UPDATED: March 14, 2020
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. If I were 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.
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 sixth largest city in California. That’s a lot smaller than Los Angeles but still large enough to have an exciting 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 an 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.
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! This tour is getting a lot of national attention, so if ghostbusting is one of your interests, be sure to sign up for this tour.
UPDATE: This tour is no longer open.
Another popular tour is the Princess Diana Tour. For Anglophiles this is a must. The extensive collection includes over 2,000 artifacts including clothing, personal letters, dolls and collectibles. 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.
1126 Queens Hwy.
The Aquarium of the Pacific
Educating and entertaining visitors about the Pacific Ocean and its inhabitants, this is the fourth most visited aquarium in the U.S. The Aquarium of the Pacific offers over 50 exhibits, many of them interactive. One of the most fun exhibits is the Moon Jellies, located outside near the Lorikeet forest. You can gently put your hands in the water to touch the jellies because Moon Jellies will not sting you. We were there at feeding time so the orange color you see in the center of the jellies is food.
New to the aquarium is the Pacific Visions Theater. A massive curved screen, floor projection, and multisensory effects create a 3D experience that explores ideas for a sustainable future for all. This is a beautifully done film that left me feeling hopeful about the future and our planet.
Tip: The best seats are at the top.
100 Aquarium Way
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.
Harbor Breeze is adjacent to the aquarium.
100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2
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.
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 an open-air marketplace, The Pike is one of the most unique waterfront locations on the West Coast.
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 & skateboards, 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.
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.
3440 E. Broadway
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
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 I opted for a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, which was savory and delicious.
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.
3441 E. Broadway
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).