The Crown Jewels of Long Beach, CA: Exploring the City after Your Move

The Queen Mary in the Long Beach Harbor

Long Beach, California, is a mother lode of hidden gems and conspicuous crown jewels. We’re talking about interest points, not rubies. Things to do. Places to see.

Whether you’re a newcomer or long-time resident, the city offers many rewards, from picturesque waterfronts to world-class museums.

So get out, explore, and make the most of your home. Here are some choice destinations to get you started:

The Queen Mary

Permanently docked in Long Beach, this glamorous ocean liner is a walk through history.

Launched in 1934, it was the zenith of ocean travel during an era where crossing the Atlantic was reserved for the wealthy elite (unless you traveled in steerage).

Onboard, you can take guided tours to learn about its illustrious past, admire Art Deco design, and dine in style at one of the fine restaurants.

Take advantage of the eerie Ghosts and Legends tour, where you’ll hear tales of reported supernatural occurrences. There’s a hotel on board if you dare spend the night!

The Aquarium of the Pacific

This world-renowned aquarium is a must-visit for all ocean lovers. With more than 11,000 animals representing almost 500 species, the Aquarium of the Pacific provides a deep dive into the magical life under the sea.

From the Tropical Reef Habitat, where you can view underwater panoramas through giant panes of glass, to the amusing Sea Otter Habitat, a whole new ocean world is waiting to be explored. Check out the Shark Lagoon and touch the docile bamboo and epaulette sharks.

If you’re lucky, you might witness one of the daily animal feedings or glimpse an elusive giant Pacific octopus.

The Museum of Latin American Art

Located in downtown Long Beach, MOLAA is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to modern Latin American art.

It’s a feast for the eyes. A kaleidoscope of energetic art greets you at the door, capturing the spirit and soul of Latin America.

MOLAA hosts rotating exhibits, so there’s always something new to see. One day, you might be immersed in the bold abstract sculpture of a Brazilian artist, and the next, you might be viewing the ethereal landscapes of an Argentinian painter.

The museum regularly hosts lectures, live performances, and film screenings to give you deeper insight into Latin American culture. And it often sponsors workshops where you can roll up your sleeves and create your own modern masterpiece.

Belmont Shore

Belmont Shore, often called “The Shore” by locals, is a lively Long Beach neighborhood that encapsulates the Southern California vibe. This beachfront district teems with activity day and night, making it a popular destination for residents and tourists.

Belmont Shore is best known for its eclectic mix of chic boutiques, top-notch eateries, and dynamic nightlife.

But the charm of Belmont Shore extends beyond its urban attractions. Its gorgeous sandy beach is an idyllic spot for sunbathing, beach volleyball, or enjoying the sea breeze. The neighborhood is home to the Long Beach Dog Beach, so your furry friends can join the fun!

As daylight fades, the area transforms into an entertainment hub, with live music wafting from bars and clubs.

El Dorado Nature Park

El Dorado Nature Park is Long Beach’s slice of wilderness in the center of the urban landscape. This 105-acre wilderness area is a haven for nature lovers, bird watchers, and anyone looking to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.

The park offers many miles of trails meandering through forests, around lakes, and along streams — a true nature retreat. Keep your eyes peeled, and you might spot squirrels, turtles, rabbits, and over 100 species of birds.

At the end of your hike, visit the Nature Center to learn more about the local ecosystem. El Dorado Nature Park is a wealth of serene spaces and wildlife sightings. No wonder it’s dubbed the “El Dorado” — the golden one!

Naples Island

Say “Ciao!” to a piece of Italy right in the heart of Long Beach.

Naples Island is an unexpected but delightful pocket of European charm, known for its picturesque canals, charming walkways, and ritzy oceanfront houses. It’s one of Southern California’s most unusual residential areas, absolutely worth exploring.

Stroll along the waterfront or rent a gondola for a Venetian experience (singing is optional). The island also hosts an iconic Christmas Boat Parade — a real feast for the eyes!

Naples Island features some of the finest eateries in Long Beach, where you can indulge in everything from fresh seafood to classic Italian gelato.

Historic Rancho Los Cerritos

This historic living museum offers a glimpse into Southern California’s past. Initially built in 1844, the Rancho was part of a massive land grant used primarily for cattle ranching.
Today, it stands as a testament to the region’s rich history, serving as a public museum with beautifully preserved rooms that display the lifestyle of the 19th-century ranchers.

The expansive grounds are dotted with aged trees and feature a vibrant garden with native and exotic plants. Educational tours provide a wealth of information about the area’s culture and the Rancho’s history. Plus, the Rancho hosts various events throughout the year, from historical reenactments to concerts and workshops.

Bluff Park

Bluff Park, located along the coastline of Long Beach, offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Stroll along the manicured paths, lounge on one of the many benches as waves crash against the shoreline, or share a picnic lunch in the beautifully landscaped greenery.

Bluff Park also boasts a range of outdoor fitness equipment, making it a favorite spot for health enthusiasts. It’s home to the historic Lone Sailor Monument, a salute to all sea service personnel, and the best place in Long Beach for kite flying. And its proximity to the thriving downtown area means you’re always close to the city’s amenities.

Bixby Knolls

Bixby Knolls is locally famous for its strong sense of community and attractive, tree-lined streets. This area is a hub for arts, culture, and gastronomy, with its locally-owned boutiques, art galleries, and unique restaurants serving an array of mouthwatering cuisines.

Bixby Knolls hosts the popular First Fridays event — a monthly celebration where local businesses extend their hours, artists and musicians showcase their talents, and food trucks fill the streets with tasty treats.

With its singular mix of shopping, dining, and cultural experiences, Bixby Knolls offers a slice of the good life in Long Beach.

Rosie’s Dog Beach

This canine paradise is the only off-leash dog beach in Long Beach. Named after a Long Beach canine legend, this special place is all about high paws and sandy muzzles.

The beach offers an enclosed area where dogs can play freely, socialize, and splash around in the Pacific Ocean while their owners soak up the Southern California sun.

So grab your fur buddy’s favorite toy and head over to Rosie’s Dog Beach for a day filled with sandy paws, wagging tails, and shared stories among dog lovers.

Retro Row

Step into the past with a visit to Retro Row, an eclectic and funky neighborhood in Long Beach known for its vintage vibe.

It’s a treasure trove of unique finds, of antique and thrift shops where you can hunt for one-of-a-kind clothes, furniture, records, and all sorts of retro goodies.

Colorful murals, indie coffee shops, and charming eateries dot the landscape. The neighborhood’s Art Theatre, a local landmark dating back to 1924, screens classic films and independent cinema, adding to the area’s old-school appeal.

The East Village Arts District

The East Village Arts District is Long Beach’s creative hub, a neighborhood bursting with color, culture, and charm. This area is known for its quirky art galleries, vivid street murals, live music scene, and quirky boutiques, making it a haven for artists and art enthusiasts.

Hosting events like the Art Walk and SoundWalk, it’s a place where creativity comes to life in the most delightful ways. Food lovers will appreciate the neighborhood’s diverse culinary scene, which features everything from food trucks and upscale dining.

Long Beach Harbor

Long Beach Harbor is the third busiest port in the USA, ahead of Houston, Baltimore, and Seattle.

If you’re looking for action, this is the place to be. Enormous ships are constantly on the move, and a buzz of activity fills the air.

The harbor is also a top-notch tourist destination with a plethora of attractions. There’s something for everyone, from the iconic Queen Mary ship, a floating hotel steeped in history, to harbor cruises offering a whale’s eye view of the city skyline.

The Harbor’s bustling waterfront is lined with sundry shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, ensuring there’s never a dull moment.

 

 

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Frequently Asked Questions about Long Beach

What are some family-friendly activities in Long Beach?

Long Beach offers plenty of family-friendly activities that will keep everyone entertained. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, where kids can marvel at colorful marine life and learn about conservation. Take a trip to the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum, which showcases art and culture from the Pacific Islands. Head to El Dorado Nature Park for outdoor fun, where families can enjoy picnicking, hiking, and wildlife spotting.

Are there any scenic spots in Long Beach for photography enthusiasts?

Long Beach has beautiful and unique locations, perfect for any photography enthusiast. Bluff Park provides stunning coastline views and is perfect for snapping breathtaking sunsets. The romantic bridges and picturesque waterfront homes of the Naples Canals are an ideal setting. The Queen Mary, with its iconic silhouette, is an excellent subject. And the colorful and unique street art in the East Village Arts District is a popular backdrop and subject.

Where can I find the best local cuisine in Long Beach?

Long Beach boasts a vibrant culinary scene with a diverse range of cuisines. For delicious seafood, head to the waterfront area and try one of the seafood restaurants offering freshly caught delights. 4th Street Retro Row is known for its trendy eateries and cafes, serving various cuisines, from Mexican to Japanese. For an authentic taste of Long Beach, take advantage of the local favorite, the Long Beach Pike Restaurant, where you can enjoy classic American comfort food.

Are there any hidden hiking trails in Long Beach?

While Long Beach is known for its coastal beauty, hidden hiking trails are waiting to be discovered. Signal Hill Park offers a short but rewarding hike with panoramic views of the city and the ocean. The Dominguez Gap Wetlands Trail is another hidden gem, providing a serene nature escape with various bird species to spot. El Dorado Park Nature Center offers peaceful trails that wind through wetlands and woodlands, providing a tranquil hiking experience.

Can you recommend any unique shopping experiences in Long Beach?

Certainly! Retro Row on 4th Street is a must-visit for vintage lovers, with retro-inspired shops offering clothing, accessories, and home decor. In the East Village Arts District, you’ll find a mix of eclectic boutiques showcasing local artists and unique handmade goods. Long Beach Antique Market is a treasure trove for antique enthusiasts, with vendors offering a wide selection of vintage collectibles, furniture, and more.

What are some annual events and festivals in Long Beach?

Long Beach hosts several exciting annual events and festivals throughout the year. The Long Beach Grand Prix is a renowned motor racing event that attracts racing enthusiasts worldwide. The Long Beach Jazz Festival celebrates the rich musical heritage of the city, showcasing performances by top jazz artists. The Long Beach Bayou Festival brings the vibrant culture of New Orleans to Southern California, featuring live music, Cajun cuisine, and Mardi Gras-inspired festivities.

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