

4.3 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

4. The California Report

The California Report does what KQED does best: news and culture and well-produced stories from around California led by co-hosts Lily Jamali in San Francisco and Saul Gonzalez in Los Angeles. It’s where you go when you need to catch up on the morning public radio show you missed. And for the longer stories, The California Report Magazine dives deeper into a variety of issues. KQED is at the forefront of how to create a solid podcast network and has more than a dozen shows worth checking out.

4.6 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

5. Commonwealth Club of California

With encyclopedic knowledge, the Commonwealth Club of California podcast delivers nonpartisan public affairs discussions clocking in at just over an hour. And with more than 1,100 episodes in the bank, chances are they’ve covered many topics you’ll find interesting and informative with their stellar brand. 

4.9 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

6. California True Crime

True crime is a tough genre to pull off in a podcast, but California True Crime seems to have developed a devoted listener base with its solid research and presentation of its Golden State crimes. The show mixes it up with episodes about crime trends and does deep dives into more complicated cases that can span weeks. You wouldn’t have known you needed to spend more than three hours learning about the Hughson Bank Robbery of 1970 until you hear it!

4.5 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

7. The California Sun Podcast

The California Sun is the Terry Gross of California podcasting, featuring fascinating interviews with leaders of all industries in the state, many of whom are promoting their latest books or projects. Hosted by Jeff Schechtman, the podcast averages just under 30 minutes of Q&A that leave you more informed about things like the California real estate market, crazy gas prices, and the wonder of psychedelics by the time you get to work.

4.9 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

8. California Love

Tupac and Dr. Dre’s “California Love” is as much a California anthem as the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” and it spurred author and New York Times writer Walter Thompson-Hernández to create the limited eight-show California Love podcast that is his love letter to Los Angeles. The show follows Walter as he revisits the streets of his youth in Compton and describes how the city shaped him into the man he is today.

4.2 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

9. HOME: Stories from L.A.

HOME: Stories from L.A. is for those who come to L.A. and don’t get it. It’s too big, it’s too spread out, too much traffic, no real neighborhoods, etc. And yet millions of people make it their home. Explore the appeal of Los Angeles in a cool limited series of 33 episodes from author Bill Barol, a former senior writer at Newsweek, which offers fascinating snapshots of life in L.A. during a two-year window in 2015-17.

4.8 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

10. The Dropout

The Dropout is riveting true crime with no bodies but lots of blood. Season two provides weekly digests of what happened in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, a wannabe Steve Jobs charged with defrauding investors of hundreds of millions of dollars by claiming her startup company Theranos would revolutionize the blood testing industry. Produced by ABC News, the podcast may be better than the trial itself because it takes the testimony and juxtaposes it with previous depositions, expert interviews and old clips from its first season, which described the downfall of the touted Silicon Valley company before Holmes was charged. It’s a fascinating look at the puffery and blind greed that fuels Silicon Valley with real consequences. (The pod went on to inspire a dramatic miniseries starring Amanda Seyfried.)

4.6 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

11. Lost Hills

Lost Hills is a true crime serial that has more twists and turns than the road to Malibu Creek State Park, where a 35-year-old scientist named Tristan Beaudette is brutally murdered in front of his two young daughters while camping in the park in 2018. Hosted by New Yorker staff writer Dana Goodyear, the show’s first season is more than whodunit as it investigates the murder as well as the scandal-plagued local sheriff’s department that knew an unknown gunman was targeting visitors and failed to warn the public. The narrative is terrific, like a book you don’t want to put down. And there’s a second season, which explores another Malibu crime story.

4 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

12. History of California Podcast

For a history lesson on our great state, why not turn to a history teacher? The History of California Podcast takes listeners back to pre-Gold Rush days and details how the state came to be through multiple lenses. It’s particularly satisfying to see how host Jordan Mattox goes to great lengths to detail the state’s history prior to colonization, something that is too often white-washed or glossed over.

4.7 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts

13. The Californian Century

Stanley Tucci has a podcast? And it’s about the history of California as told through a movie screenplay? I’m in. The Californian Century features the esteemed actor and the heir apparent to Anthony Bourdain thanks to his recent Searching for Italy show on CNN. With his smooth narration, Tucci brings history to vivid life with short stories about the Black Panthers, Silicon Valley, rapper Ice-T and other noteworthy figures in California history.

4.5 out of 5 rating on Apple Podcasts


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