It wasn’t a long visit to Long Beach, California. I was to stay overnight before I headed across to Catalina Island. I didn’t know what to expect as I couldn’t quite get the gist of the geography – where’s the beach? I could see the bay from my hotel and in the distance the static Queen Mary, and the bay turned into the ocean . . . maybe it’s time to explore.
My expectations were average and it wasn’t until I was given a quick tour of downtown by my friend who is an enthusiastic local that I began to absorb the charm of this quiet achiever. Long Beach doesn’t have the bold sprawl of Los Angeles, nor the confined slick commercialism of Beverly Hiills, it almost feels familiar to a Sydney girl.
Downtown is pretty cool and ultimately walkable. The cafes, restaurants, galleries and boutiques of Fourth Street (retro row) are accessible and the county of Long Beach has many little urban pockets that are charming and offer several worldly experiences ranging from romantic rides in sleek Italian gondolas followed by dinner at one of the fine Italian restaurants, Michael’s on Naples and L’Opera Ristorante, to tasting tapas, sipping Sangria and watching live Flamenco dancers at the famed Spanish eateries Café Sevilla or Alegria Cocina Latina.
The Dog Beach.
I experienced transatlantic history aboard the majestic Queen Mary for a night. I had dinner onboard, slept in an original cabin (the bed was new) and took a tour around the old girl. She was still well-mannered and royal but looking a little tired. But the good news is she’s in the middle of a major makeover. This is worth a night to remember and you are on one of the finest ships ever built and – you won’t get seasick.
On deck on the Queen Mary.
Looking across to the Queen Mary from the Maya Hotel.
Told ya so! Named one of the ‘Most Walkable’ Cities in America by Walkscore.com, Long Beach boasts more than 120 quality restaurants within an eight-block area in the downtown waterfront, top hotel brands, along with dynamic shopping and entertainment options along the shoreline. Stroll the 5½ mile (8.8km) beach path that has stunning views of the Pacific coastline. And for some retail therapy – The Pike Outlets feature name brand merchandise at great prices, or take a stroll down 4th Street’s Funky Retro Row or Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street, two popular districts offering myriad boutique shops and eclectic restaurants.
Averaging 345 days of sunshine per year Long Beach, with its comfortable Mediterranean climate, is ideal for a winter escape to defrost and decompress.
Wall art downtown.
LONG BEACH IS BIKE FRIENDLY
Long Beach is listed as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. An expanding Bike Share program is available to residents and visitors. With a simple swipe of a credit card, visitors can rent bikes at a nominal fee and explore throughout the city. Additionally, the bikes can be returned to any bike station throughout the city.
Looking out from the porthole of the Queen Mary in the morning – this is the ‘June gloom, a fine misty fog that creeps in from the Pacific Ocean at this time of year.
LONG BEACH: “THE URBAN WATERFRONT PLAYGROUND”
Centrally located between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach boasts the ambiance of a sophisticated urban centre and the charm of an ocean side community. Long Beach’s downtown waterfront sets a new standard for “walk-ability,” with first-class accommodations, shopping, dining, and seaside sightseeing, just steps from each other. Located 40 minutes from Universal Studios and 30 minutes from Disneyland, Long Beach’s attractions include: The Queen Mary, featuring a hotel, exceptional restaurants and historical tours, Aquarium of the Pacific, a world-class facility home to more than11,000 inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean, several museums including the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) and Second Street in nearby Belmont Shore, the quintessential beachfront community. With 345 days of sunshine, the Mediterranean climate makes Long Beach the ultimate year-round playground.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, LONG BEACH!
And of course you never know who you will run into here – with its sparkling waterfront, diverse architecture and film-friendly weather, Long Beach has been a popular location for filming television and movies, including recent features: Iron Man, Knight and Day, Transformers 2 and 3, and Star Trek.
Located less than 30 miles from Hollywood production studios, Long Beach has been and still is the backdrop for many TV shows, including Miami for Dexter and CSI Miami. NCIS: Los Angeles, True Blood and Criminal Minds also filmed in the city. It’s not uncommon to see camera crews in Belmont Shore, Alamitos Bay Marina and on Shoreline Drive for coastal stand-in locations and downtown Long Beach’s East Village Arts District or Third, Cedar and Pine Avenues for urban settings.
SUSTAINABLE LONG BEACH
Don’t be fooled by the blue skies – Long Beach is a green city! Home to the LEED-certified Aquarium of the Pacific, regal Queen Mary and solar-paneled Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA), several green certified hotels, sustainable seafood serving restaurants and much more — Long Beach is definitely a green city by the sea.
THE QUEEN MARY
Arriving in Long Beach in 1967 after a distinguished 30-year career as a Trans-Atlantic liner and a Wold War II troopship, the Queen Mary has become a centerpiece of the downtown waterfront. As the fastest and most elegant ship afloat during the heyday of trans-Atlantic travel, the Queen carried the rich and famous as well as thousands of tourists and immigrants. Today, the Queen can still transport her passengers to a bygone era via history and imagination. Visitors to the Queen Mary can stay on board in one of 360 converted 1st class staterooms, dine in the ship’s restaurants and shop on the Promenade Deck. Guided and walking tours bring back the grand history of this famous ship. The Ghosts & Legends show and tour conjures up some of the ship’s ghostly passengers.
AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is also a world-class educational and research facility. The Aquarium staff received global attention when they became the first to breed weedy sea dragons (a cousin of the seahorse) in captivity. Exhibit areas are divided by Pacific Ocean regions and feature fish, birds, and mammals from each region. At Shark Lagoon visitors can actually touch several varieties of sharks and rays. In the Lorikeet Forest, these colorful little parrots from down under can be fed by hand.
Join in the fun and excitement of viewing some of the earth’s most incredible sea mammals, year round off the coast of Long Beach. From June through October, visitors can expect to see and learn about Blue Whales, the largest animals to have ever lived on this planet. From December through mid-May the California Gray Whales pass close by Long Beach on their annual migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
THE CALIFORNIA DREAM IS AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
From sandy beaches to eclectic neighbourhoods, Long Beach offers the great adventures of a big city with the laid-back atmosphere of a resort town. You can be as active as you wish or just sit back and bask in the sunshine. Long Beach gets 345 days of sunshine each year. Seldom is an outdoor activity ruined by weather. Stroll, rollerblade or pedal down the bike path winding along more than five miles of beachfront.
ARTS & CULTURE
Long beach boasts five distinctive museums, The Long Beach Museum of Art, perched atop the bluffs with spectacular Pacific Ocean views, the Museum of Latin American Art, the only museum of its kind in the country, the Pacific Islands Ethnic Art Museum, the University Art Museum on the campus of Cal State Long Beach, and the Long Beach Historical Society Museum. Long Beach aso has two historic Spanish-era Ranchos, complete with adobe ranch houses and formal gardens. Rich in history and diversity, our city offers unique neighborhoods to explore, from the whimsical East Village Arts District, to effervescent Belmont Shore, the ultimate beach community. Long Beach is proud to have its own symphony orchestra, municipal band, opera, ballet and numerous theatrical, dance and performing arts troupes.
LONG BEACH IS ‘PAWS-A-TIVELY’ PET FRIENDLY!
I know we can’t travel with our dogs from Australia – but if you need a froendly pooch fix head the the beach! Recognized four years in a row by Dog Fancy Magazine as one of the most dog-friendly cities in America, Long Beach is full of treasures that Fido and family alike can enjoy, ranging from pet friendly hotels, shopping, dining to dog parks and the only off leash dog beach in Los Angeles County!
This little fella was waiting patiently at the beach for an extended run.
50 THINGS TO DO IN LONG BEACH
- Immerse yourself with underwater life at the Aquarium of the Pacific with an interactive experience that has you swimming with the fishes, ogling otters, petting sharks and promenading with penguins.
2. Channel all your senses during the Paranormal Ship Walk Tour on The Queen Mary or step back into the glorious heyday of Trans-Atlantic travel on a historical ship tour.
- Cruise the Naples Canals in style with Gondola Getaway on romantic Italian gondolas.
- Visit the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), the only museum of its kind in the U.S., featuring art from Latin America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean.
- Enjoy “Breakfast on the Bluffs,” or lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean on Claire’s patio at the Long Beach Museum of Art, then stroll the museum’s captivating exhibitions.
- Explore the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM), showcasing sculptures, painting and carvings from across the Pacific.
- For a glimpse of today’s cutting-edge art, visit the University Art Museum on the Campus of Cal State Long Beach.
- Sail away to a “not so faraway” island. Catalina Express has daily high-speed catamaran service to the City of Avalon on Catalina Island. See where the film stars of yesteryears vacationed and where many celebrities of today still do.
- Walk, run, bike or skate along a 5 ½ mile beachfront bike and pedestrian path right on the sand. Wide separated lanes keep walkers and riders safe. Rent a bike, a pedal surrey or a Segway and explore our many downtown and shoreline bike paths.
- From Irish pubs to multi-million dollar dance clubs, piano bars to a sexy after hour lounge, dance your way through the many nightclubs and bars in downtown Long Beach.
- Let art and culture enrapture you as you take a walking tour through the East Village Art’s District.
- Celebrate with cocktails and take in the downtown skyline at The Sky Room.
- Keep steady doing stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking in Alamitos Bay.
- Visit the largest population of Cambodians outside of Phnom Penh at Cambodia Town. Enjoy exotic cuisine and unique shopping opportunities.
- Take a lesson in Kite Surfing on one of the best kite Surfing beaches in Southern California.
- Enjoy a scenic Sunday brunch at the Queen Mary, the Reef, Fuego at Hotel Maya, or the Queensview Steakhouse.
- Stroll one of the Most Walkable Cities in the U.S. (Downtown, Belmont Shore, Belmont Heights, Bixby Knolls and the East Side of Long Beach).
- Marvel at the Egyptian architectural style of the Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach. One of only three pyramids in the U.S., it is the largest space-frame structure in North America.
- See whales on the Long Beach Arena mural, “Planet Ocean,” by Wyland, which the Guinness Book of Records recorded as the World’s Largest Mural.
- Run, Forrest, Run! Not only can you enjoy a fun meal at Bubba Gump’s, you can also participate in the JetBlue Long Beach Marathon.
- Do a ‘tap dance’ at Yard House in Shoreline Village, boasting one of the largest selections of beers on tap in the world.
- Choose from more than 125 restaurants within an eight block area of downtown Long Beach; many of which have won accolades from the Southern California Restaurant Writers Association.
- Rent and drive your own electric Duffy Boat and cruise through the Naples canals.
- Come out and be proud; our Gay Pride Festival is one of the largest in the country.
- Get pickled eggs at legendary Joe Jost’s — one of Long Beach’s oldest bars.
- Have an “All Star” meal at Legends Sports Bar.
- Drive ‘round and ‘round the Long Beach Traffic Circle.
- Take a refreshing water taxi cruise around the Long Beach Harbor and Alamitos Bay aboard the AquaBus or the high-speed Aqualink
- Golf is par for the course in Long Beach. Enjoy the great outdoors with five public golf courses.
- Watch the boats go by while sitting under the lighthouse at Shoreline Aquatic Park in Rainbow Harbor.
- Place your bid during the Koi Fish Auction at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens at Cal State Long Beach.
- Explore the vibrancy of downtown Long Beach at night with its array of multi-colored LED lighting.
- Take your favorite Fido to Rosie’s Dog Beach, the only off-leash dog beach in Los Angeles County.
- Taste the world (and leave your Passport at home) by savoring International eateries along Pine Avenue: George’s Greek Café, L’Opera, Alegria, Gaucho Grill, and Wokcano.
- Enjoy sumptuous seafood while overlooking the marina and Rainbow Harbor at Parker’s Lighthouse.
- Take Salsa lessons and dance the night away at Café Sevilla.
- Explore Southern California history at Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos.
- Let your inner child soar freely with a Ferris wheel ride at the Pike Outlets at Rainbow Harbor.
- Put the pedal to the metal and watch the checkered-flag soar at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. If squealing tires and burning rubber are your “thing,” don’t miss our Formula Drift
- Buy some new “old” threads at the vintage shops along Funky 4th Street’s Retro Row.
- Explore the Pacific Ocean and enjoy Harbor Breeze whale watching cruises year-round off the coast of Long Beach.
- Stroll Shoreline Village’s boardwalk and discover an array of waterfront restaurants, plus shops featuring gifts, souvenirs, collectibles, hats, gourmet chocolates and much more.
- Get acquainted with the abundant great green outdoors with the city’s many parks and gardens that feature fishing lakes, picnic shelters and bike trails.
- Unleash your appetite at the many food festivals and tastings that occur throughout the year, including Belmont Shore’s Stroll & Savor and Taste of Downtown.
45. Rev up those muscle cars and take in the Belmont Shore Car Show, the largest one-day car show on the West Coast.
46. Stroll along downtown Long Beach’s beautifully landscaped and brightly lit Promenade, which stretches from Rainbow Harbor to CityPlace on 6th Stop and enjoy some of the great eateries along the way: SIP at the Renaissance Hotel, The Stave Wine Bar, Beachwood BBQ & Brewery and Michael’s Pizzeria.
47. Pedal across Alamitos Bay and through the Naples canals on your self-powered Hydro-Bike.
48. Join the fun on the “first Friday” of every month in Bixby Knolls. Shops and restaurants stay open late as folks stroll along Atlantic Avenue while being entertained by live bands and entertainers.
49. Get “inked” at Outer Limits Tattoos, the oldest tattoo parlor in the U.S.
50. Last but not least…just go outside and bask in Long Beach’s near perfect climate. With 345 days of sunshine each year, seldom is any outdoor activity ruined by bad weather, so have fun in the sun.
Writer Bev Malzard got most of this fab info from the Long Beach Conventions & Visitors Bureau. But she did spend two days there being shown the local haunts by her friend who is a tried and true local!
Fave finds: the dog beach and an amazing diner called the Breakfast Bar (70 Atlantic Avenue; Long Beach) for waffles, eggs, French toast, chicken wings – all on one plate for brekkie – yay!