Long Beach is a great day or weekend trip if you are in the L.A. area. Just half an hour away from downtown Los Angeles Long Beach feels light years away with it’s laid back atmosphere, beautiful ocean views and breathtaking sunsets. Art, music, festivals and lots of dining, shopping and recreation options make this a great destination. During a recent business trip to LA I was yearning to escape the city, I have to admit I am not a huge LA fan, and Long Beach seemed to be the perfect place to go. During the summer people flock to the Long Beach beaches but even when the weather is a bit cooler there are so many things to do in Long Beach!
I only had a couple of days so I did not get to see everything but I really enjoyed how Long Beach seems to blends an urban and beach town feel with enough diversity to make this destination not only a great place for relaxing and winding down but also rich with art and culture.
The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is a 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, Ferris wheel and open-air marketplace, The Pike is one of the most unique waterfront locations on the West Coast. I enjoyed walking along the waterfront, watching the boats and taking in the beautiful sunset views, even thought the weather was a bit chilly and with so much to do you won’t even miss going to the beach.
Take a stroll along the Shoreline Aquatic Park and enjoy the view of the lighthouses. The Long Beach Harbor Lighthouse is not specially pretty: a industrial looking structure knows as the robot lighthouse. However there are two attractive faux lighthouses located in Long Beach Harbor one is the Parkers’ Lighthouse Restaurant, which you can see in the middle of the photograph with a red roof and on the right and the Lions Lighthouse for Sight, which was made possible largely through funds raised by the local Lions Club; this attractive fake lighthouse acts as the focal point of the Shoreline Aquatic park and gives the harbor a picturesque and charming character.
Visit the legendary Queen Mary or even better, stay for the night! A visit to this floating museum and hotel is a must for anyone visiting Long Beach. The famous 1930’s british ocean liner, prematurely docked here since the 60’s is a testament to a long gone era. You can tour the boat and delight in it’s beautiful art deco decor and history or, for the more adventurous crowd, you can take one of the ghost tours. I stayed there for a night and have to say the experience was truly memorable and if you are visiting Long Beach you really can not miss going to this floating museum!
The view from the boat is simply breathtaking and you can see more pictures and a full review of my experience at the Queen Mary on my article HERE.
Enjoy the sunset while you dine at Shoreline Village. Shoreline Village is a waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment center that overlooks Long Beach’s beautiful Rainbow Harbor. Styled after a quaint Cape Cod fishing village, it’s the perfect place to sit down for a drink while watching the sunset behind the light house. You can browse the quaint stores or rent a bike to explore the Long Beach coastline. There is also a entertainment area for the kids that includes an antique carrousel. I dined at Parker’s Light House restaurant, which has a beautiful view of the harbor and of the Queen Mary in the distance and the clam chowder and the oysters where to die for!
Take a day or weekend trip to Santa Catalina Island. Just an hour boat ride away from Long Beach, Santa Catalina island is the perfect place to spend the day or a weekend relaxing and walking around the picturesque town of Avalon. With a mediterranean feel to it Avalon is a charming town filled with winding streets, quaint stores and great restaurants. From glass bottom boats and scuba diving to zip lines and buffalo watching tours, there is so much to do in Catalina Island you might want to consider spending more than a day. To get there board the Catalina Express which makes trips to the island a few times a day. The trip aboard the Catalina Express is not only quick and comfortable, specially if you upgrade to the Commodore lounge which is totally worth the extra $15, but you will get to enjoy the beautiful view of Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor and maybe even catch a glimpse of some local marine wildlife. On my trip to Catalina Island I saw dolphins, a seal and even a whale!
I loved the laid back and charming island and visiting in winter was wonderful as it was not over run with tourists and I was able to really enjoy the town. Although the cold weather might deter you from some water activities there is still so much to see and do!
Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. Considered one of the best aquariums in the United States the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to over 500 species and celebrates the largest body of water with exhibits that explore the waters of Southern California the Northern Pacific and the Tropical Pacific. The Aquarium of the Pacific has lots of interactive activities from petting stingrays and sharks to feeding the lorikeets. You can also take whale watching and sea life cruises right from the aquarium.
Take a whale watching or nature cruise. The California coastline is brimming with wild life and seasonal migrations of gray whales, blue whales and humpback whales that travel south to mate before returning to northern waters with their calves swim just a few miles from the coast. Whale watching and wildlife expeditions depart from Long Beach in search for whales, dolphins, porpoises, sea lions, harbor seals and other marine life. In the wintertime you can find Gray whales as they migrate south south toward Mexico in the early winter and return to Alaska in February and March. In summer you can you can see Blue whales.
I was in Long Beach in late January and though I did not have the time to take a whale watching tour I did see grey whales and dolphins as I traveled to Catalina Island on the Catalina Express. It was my first time seeing a whale in the wild and I was so excited. If you go remember to dress warmly, no matter the time of the year as temperature in the open ocean drop significantly and be ready with that camera, make sure you have a good zoom lens, as the whales surface for only a few seconds.
Cruise the canals of Naples island on a gondola. Naples is a neighborhood in Long Beach that is built along three islands on Alamitos Bay, here you can cruise through the canals lined by charming houses in a genuine Venetian gondola. For a more romantic experience make sure to catch the sunset while riding on a gondola.
Long Beach is only a half hour drive from LA, you can even take the METRO. If you are staying downtown there are lots of options when it comes to transportation so there is no need for a car. Passport buses are free within downtown and very affordable to go elsewhere. The Aquabus water taxi is only $1 and will take you from downtown to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, Shoreline Village and Pine Avenue Circle. If you are headed to Naples or the Alamitos bay you can take the Aqualink water taxi for only $5 . The Aqualink and the Aquabus do not operate year round so make sure to check their websites.