Here in Los Angeles County, rather than limit ourselves only to exploring the city of Los Angeles, we would like time to expand because there are many other places that intrigue us. We are here, in this part of California and we want to do our best to see everything. It’s a bit ambitious, since the days of our vacation are counted, but one by one we will check places off our list as we travel along the coast.
Today’s destination is Long Beach, about 30 minutes south of Santa Monica, the second-largest city in the Greater Los Angeles Area, with about 470,000 inhabitants, the second-busiest commercial port in the United States, and a major port. To be more precise, Long Beach, located in Los Angeles County, borders Orange County, which is just as famous for Disneyland.
- Long Beach Attractions
- Shopping in Long Beach
- Long Beach Events
- Recommended Restaurants in Long Beach
- Where to Stay in Long Beach
- Tours of Long Beach
- How to Get to Long Beach
Long Beach Attractions
Long Beach looks enchanting with palm trees and the ocean as a backdrop and well-restored historic buildings and ultra-modern skyscrapers in which the sky and foliage are reflected. The main artery is Pine Avenue, which is identified by a sign on both sides of the street. This area has also been skillfully revitalized and now, along the promenade, there are shops, cafes, and restaurants, mainly between 3rd Street and W Ocean Boulevard. Concerts and events are also held here.
In May, there is the Taste of Downtown between 1st Street and 3rd Street when all the local chefs meet in that “block”. Downtown restaurants offer some of their best dishes and the food is incredible. Each tasting costs $1. New Year’s Eve is celebrated with great energy at the event called New Year’s Eve on Pine Avenue from 8:00 pm to 2:00 am. Musicians perform on three stages at the intersection of 1st and 4th Avenue.
Long Beach Waterfront
The Long Beach Waterfront, which extends from the bustling Pine Avenue to the waters of Queensway Bay, is very clean and full of places of interest. It has paved walkways for walking or cycling. You can reach the waterfront after parking your car (paid parking at 65 Cedar Ave.) or by taking advantage of the free Passport Bus service that stops at the main attractions.
Further down on Pine Avenue, there is the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which consists of photos and captions that honor the outstanding achievements of those who have contributed significantly to the world of motor racing. It is located along a walkway on South Pine Avenue on the waterfront next to the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center and the row of stores that make up The Pike Outlets. When we visited the Long Beach Waterfront, we decided that we wanted to see the view from above on the Ferris wheel, located right in the mall. As we rode on the Ferris wheel, we got a different perception of space and admired the immensity of the ocean, which is directly linked to the identity of the city.
Because of the important role of the ocean, we think it’s important to mention another highlight, the Aquarium of the Pacific (100 Aquarium Way), one of the largest aquariums in the United States where young and old will be amazed to see over 550 species from 17 different habitats. Here you can even hear whale vocalizations, and see penguins and sea turtles in 4D. The aquarium also offers various activities, such as petting sharks and rays in the lagoon.
There is also the Ocean Science Center which intrigues visitors with quizzes about our planet, films, interactive maps, observation of marine life, and many other things. If you are looking for a souvenir, you can make a stop at the gift shop. The aquarium is open every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm except Christmas Day. Admission is $36.95 for adults, $33.95 for seniors, and $26.95 for children. The visit to the Ocean Science Center can be combined with other aquarium tours or other on-site attractions, but the prices vary from the regular admission price.
Not far from the Ocean Science Center, you will find the Rainbow Harbor & Marina (200B Aquarium Way) where people go fishing, dock their boats, set sail on a harbor cruise (dinner included), or go whale watching. When visiting this area, we suggest you book a cruise offered by Harbor Breeze (100 Aquarium Way – 2seewhales.com), a very popular agency in Long Beach. Their exciting cruises are opportunities to see and learn about some of the biggest mammals on the planet, which makes the experience memorable. The crew members are experienced sea dogs who collaborate with aquarium instructors. In California, you can spot whales year-round.
Inside the Rainbow Harbor & Marina complex, at the Shoreline Aquatic Park, you can have a picnic and visit the white lighthouse that stands out on the small hill and offers views of the bay. You can also have a good time on the beach in the northern part of the park. Special events take place here, such as Pirate Invasion on July 1-2 when 100 pirates in costume arrive on their three ships. This spectacular event is free and there are other similar events. You can park at Shoreline Aquatic Park or just beyond the aquarium at Pier Point Landing.
From here you can see the Queen Mary (1126 Queens Hwy), a symbol of Long Beach. It is the former transatlantic ocean liner, known as the “Grand Old Lady of the Sea”, that has been turned into a splendid vintage hotel that overlooks the waterfront and the city skyline. There are various guided tour options ranging from the most classic tour to the twilight tour, which will teach you about the paranormal activity on the Queen Mary and give you the chance to search for spirits of the past. There are also events and brunch is served on Sundays.
The Queen Mary has an outstanding history. From 1930 to 1960 she sailed the seas as a luxury ocean liner, then she was used to transport troops during the Second World War. At the end of the war, she brought more than 22,000 war brides and their children to the United States during Operation Diaper. In 1967, it was permanently docked at the pier in Long Beach and later it became a hotel. Next to the Queen Mary, there is the Russian nuclear submarine Scorpion.
The Beaches of Long Beach
If this city is called Long Beach, there must be a reason. In fact, the city beach is more than 4 miles long; it faces south and has light and very fine sand. Its official name is Long Beach City Beach (1 Junipero Ave). If you are looking for the exact location on a map, let’s say that it develops at the height of E Ocean Boulevard from Belmont Pier to Alamitos Bay which is the western end. The locals call it Junipero Beach, because the main parking lot in the downtown area is on Junipero Avenue. Bluff Park is a beautiful park with a pedestrian walkway above the beach. There is also a wide paved footpath on the beach where many skaters and cyclists go that begins at the parking lot.
From Bluff Park, it doesn’t take long to reach Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier (15 39th Place), where you can fish and relax while admiring the ocean. It was here that we were treated to a spectacular view and took many pictures. Nearby there is a restaurant that serves American cuisine and has a patio with a view of the ocean. On the 4th of July, there is typically a big celebration at the pier. The pier opens one hour before sunrise and closes at midnight.
The nearby Belmont Shore Beach (4000 East Olympic Plaza) stretches along the waterfront neighborhood in Long Beach that is also called Belmont Shore. There are beach volleyball courts and there is a bike path along the entire length of the beach. Do you love dogs and happen to be traveling with your puppy? Rosie’s Dog Beach (between Roycraft Ave and Argonne Ave) is the only beach in L.A. County where you’re allowed to bring your dog without a leash. This beach is also accessible to those without dogs and is open daily from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. There is paid parking on Bennett Avenue.
Alamitos Bay Beach (Bayshore Dr) is also worth visiting. It’s a narrow sandy shore frequented by many young people. Dogs are not allowed on this beach. Here you can rent kayaks and paddleboards. Colorado Lagoon Park (5119 E Colorado St) is a lagoon further north with sandy beaches; it is an inland lake surrounded by parks and golf courses. There is a pedestrian bridge that connects the two sides of the lagoon. You can park along Appian Way and Nieto Avenue.
The Oddities of Long Beach
Let’s take a short break from the beaches and take a look at two interesting attractions. First, the narrowest house in the country. It is located at 708 Gladys Avenue and its dimensions are 10 ft x 49 ft.
Secondly, we recommend that you explore some of the murals in town, including the mural that holds a record in the Guinness Book of World Records that stretches along the entire outer wall of the Long Beach Sports Arena (300 E Ocean Blvd) that depicts large whales.
At the east end of Long Beach, there is Naples, a neighborhood built on three islands in Alamitos Bay. The islands are separated by canals that lead to the bay. The funny thing is that it is named Naples, but there are gondoliers singing during romantic canal tours like in Venice!
The Art District of Long Beach
We now move away from the coast towards the East Village Arts District (Long Beach Blvd, Alamitos Ave, Ocean Blvd, and 7th St), where there are galleries hosting works by artists from Long Beach and other parts of Southern California. In the condominiums, lofts, and small cottages in East Village, there are homes, shops, and restaurants, while murals are an expression of the creativity of the arts district. On the second Saturday of each month, special events take place in shops and art galleries and there is a visual arts festival held every year in June. There are two museums in this district.
- The Museum of Latin American Art – MOLAA (628 Alamitos Ave), the only one of its kind on the West Coast that exhibits modern and contemporary Latin American art. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, and free for children 12 years old and younger. The museum is free for everyone every Sunday and every fourth Friday of the month from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. It is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and Fridays from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm. There are plenty of parking spaces next to the museum.
- Since 2010, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum – PIEAM (695 Alamitos Ave) has been displaying the art of different cultures of the Pacific islands thanks to the vision of Robert Gumbiner, the founder of the museum, who was also an art collector, traveler, and a philanthropist. Here we find exhibitions, educational programs, permanent collections, and real-time art demonstrations. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm except for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and the 4th of July. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students, and free for children 12 years old or younger. There is free parking at 644 Alamitos Ave or at the Museum of Latin American Art.
Long Beach’s Natural Attractions
Moving on from the art district, we now want to mention the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden (Earl Warren Dr), five hectares of land with lakes, wooden bridges, flowers, and plants. Some of the plants that you can admire here include azaleas, magnolias, irises, bamboo, and amber trees. This natural paradise combines the beauty of a Japanese garden with the landscape of southern California. Admission is free. You can visit from Tuesday to Friday from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm. However, the gate closes 15 minutes before closing time.
At the Rancho Los Alamitos (6400 E Bixby Hill Rd), the gardens are reminiscent of French and Italian gardens of the 17th century, the English countryside, and Spanish courtyards. It is an extraordinary mix. You can visit the buildings of the Rancho Center, Ranch House, and the five barns either on self-guided tours or with a guide. Admission is free and there is parking available. Please check the website (www.rancholosalamitos.com) to find out the hours of operation.
Are you looking for a natural haven in the city? Then visit the El Dorado Nature Center (7550 E Spring St) Nestled between the San Gabriel River and Interstate 605, the El Dorado Nature Center is an oasis that offers visitors the chance to escape the chaos of the urban environment. The 42 hectares of the park are a sanctuary of flora and fauna. There are dirt paths that extend for about 1 mile and a paved path less than a mile long all wind around two lakes, a stream, and wooded areas.
At the entrance, there is a wooden bridge that crosses one of the lakes and leads to a small island that houses the visitor center with information panels, pictures, and a small shop. There is a small entrance fee to pay per vehicle. The walkways are accessible from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, and the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.
Shopping in Long Beach
For those who love shopping, we would like to point out the best places to shop in Long Beach, such as the charming Shoreline Village (401- 435 Shoreline Village Dr), which overlooks the water. The shops are open from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm while the restaurants have their own hours. At Tequila Jack’s, you can take a break from shopping and enjoy Mexican food in a casual setting.
Nearby there is also the Pelican Pier Pavillion (Tuesday-Thursday 12:00 pm-10:00 pm, Friday 12:00 pm-12:00 am, Saturday 10:00 am-12:00 am, and Sunday 10:00 am to 10:00 pm) where the word “boredom” does not exist. Here there is a carousel, an arcade, and even air hockey. But it doesn’t end there. Would you like to take pictures with tropical birds? This is a very popular family activity.
Spirit Cruise operates at the Pelican Pier Pavillion and offers narrated tours of the harbor or romantic sunset dinners on yachts. The three classic shopping malls in Long Beach are the Long Beach Towne Center (7575 Carson Blvd), which has a fountain in front of the mall’s movie theater, the Marina Pacifica Mall (6272 E Pacific Coast Hwy) in Alamitos Bay, and The Pike Outlets (95 S Pine Ave) near the Convention Center and the aquarium.
Long Beach Events
Long Beach is an active and vibrant city, so there is no shortage of exciting events. If you love music, you will enjoy the city’s events, which often feature music. There is the Bob Marley Reggae Festival in February, El Dia de San Juan Puerto Rican Festival (those who particularly love salsa will love this) and the Aloha Concert (inspired by Hawaii) in June, the Jazz Festival in August, and the Blues Festival and the Brazilian Street Carneval with music and parades in September.
But there are also other important events not specifically related to music. The Native American Festival takes place in March at Shoreline Village (401-435 Shoreline Village Dr) and celebrates the cultures of Native American tribes with dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling, handmade products, food, and a children’s area. In April, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, America’s longest road car race with 12 laps (IndyCar race) takes place. If you attend the race, keep in mind that many attractions and roads will be temporarily closed during the race.
And for those who love the sea, there are multiple events during the Long Beach Sea Festival, which takes place from June to August. During the Christmas holidays, the Holiday Boat Parade takes place between the canals of Naples and the Long Beach Yacht Club (6201 Appian Way) and creates a beautiful atmosphere.
Recommended Restaurants in Long Beach
For many people, and also for us, tasting local cuisine is an integral part of a trip. Probably driven by our love of shrimp, among the restaurants we mention Bubba Gump (87 Aquarium Way, across the street from the aquarium), inspired by the movie Forrest Gump. Setting aside our personal preferences, objectively, the food is good, the place is spacious and pleasant, and you can eat outdoors.
There are two other restaurants with stunning views of the ocean and sunsets that we wish to recommend. The Boathouse on the Bay (190 N Marina Dr) serves good meat and fish dishes and also has live music and a patio. The second one is the Tantalum Restaurant (6210 E Pacific Coast Hwy), which has chic dark wood décor that will remind you of the Indonesian islands. The menu features Californian dishes with Asian culinary influences. This restaurant also has live entertainment.
California is home to a large community of Latinos, so there is a strong tradition of Mexican cuisine in this area. We recommend you try Rivera’s Mexican Restaurant (2901 E 7th St) where you can enjoy a nice atmosphere and eat a good meal.
Where to Stay in Long Beach
It’s not easy to complete your visit to Long Beach in one day, especially if you want to make the most of your experience here. Therefore, you will need to find accommodations. We must first mention the most famous hotel in town, the Queen Mary, the former ocean liner that we talked about earlier in the article. While the spacious rooms and suites have maintained the charm and Art Deco style, the hotel still offers all the modern amenities you can think of, such as a fitness center, a business center, shops, and wi-fi. It is also pet-friendly.
If you are looking for a place on the water, we believe you will have a pleasant experience at the Dockside Boat & Bed (5 Rainbow Harbor), a bed & breakfast in private yachts, which come in different sizes (however, the yachts all have a maximum capacity of eight people on board) and have all the comforts of a hotel. It offers excellent food service on board and the possibility to relax while being lulled by water. There is a parking lot near the bed & breakfast.
In the downtown area of Long Beach, there is the Hyatt Regency Long Beach (200 S Pine Ave), a luxury hotel that overlooks the Long Beach Waterfront. It is not far from the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Convention Center. Some rooms and suites have a view of the harbor. The hotel has a restaurant, a swimming pool, and a conference room.
The Rodeway Inn Long Beach (50 Atlantic Avenue) is an affordable alternative. It is located downtown in the heart of the East Village. The Long Beach Waterfront’s major attractions are within walking distance. The rooms are spacious and equipped with all amenities, including wi-fi.
For a complete overview of the hotels in Long Beach, please click on the link below
Tours of Long Beach
Wheel Fun Rentals (419 Shoreline Village Dr- Rainbow Harbor) specializes in renting vehicles with wheels, especially segways. We recommend that you take a segway tour to discover the heart of Long Beach.
While you are here in Long Beach, you should take a tour of Santa Catalina Island, better known as Catalina Island or simply Catalina. The Catalina Express (320 Golden Shore) provides transportation to the island year-round with 30 daily departures. Catalina Island is a rocky island 21 miles long and 8 miles wide just 31 miles from Long Beach. Catalina Express’s high-speed ferries make the journey fast and pleasant.
On Catalina Island, it is especially worth visiting Avalon, a picturesque town, and the rustic Two Harbors, a spectacular remote location on the island with campsites and beautiful beaches. Boats departing from the port of Long Beach reach Avalon, while those that go to Two Harbors depart from San Pedro, a few miles northwest of Long Beach.
How to Get to Long Beach
To reach Long Beach, for instance, if you are coming from Canada or Mexico, you can fly to the local Daugherty International Airport (4100 Donald Douglas Dr) or to Los Angeles International Airport (1 World Way). The FlyAway Bus connects Long Beach to the airport in Los Angeles. Long Beach Transit buses run between Long Beach and Signal Hill and Lakewood, while Amtrak provides bus services between Los Angeles, San Pedro, Bakersfield, and Long Beach.
Both the Greyhound and the Los Angeles Metro can take you to Long Beach. Taxicabs and Yellow Long Beach are the two taxi companies in the city. From late May to early September, you can take the Aqualink, a $5 one-way catamaran that connects the aquarium, the pier, the Queen Mary, and Alamitos Bay.
Each day of our trip in the southern region of the Golden State was memorable and rewarding. We discovered so many realities that together represent a corner of the world with distinct characteristics, including such a vibrant place as Long Beach.