Just half an hour from Los Angeles, Long Beach is a beachfront gem you’ll want to add to your California itinerary. It offers beautiful beaches and marinas along with a busy dining and shopping scene that perfectly blends big city sophistication with beach town fun.
Tour the Queen Mary, the legendary, permanently docked ocean liner or relax with a drink in the ship’s Observation Bar—for truly unique accommodations, you can even stay overnight in one of the ship’s staterooms or suites. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, Southern California’s largest aquarium and home to playful sea otters, Magellanic penguins, and a 1.3million-litre Tropical Reef Habitat, which holds thousands of colorful fish, coral, sea turtles, and sharks.
Looking for some retail therapy instead? Shop designer favorites at Pike Outlets or search for the perfect retro finds at the vintage boutiques along Long Beach’s Fourth Street. Or try your hand at kitesurfing on Long Beach’s Belmont Shores, one of the best places in the state for beginners to learn the sport thanks to the protective breakwater that blocks major waves.
Above all, enjoy eating your way through the city’s culinary delights from the classic waterfront Parkers’ Lighthouse in Shoreline Village to the modern SteelCraft, an urban eatery in Bixby Knolls, to the rooftop Sky Room, an Art Deco bar and dining room, 14 stories atop the Breakers Hotel in downtown Long Beach. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend, a family reunion destination, or just a getaway with the kids, Long Beach has the food, fun, and sun for your perfect next Southern California trip.
With more than 18 kilometres of sandy shorelines and sparkling bays, Long Beach is the perfect place to enjoy time both in and on the water. From standup paddleboards to sailboats, harbour cruises to romantic gondola rides, Long Beach offers waterfront activities for everyone.
Thanks to a protective breakwater built by the U.S. Navy during World War II, Long Beach’s sandy shores are a great choice for families. Protected from major waves and without riptides, shorelines like Alamitos Beach, Marine Park (aka Mother’s Beach), and Belmont Shore Beach provide plenty of space for sunbathing or sand castle building and calm waters for families with small children to enjoy the beach without the worry of wipe-out.
Water sports and tours
Always wanted to learn how to kitesurf? That same breakwater that makes the shoreline safe for little ones also makes Long Beach’s Belmont Shores one of the best places for beginners to learn the sport. Try out a 90-minute Discovery lesson with SoCal Kitesurfing or jump into a three-hour group lesson with Captain Kirks. Visitors can also rent standup paddleboards, kayaks, Aqua bikes, Duffy electric boats, and other watercraft in Rainbow Marina.
If being on the water is more your vacationing style, a guided 45-minute harbour tour from Harbor Breeze Cruises will help you get your bearings in town and learn about the history and marine life of the Long Beach waterfront. Or choose one of their three-hour whale-watching tours. Look for gray whales December through April, the mighty blue whales June through October, and an endless supply of dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life all year. Make reservations online for the best deal. Looking for something even grander? Charter a sailboat through the Harbor Yacht Club or Pacific Sailing for a day or overnight trip to Catalina Island.
Looking for a little romance on your visit to Long Beach? An authentic Venetian gondola ride with Gondola Getaway is a must-do. The one-hour gondola rides take groups of two to six passengers through the canals of Naples with views of million-dollar homes, luxurious yachts, and bridges arching over the canals. Pack your own appetisers and wine to enjoy on the boat (they’ll provide glasses and an ice bucket!) for a romantic start to a Long Beach evening or book a Brunch or Pizza Cruise. Larger groups in town for weddings and other events can hire multiple boats at once or the larger “Carolina” that holds up to 15 people. If you’re lucky, you might even get serenaded by your gondolier!
Get around town
The Long Beach waterways are also a great way to get around the city without getting in your car. From Rainbow Harbor, visitors can hop on the Aquabus, a 49-passenger boat that travels between Rainbow Harbor, the Queen Mary, Hotel Maya, and the Catalina Landing, or the AquaLink, a 79-passenger high speed catamaran that travels between Rainbow Harbor, the Queen Mary, Vet’s Pier, and Alamitos Bay.
A secret gem along the Los Angeles County Coast, this expansive complex along the Long Beach waterfront showcases marine life from around the world. Banish the thought of little square tanks with plastic labels identifying puny schools fish; this aquarium joins the ranks of the world’s best, with enormous floor-to-ceiling windows letting you peer into entire underwater ecosystems. Step inside to walk beneath life-size whale models hung from the ceiling, or to peer into the room-size, neon-bright coral reef exhibit, swirling with colourful fish. Exhibits continue outside, including a Magellanic penguin enclosure, where can watch the comical birds swim underwater as well as waddle on land. Touch pools filled with tidal creatures let kids get a closer look at native creatures living along the Southern California coast.
Special events include guest lectures on everything from global warming to saving sea turtles. Check ahead for free, open-to-all-ages Friday evening events around the Shark Lagoon, where you’ll be able to touch harmless bamboo sharks and bigger species as well as rays in the aquarium’s Shark Lagoon. Nightlife in the Long Beach area gets a boost from the aquarium’s monthly Night Dive event, open to ages 18 and over, with live bands, DJs, and other activities.
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, Long Beach offers a diverse selection of dishes to satisfy any palette. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant that will be good for the kids, a romantic dinner with a view, or the perfect spot for brunch, Long Beach offers visitors an array of flavours, venues, and price ranges.
With 18 kilometres of shoreline and more than two dozen waterfront restaurants, there are lots of ways to enjoy upscale waterfront dining in Long Beach. Head down to Shoreline Village for mesquite-grilled seafood, sushi, steaks, and more at Parkers’ Lighthouse, including its award-winning, two-story wine cellar. Or stop by the east bank of Alamitos Bay to enjoy the open-view kitchen and bayside views of the Boathouse on the Bay. Don’t want to break the bank for a water view? Grab breakfast or lunch at Plunge or lobster bisque and a cold brew at Belmont Brewing Company. After a long day of exploring, enjoy a walk down the Pine Avenue Pier and dinner at Gladstone’s. Splurge big with fine dining aboard the Queen Mary at Sir Winston's or head 14 stories above the city to The Sky Room atop the Breakers Hotel for a romantic dinner or a cocktail on the rooftop UP Lounge to catch the sunset.
Families with young kids will find plenty of options to keep young visitors happy and best of all, full. For delicious chips and salsa, and an array of Mexican favorites, head to Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in Bixby or 4th Street for kids’ menus and available high chairs. Or try brunch on the outdoor patio at Restauration on 4th Street that gives kids room to roam. Families will also enjoy kid-friendly chains like Famous Dave’s BBQ and Bubba Gump Shrimp, both conveniently located near the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Second Street eats
Eating your way down Second Street is the perfect way to spend a Long Beach day. In between bites, you can browse boutiques, catch some live street corner music, people watch, and soak in some Southern California culture. Start with a quick breakfast burrito from Sacho’s Tacos and a cup of Joe from Polly’s Gourmet Coffee, or enjoy a leisurely brunch of Surf & Turf Benedict or a Ratatouille Omelet at The Attic. At noon, stop by Tavern on 2 for craft beers and the bowl of their famous spicy chicken tortilla soup. Then finish off your Second Street eating extravaganza with homey Italian dishes at La Strada or a seasonally inspired dish from Saint & Second, including creative cocktails like the Chipotle Pineapple Collins.
If you’re new to Long Beach, you may want to explore one of the city’s restaurant newcomers as well. With a nod to the city’s shipping industry, try out SteelCraft, an urban outdoor eatery in the Bixby Knolls neighbourhood or sample the innovative vegan cuisine at Seabirds Kitchen on 4th Street. Constructed out of 12 metre shipping containers, SteelCraft has restaurants offering artisan burgers, pizza, Hawaiian shaved ice, handmade chocolate, Japanese ramen, Steelhead Coffee, Smog City Brewery, and even gourmet waffles.
Named as one of the Most Walkable Neighbourhoods in America by WalkScore.com, Long Beach is the ideal location to stroll and shop. With a variety of distinct shopping areas to explore, everyone from vintage lovers and bargain hunters to outlet fanatics and luxury shoppers can satisfy their itch to shop.
Vintage lovers rejoice! Known as Retro Row, the growing retail area along 4th Street between Walnut and Junipero is a three-block collection of eclectic shops boasting kitschy collectibles, vintage threads, and retro finds. Hit up Moxi Roller Skate Shop for lessons and sweet wheels. Browse through vinyls at Third Eye Records or vintage apparel at Meow. Find a souvenir at Songbird Boutique or just grab a drink at one of the area’s many pubs and coffee shops and enjoy the people-watching.
Thanks to a $65 million update in 2015, Long Beach’s Pike Outlets offer even more shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy in a pedestrian-friendly setting. Located next to the Convention Center and Aquarium of the Pacific, The Pike Outlets satisfy shoppers with retailers like Restoration Hardware Outlet, H&M, Nike, Gap, Converse, Columbia Sportswear, and others. The outlets are even a great destination for an evening out in Long Beach. Start with a stroll along the waterfront, grab a pint at the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub, and then enjoy a night of standup at the Laugh Factory. The outlets also offer a range of events throughout the year, including the Urban Hive farmer’s market every fourth Friday of the month.
Second Street and its 15 intersecting side streets make up the charming business district of Belmont Shore. Running parallel to the Pacific Ocean, Second Street offers shoppers two-and-a-half kilometres of retail therapy opportunities. From well-known retailers like Banana Republic and The Body Shop to boutique shops specialising in everything from swimming and surfing apparel and accessories to the latest European clothing and jewelry designs, Second Street is a shopper’s paradise.