Long Beach (LB) is one of the larger cities in California, with its own ports, shopping centers, and beaches.
It is located at the southern end of Los Angeles County – bordering Orange County.
The city is known for its waterfront attractions, including the Queen Mary, the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Cruise Terminal, and the Catalina Boat Terminal.
Long Beach also hosts the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the Long Beach Pride Festival and Parade, and California State University, Long Beach. Read more at Wikipedia.
The city also has its own Airport, which is convenient for domestic flights and less crowded than the nearby LAX.
Over the years, I enjoyed many of those places and attractions, including visiting the Aquarium, going on a cruise to Mexico, boarding a boat to Catalina Island, a harbor cruise from Rainbow Harbor, dining at Shoreline Village, Jet Skiing to Catalina, attending New Year's party at the Queen Mary – and much more.
Here is a recap of my favorite places in Long Beach:
Rainbow Harbor and Shoreline Village
This hub of activity is a walking distance from Downtown LB and connects several main attractions. You can visit the Aquarium, the Pike Outlets, the convention center, harbor cruises, and many restaurants with great views in the area.
You can find several parking structures in the vicinity or park at the large parking building at the Pike.
Head to the Marina and the boardwalk connecting Shoreline Village to Shoreline Park. Along the way, enjoy great views of the harbor, sample the snacks or souvenirs offered by the street vendors, or dine at one of the marina-front restaurants.
You can extend your walk by visiting the Shoreline Aquatic Park, with a grassy hill and a lighthouse. You will have a commanding view of the harbor and the Queen Mary from the hill.
Make it a longer stroll by following the pedestrian walkway to the Catalina Express Terminal.
An observation tower overlooking the harbor connects Rainbow Harbor and the Shoreline Village side. If you go up the stairs, you will find a walkway connecting to the Convention Center. Even if you are not visiting the convention center, take the walkway for great views of the area.
Looking down from the convention center walkway, you will see the lake at the Rainbow Lagoon Park – with swan boats floating around. The kids love to paddle those swans around the lake.
What else can you do here? Rent bikes, go on a whale-watching tour, visit the Aquarium, rent a boat, ride on the Ferris Wheel nearby.
If you are up for a longer walk or bike ride, go past Shoreline Village towards the Yacht Club marina and Alamitos Beach. This trail extends for 5 miles from the Shoreline Aquatic Park to the edge of Belmont Shore.
301 E. Ocean Blvd, Suite 1900
Long Beach, CA 90802
Aquarium of the Pacific
When my kids were young, we visited a lot of zoos and aquariums. The Long Beach Aquarium was one of our favorites. It was a short drive from our home, and although not the biggest, it was surprisingly entertaining and educational.
The Aquarium had many indoor exhibits and a lovely outdoor area.
Indoor at the Southern California & Baja Gallery, you can find the large 3-story Blue Cavern Tank, which houses sea creatures living in Catalina Island waters. Next door, you will find an exhibit featuring the giant kelp forests and all the species that like to live around them.
At the Northern Pacific Gallery, you can find exhibits for the Sea Otter, the giant Pacific octopus, Japanese spider crabs, jellyfish, and sea anemones.
Before you head outdoors for more exhibits, visit the 4D theater with a huge 180-degree screen for an educational nature film.
Outdoor, you can visit the Sharks, Manta Rays, and penguin habitats.
One of my favorite outdoor activities is walking through the Lorkit Forest – an aviary that houses five subspecies of rainbow lorikeet and the violet-necked lory.
Don't forget to get some free nectar to feed the birds.
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
The Pike is a sprawling factory outlet mall - with breathtaking harbor views and over 30 retailers.
The mall is also home to many restaurants, cinemas, comedy clubs, and hotels, plus an iconic carousel & Ferris wheel.
Before it became a mall, the Pike was well-known as an amusement park and pier. For some history, go to Wikipedia.
Some of the anchor stores are Converse, Forever 21, Gap, Levi's, Nike, and H&M.
The mall has many restaurants and snack shops like Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., California Pizza Kitchen, Gladstone's, P.F. Chang's, Waba Grill, and Cold Stone Creamery.
For fun and entertainment, you can go on the Ferris Wheel, carousel, catch a movie at Cinemark, or watch a comedy show at the laugh factory.
Long Beach has many beaches for aquatic fun, but Mother's Beach (Marine Park) has the distinction of being inland, away from the big ocean surf. This makes it ideal for families with small children.
The beach is a small strip on Alamitos Bay on Naples Island. Kids love to splash around in the shallow water or play in the sand. Parents can relax and let their children have fun.
A section of this beach is a launching pad for kayakers. The calm waters make it easier to get on the kayak.
The beach has many shade trees so you can find a spot on the grass under the trees.
Jet Ski to Catalina Island
My wife and I went on a Jet Ski Adventure to Catalina Island.
We encountered rough seas with choppy waves, so our ride wasn’t smooth or easy, but we enjoyed the thrill of speeding above the waves. We enjoyed even more the rest stops at several points along the way and racing the Dolphins.
This adventure started at Hotel Maya, Long Beach, where we met our guides in a small marina.
The excursion was led by Jetski2Catalina and was very well-planned and organized.
Whether you are walking along Rainbow Harbor, Shoreline Village, or shopping at the Pike, you can always find a good restaurant. Here are some of my favorites:
I always have a great time at Gladstone's. The view from the patio is great, and the food and service are excellent.
One of my favorite dishes at Gladstone's is the Seafood Linguini with crab. Other plates we tried and loved: Hawaiian Mahi Mahi, Swordfish, Baby Back Ribs, and fish and chips.
Parker's Lighthouse is also a great seafood restaurant. It sits at the tip of Shoreline Village with three stories of seating and a beautiful outdoor patio. Sitting on the patio, you can see the lighthouse at Shoreline Aquatic Park, Queen Mary, cruise ships, and all kinds of boats cruising in and out of the Marina.
The food and service are exemplary. During our last visit, we tried their Fish and Chips and the Arugula and Strawberry Fields Salad.
With the meal, we enjoyed the Mango Mojito and Beachwood Foam Top Blonde craft beer – made locally in Long Beach.
We had the Butter Cake with Vanella Ice Cream for a tasty end to this lunch.
We also tried Tequila Jack's Restaurant and Cantina and Islands Restaurant. Tequila Jack's offers great margaritas and above-average Mexican dishes. Islands is a gourmet burger place.
If you don’t feel like a big meal or a fancy restaurant, you can grab a snack from places like WaBa Grill, California Pizza Kitchen, Bamboo Bistro, Starbucks, or Cold Stone Creamery.