Long Beach, California (known as the “LBC” by locals) is a city of about half a million people in Los Angeles (LA) County, directly south of Downtown LA. Long Beach is best known for its picturesque views, urban waterfront attractions, like the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, but despite being the sixth largest city in California, it has a small-town, provincial feel, with bike-friendly streets, active neighborhood associations, and artist collectives. It has more music and cultural festivals every year than anywhere else in Southern California. Its thriving dining and entertainment scene includes famed dive bars and live music venues that have launched a number of notable bands. The city also hosts the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that turns downtown streets into a race course every April. And of course, a great beach to have fun at.
Board the Queen Mary
The Queen Mary is a luxury ocean liner that is now permanently docked in the LBC. The ship is rumored to be haunted and offers daily tours as well as nighttime ghost tours for those who aren’t afraid of the dark. Overnight stays are available in the ship’s staterooms, and packages that include breakfast, a tour, or a Catalina Island excursion are also bookable. Even if you’re not staying overnight, you can still drink and dine on board at Sir Winston’s lounge, the Chelsea Chowder House, or the observation bar.
Hit the Beach
The beaches in Long Beach offer a variety of activities like biking, skating, and kiteboarding. However, since the beaches are sheltered by a breakwater, there are no large waves—so don’t expect to hang ten here. While this is disappointing for surfers, the calm water makes LBC’s beaches popular for families or beginner swimmers.
Have a Picnic in Bluff Park
If you want to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean without getting sandy, a visit to the grassy Bluff Park is a must-do. The bluff’s paved sidewalk makes it a favorite spot for romantic sunset walks and picnics that can be enjoyed on the green.
Stroll the Boardwalk at Shoreline Village
Shoreline Village’s boardwalk is dotted with funky shops, family-friendly attractions, restaurants, and bars, all along the Shoreline Marina. There is a carousel, an arcade, and rentals for powerboats, Jet skis, electric boats, kayaks, sailboats, and more can be arranged right from the marina. The village also hosts live music on most summer weekends and during the Christmas season.
Take a Whale-Watching Cruise
A wide variety of boat tours and harbor cruises depart from Long Beach, but the whale-watching tours are the most popular with visitors. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to see any of the following whale species: Gray, blue, fin, humpback, minke, or killer whales (orcas). Many other creatures are also commonly spotted while searching for whales and can include common, bottlenose, Risso’s, or Pacific white-sided dolphins, stingrays, and pinnipeds.
Explore Naples Island
Naples Island is comprised of three islands in Alamitos Bay in Long Beach. When most people talk about visiting Naples Island, they are referring to the inner island, which is accessible by car. The island has a walkway that takes visitors past million-dollar mansions, picturesque bridges, and grand yachts, creating a beautiful setting for a sunset walk. During the Christmas season, visitors flock to the island to see the decorated houses along the water and take in the festive boat parade that goes past the outer and inner islands.
Visit the Museum of Latin American Art
Visit the only museum in the United States dedicated to contemporary Latin American art. The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) has an outstanding collection of modern paintings and a permanent collection of sculptures displayed in the museum’s courtyard garden.
Take in the Views at Lighthouse Park
You can’t climb the lighthouse in Lighthouse Park (also known as ShoreLine Aquatic Park), but this tiny peninsula jutting into Rainbow Harbor is a popular place for skateboarding, checking out the view of the Queen Mary and Rainbow Harbor, and picnicking. This park is one of the best viewing areas for the Queen Mary’s Independence Day fireworks show, so every year the park fills with people beginning at sunset.
Party on Pine Avenue
Pine Avenue is the hub of Downtown Long Beach dining and nightlife, with a plethora of mostly independent casual and fine dining restaurants, live music venues, and nightclubs. Pine Avenue hosts numerous special events and festivals throughout the year including Thunder Thursday, the opening ceremonies of the Long Beach Grand Prix, food festivals, and summer music events.
Catch a show at the Performing Arts Center
There is no shortage of great live performances in Long Beach. Housed within the Long Beach Convention Center, the Long Beach Performing Arts Center encompasses the Terrace Theater, which hosts traveling Broadway musicals, concerts (including major children’s productions), and the Center Theatre, home to the award-winning International City Theatre that hosts both plays and musicals.
The Carpenter Performing Arts Center, which is located at California State University, Long Beach, is the home of Musical Theatre West and presents performances by their in-house musical theater company. Long Beach Playhouse is a community theater that lets locals shine on stage with high-quality performances presented throughout the year on the main stage or in one of the more intimate studio theaters.
Shop at the Pike Outlets
If you’ve had enough sight-seeing and itching to do some retail therapy, be sure to stop by the Pike Outlets. The Pike Outlets at Rainbow Harbor is a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex across from the Long Beach Convention Center. In addition to outlet stores like Restoration Hardware and H&M and restaurants such as Auld Dubliner Irish Pub, there are also many other activities to partake in at this shopping center. There’s a movie theater, giant Ferris wheel, and a comedy club called the Long Beach Laugh Factory. The Cyclone Bridge pays homage to the site’s former amusement park and connects the Pike with Rainbow Harbor.