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Just south of downtown Los Angeles, Long Beach is a California destination worth adding to your SoCal travel bucket list. It offers waterfront attractions, bike-friendly roadways, cultural festivals, and amazing weather. Essentially, you’ll get the very best of the Southern California lifestyle when you plan a trip to Long Beach and find it truly hard to leave when your vacation days run out! Here are some of the top things to do in Long Beach next time you’re in Southern California.
As the city’s name suggests, Long Beach is an ideal place to relax and spend some time at the beach. The beaches around town have calm waters so they are better for swimming and lounging rather than surfing. Beaches to visit here include Alamitos Bay Beach, Rosie’s Dog Beach, Long Beach City Beach, and Peninsula Beach. Each beach in town has its own unique vibe, so check out a couple to find one that suits your travel style.
By far, one of the top must-see attractions in Long Beach is the Queen Mary. This is a majestic ship that sailed the seas between the 1930s and 1960s, but today, the ship offers restaurants, a hotel, tours, and more. The ship is rumored to be haunted, so stay overnight or take a haunted tour if you dare! The ship is permanently docked and offers both daily tours and ghost tours at night. These are especially popular around the Halloween season. Events hosted on the Queen Mary include murder mystery dinner shows, Sunday brunches, night markets, and even a dog-friendly festival. Onsite dining options include Sir Winston’s Restaurant & Lounge, Chelsea Chowder House & Bar, and Promenade Café.
Long Beach is home to an amazing aquarium that has lots of interactive exhibits for the whole family. It features both indoor and outdoor spaces with thousands of animals, such as sharks, penguins, and stingrays. Some of the over 100 exhibits to check out include Harbor Terrace, Pacific Visions, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, and Jellies.
The Shoreline Village is a popular place to hang out in Long Beach for dining, shopping, and entertainment. It is a fun and romantic place to take a walk, ride a bike, and grab a bite to eat. You can rent jet skis and boats at the marina and also catch live music performances in the summer. Other special events held here are Walk n’ Wag Wednesdays, free summer lunch cruises, and the Pirate Festival. Some of the shops are Find Your Feet, Seabreeze Jewelry & Sunglasses, and Village Hat Shop.
An iconic landmark in Long Beach is the Lions Lighthouse, which stands 10 stories in Rainbow Bay. It is named after the Lions Club, which works to end blindness in the world. This is in the Shoreline Aquatic Park area and a decorative structure rather than one actually used to guide ships. Surrounding the lighthouse is a nice park to take photos in and have a picnic. Come see this picturesque area and then enjoy a meal at Parkers’ Lighthouse, across the water. Parkers’ is an amazing restaurant that’s perfect for special occasions.
It’s also nice to spend some time in Long Beach’s city parks, such as Signal Hill Park. This is a 10-acre park with barbecue areas, a basketball court, picnic tables, playground, community room, and restrooms. Meanwhile, Signal Hill Hilltop Park offers excellent views of the L.A. area and has shadow art frames with a sign to help you know what you’re looking at.
Long Beach is also a prime whale-watching destination, and there’s no better place to see these magnificent creatures for yourself than on-board a boat. You can hop on a guided harbor cruise to learn about whales and take in the incredible views. For example, Harbor Breeze offers yacht charters and cruises for Southern California whale watching with multiple options. Davey’s Locker is another cruise company in the area, but all of these cruises depart from Newport Beach.
Anyone who loves to shop will enjoy a trip to Long Beach because there are so many awesome stores here to check out. In addition to the Shoreline Village, also check out the Pike Outlets for waterfront entertainment, shopping, and dining. The Marina Pacifica Mall is a large outdoor shopping center in the area too. Meanwhile, Retro Row is a hot spot for rare vintage finds, and Second Street, which runs parallel to the ocean, has about a mile and a half of familiar-name retail shops.
Racing fans love heading to Long Beach to check out the Acura Grand Prix, which was formerly known as the Toyota Grand Prix. This is a major street race that is famous around the world. Taking place in April each year, this is the largest street race in Los Angeles County and also a fun event for music, food, and car showcases. There are three days and two nights of pure excitement at this event with plenty of family fun, great concerts, and food trucks. Admission prices vary depending on which days and events you attend.
Finally, Long Beach is known for its incredible sunsets, so make a point to see at least one during your time in the city. It’s absolutely lovely to watch a sunset from a boat cruise or at one of the waterfront restaurants at Shoreline Village. Signal Hill’s Hilltop Park is another top sunset-viewing destination among locals and tourists. Bring a picnic dinner and someone you love to end your Long Beach vacation in the very best way possible.