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36 Hours In Long Beach, California

by Penny Sadler

I think I’ve found a new place to love in southern California – Long Beach. I was only there for about 36 hours, but what I saw I liked, and wished I had a little more time to explore. Were I considering moving to the Los Angeles County area, I’d give Long Beach a closer look.

For tourists looking for a southern California beach experience that also offers history, culture, museums, and good food, without the traffic and crowds of other beach destinations, Long Beach is a great choice.

36 Hours in Long Beach, California @PennySadler 2014

What I liked about Long Beach:  it’s easy to navigate, a friendly and casual beach vibe, the art deco architecture, eclectic neighborhoods, the pretty harbor, a diverse ethnic population, and close proximity to Los Angeles and Orange counties.

With a population of approximately 500,000, Long Beach is the seventh largest city in California. It’s a lot smaller than Los Angeles, but still large enough to have a thriving music, art, and culture scene.

It’s also a city of festivals –  you’ll want to check the website for the city of Long Beach to see if there’s something that tickles your fancy when you’re visiting.

COOL THINGS TO SEE IN LONG BEACH

The Queen Mary

Without a doubt, the top tourist attraction in Long Beach, the Queen Mary offers visitors a peek into another era, when steamships were the most elegant way to travel. At the time of her completion and maiden voyage in 1936, the Queen Mary was considered the most beautiful and stately ship in the world.

In 1967, The Queen Mary made her last voyage to Long Beach, California, where she has become a beloved historical landmark and popular hotel.

Queen Mary, Long Beach, CA @PennySadler 2014

There is quite a selection of educational and unusual tours available on the Queen Mary, from a basic tour of the highlights of the ship, to an after dark paranormal experiences tour which I will tell you more about in future article (I don’t want to spoil it now). This tour is getting a lot of national attention, so if ghost busting is one of your interests, be sure sign up for this tour.

36 Hours Long Beach, Calif. @PennySadler 2014

Another popular tour is the Princess Diana Tour. For Anglophiles this is a must do. The extensive collection includes over 2,000 artifacts including clothing, personal letters, dolls and collectables. It includes information not only on the life of Princess Diana, but a history of the Royal Family from Queen Mary forward. Allow at least an hour to see this exhibition.

long beach, california @PennySadler 2014

Queen Mary
1126 Queens Hwy.
www.queenmary.com

The Aquarium of the Pacific

Educating and entertaining visitors about the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants, this is the fourth most attended aquarium in the U.S. The Aquarium of the Pacific offers over 50 exhibits, many of them interactive. It is conveniently located on Rainbow Harbor in downtown Long Beach.

100 Aquarium Way
www.aquariumofthepacific.org

 

Whale Watching

Nature’s largest mammal, the blue whale, migrates each summer up the coast of California. Long Beach is a great place to jump on one of the many excursion boats that allow you to observe these magnificent creatures.

I was a guest on a tour with Harbor Breeze Charters one afternoon. We were only about a half hour or so out from the harbor when we saw a blue whale. We must have stayed in that one area for thirty minutes or so mesmerized, watching this enormous wild animal surface then dive. On the way back to the harbor we so a pod of hundreds of playful dolphins, many with babies, speeding along with the boat or playing further out. I’d never seen a whale in the wild before nor so many dolphins all at once. Thank you again to Harbor Cruises for this exhilarating experience.

The tour takes about 3 hours total. Aside from seeing the animals it was refreshing just being out on a boat in the open sea. If you have a chance I highly recommend it. Harbor Breeze also offers several other tour options, so have a look at the website to see what’s available.

Postcard Long Beach California @PennySadler 2014

Harbor Breeze is adjacent to the aquarium.
100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2
www.longbeachcruises.com

The Grand Prix

The annual Toyota Grand Prix is a street race held every April in Long Beach. It attracts over 200,000 visitors each year. Book well in advance.

www.gplb.com

The Pike

If you’re looking for entertainment and a variety of restaurants close to the waterfront,
The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is a 369,000 square foot waterfront entertainment district located in downtown Long Beach, between Long Beach Entertainment and Convention Center and the world-class Aquarium of the Pacific. With a variety of restaurants, entertainment venues, a Ferris wheel, and open-air marketplace, The Pike is one of the most unique waterfront locations on the West Coast.

Postcard Long Beach California

Shopping

Visit the 4th Street Neighborhood, also known as Retro Row. Featured in the New York Times and Los Angeles Magazine, 4th Street features stores that offer vintage and contemporary clothing, furniture & accessories, art, antiques and collectibles, books, roller skates & skate boards, as well as locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, and wine bars. Adding to the retro vibe of the street is the restored 1920’s Art Theatre, which hosts a mix of first-run and art films, live concerts & comedy, and other unique events.

www.4thstreetlongbeach.com

Iguana Imports

The Iguana carries quite a mix of furniture, folk art, gifts and jewelry, all imported. A great place to find a gift or something new to spruce up your own digs it’s located on E. Broadway, and has been in the neighborhood for over ten years.

Iguana Imports Long Beach, CA

3400 E. Broadway
www.iguanaimports.com

DINING

I tried out a recommended breakfast spot called Pot Holder Cafe. They have a huge menu and are open for lunch as well as breakfast. Very casual atmosphere and good service and reasonably priced.

Pot Holder Cafe
3700 E. Broadway
www.thepotholdercafe.com

On a whim, I pulled into a place called The Attic for dinner. Also located on E. Broadway, it’s an old house that’s been converted to a restaurant. The menu is southern comfort food, updated. Think buttermilk fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and chicken pot pie. Growing up in Texas, I’m very familiar with this type of food, so opted for a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, which was savory and delicious.

Long Beach, California

There is dining outside as well as inside, and The Attic is pet friendly. At 6:30 p.m. on a Monday night there was a bit of a line outside, but service was quick. Patrons appeared to be mostly neighborhood people – to me, the sign of a good restaurant.

The Attic on Urbanspoon

The Attic
3441 E. Broadway
www.theatticonbroadway.com

Long Beach Harbor

Only 30 minutes south of Los Angeles
, and thirty minutes west of Orange County, Long Beach is a great destination in itself, and a good place to take day trips to other points of interest in southern California.

To get there fly into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), rent a car and drive south – or you can fly directly into Long Beach Airport, (LGB).

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33 comments

Barbara Radisavljevic March 23, 2017 at 4:12 pm

I grew up half an hour from Long Beach and we visited someone there every Sunday. That was back in the 1940’s and 1950’s. We often went to the pike, and it was certainly much different then. We lived in Long Beach for two years in the 1060’s while we attended grad school and I taught a both Poly and Jordan High Schools. I last visited Downtown Long Beach in 1990, and I didn’t recognize it. We rarely go back now, even though both of our children are buried at Forest Lawn Sunnyside. I rather liked the old Long Beach, though I’m sure I’d like the aquarium. That was built since we left.

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Penny Sadler March 23, 2017 at 4:54 pm

I have traveled in and out of Long Beach a lot since the 1990s. I didn’t remember much of it and really enjoyed my time there. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. California is awesome.

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Sharon Greenthal July 10, 2015 at 9:07 pm

I just moved to Long Beach last week – though we’ve been Long Beach-adjacent for 25 years. I would add that 2nd Street in Belmont Shore (a few blocks from me!) is a great place for shopping, dining, cocktails and people-watching – and it’s only a few blocks from the beach.

Great info!

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Penny Sadler July 11, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I love California. I wanted to spend more time exploring the neighborhoods. They make Long Beach unique.

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Kerry Tiffany June 26, 2015 at 12:12 pm

I have lived in California all my life and thank you Shelia for the wonderful,
Long Beach write up, my family, friends, and I have enjoyed seeing how it has changed and become a beautiful shinning star in California. I love to go down to the marine and the Queen Mary area. The City has really worked so
wonderfully to make it a beautiful tourist and family area for the community.

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Penny Sadler June 26, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Hi Kerry
Thanks for the comments. I can tell you love your city. FYI I’m the author and my name is Penny. 🙂

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Rena McDaniel September 4, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I am planning a cross-country trip next fall and this has to be included! Thank you so much for this review!

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Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Hey Rena, really glad to hear it inspired you. Let me know if you go.

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Lori Lavender Luz September 4, 2014 at 11:56 am

Consider my appetite for Long Beach whetted.

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Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Such an ideal location lots to do there and then there’s LA only 30 minutes away.

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Carol Cassara September 4, 2014 at 11:35 am

Long Beach isn’t famous but it IS fun!

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Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

Exactly!

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Karen September 4, 2014 at 9:54 am

Amazing! And I had no idea the Queen Mary was still intact. My great-uncle Robert Beaufin Irving was her captain starting in 1937…and then became Commodore of the Cunard White Star Fleet.

Now I really want to go to Long Beach….

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Penny Sadler September 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

A lot of people don’t know about the Queen Mary. She is really interesting and worth seeing if you are in the area. I’d recommend an overnight stay and exploring Long Beach. Fun city!

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Jim Thornburg August 20, 2014 at 4:59 pm

You went to The Attic and didn’t get one of their famous loaded Bloody Mary’s? Although your post seems to be the family friendly approach to visiting Long Beach, so maybe it wasn’t appropriate. Anybody else thinking about visiting Long Beach should also make a trip to Belmont Shore for more eating and shopping! And if you’re going to The Pike (not to be confused with The Pike Bar (on 4th Street)), meander on over to Shoreline Village for (everybody now) eating and shopping.

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Penny Sadler August 20, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Jim, Thanks for the great tips. The people sitting next to me ordered those Bloody Mary’s and they did look great. I didn’t have one though because I had to drive from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley after dinner. Next time I will definitely go to Belmont Shore.

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Mary @Green Global Travel August 10, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I had no idea you could see blue whales off the coast of California. Thanks for the great wrap-up of things to do in Long Beach.

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Penny Sadler August 10, 2014 at 3:13 pm

HI Mary, quite a few people were surprised by this. Glad I could shed some light. Hope more people will check it out!

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Doreen Pendgracs August 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Great post, and Thx for stirring up some memories for me! We actually stayed on the Queen Mary many years ago on our last visit to Long Beach. Time for a return visit!

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Penny Sadler August 10, 2014 at 1:44 pm

Doreen, thanks for visiting the blog! I really enjoyed the Queen Mary and would recommend at least one of the tours. They have a lot to offer. By the way, I see you blog about one of my favorite topics, chocolate! You should check out chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara. http://www.adventuresofacarryon.com/2012/08/28/explore-santa-barbara/

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Lillie - @WorldLillie August 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Excellent advice. Thanks!

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Lex @LexParadise August 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm

Wow, never knew that there are some many things to do and see in Long Beach California! I will let you know if I am heading there 😉

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Penny Sadler August 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Happy to help!

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Casey @ A Cruising Couple August 7, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Awesome tips! I would love to spend at least 36 hours in Long Beach 🙂

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Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com August 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm

I can see why you would want to be based here. So many things to do! And I would love to do the paranormal experience tour!

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Penny Sadler August 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

If you go to Long Beach let me know and I will be happy to help. It was interesting. Can’t wait to finish sorting through my notes and recordings.

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Tom Bentley (@bentguy1) August 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Penny, loved reading about my hometown. But you should have seen the Pike when I was a teenager: it was the home of a famous, rickety old wooden roller-coaster (source of a few deaths), crazy carnival rides, tattoo parlors and bars. I loved it! It was where we suburban kids went to be bad. Or where we wanted to be bad. Glad you had fun in LB.

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Penny Sadler August 7, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Hi Tom, thanks! Yes, the Pike looks pretty cleaned up these days. Sounds fun though!

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Gran Canaria Local August 4, 2014 at 5:31 pm

You certainly put in the legwork on this post, Penny. Impeccably researched, as always. And lovely photos.

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Cassie August 4, 2014 at 2:27 pm

Glad you loved Long Beach! I lived there for a few years before and during grad school and spent many an hour studying in those 4th St. coffee shops! Some other favorite spots are the Museum of Latin American Art, the large Cambodian community and restaurants centered around Anaheim Street, and the Belmont Shore neighborhood.

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Penny Sadler August 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm

I do with I’d had more time!

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Maria Falvey August 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Penny you know how to pack a punch in travel. With only 36 hours you accomplished so much, wow! I love the sound of The Attic and their menu.

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Penny Sadler August 4, 2014 at 1:05 am

Haha. Yes, I did cover a lot of ground.

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