Sounds of waves crashing against the coastline, seagulls cawing overhead, and hipsters cruising past playing the latest California lifestyle anthems fill the air as you experience Long Beach, one of Southern California’s most electrifying cities. Indulge in the LBC lifestyle at its finest by visiting culturally-rich museums, palm-tree-lined beaches, and even a verdant island just off the coast.
Located less than 25 miles away from Los Angeles, it’s the perfect place to go for a day trip. Or make it your destination, and spend a few days crossing off everything on your bucket list of the best things to do in Long Beach.
AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC
Explore the depths of the world’s largest ocean when you visit the Aquarium of the Pacific. You’ll feel like you’re underwater as you navigate the different exhibitions and see all your favorite underwater creatures up close.
The Aquarium of the Pacific presents 19 different habitats designed to mimic the natural habitats for its 500 different species. It’s home to sharks, sea lions, seahorses, jellyfish, eels, and much more.
Walk through the tank tunnel where colorful fish are seen swimming from all sides. Next, check out the penguin viewing site to peek beneath the water as their bellies float across the water. Then, stand next to the massive three-story tank filled with marine life. There is also a special touch tank where you can feel the smooth body of a stingray gliding against the palm of your hand.
The aquarium is one of the most popular things to do in Long Beach, with over 1.7 million visitors every year.
Discover the beauty of Catalina Island, located just off the coast of Long Beach. With visitors arriving for day trips, or longer, it’s an excellent place to discover the island’s natural beauty.
Hop on the Catalina Express ferry from the Long Beach Port, where you’ll sail for an hour to reach the island. Views of Avalon’s colorful cliffside homes greet you as you approach the main port.
Get ready for a day of outdoor fun when visiting Catalina Island. Water lovers can spend time enjoying the soft, warm sandy beaches at South Beach or Step Beach, where cabanas are the perfect place to relax before going for a refreshing swim in the Pacific. However, if you prefer to stay on land, hop on an ATV and go on a bison expedition or take a scenic hike to the Catalina Island Conservatory.
Save yourself the 6,000-mile journey to Italy and set your GPS to Long Beach’s Naples Canals. In the Belmont Shore and Naples neighborhood, you’ll be transported to a new world inspired by its Italian predecessor and enjoy many of the same activities without the long (and expensive) trip.
The Naples Canals wind throughout the Naples neighborhood to help navigate its three islands. Sailboats and palm trees line the canals, giving you a beautiful view of Alamitos Bay as you explore the 2.6-mile loop trail around the canals. You’ll be joined by other walkers, runners, and cyclists out enjoying the California sunshine. It’s even dog-friendly!
Experience Italy from the comfort of Long Beach by going for a gondola ride through the canals. Or, if you prefer to be in the “driver’s seat,” hop inside a kayak and paddle your way around the beautiful homes built along the canal shoreline.
LONG BEACH WATERFRONT
It’s almost impossible not to end up at the Long Beach Waterfront at some point while visiting Long Beach. It has long been a popular area for tourists to explore the local attractions, but the recent revitalization of the district has made it even more attractive for visitors.
The Aquarium of the Pacific, ShoreLine Aquatic Park, and the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center are just a few venues located along the waterfront.
But, before exploring the indoor attractions, spend time admiring views of the Pacific from the coastline. Paths wind along the waterfront providing views of the Queen Mary, or venture inside the Rainbow Lagoon Park for a leisure stroll through the Japanese-inspired gardens.
Screams roar from the Pike Amusement Park as thrill-seekers race around the roller coasters and take in the views from atop the Pike Ferris Wheel.
The Queen Mary floats elegantly on the Long Beach waterfront, where it’s been docked since 1967. While it always makes the perfect backdrop to waterfront selfies, set aside a couple of hours to take a walk through the past on the ship.
Built in 1936 as a British Trans-Atlantic vessel, Queen Mary is a timeless ship that’s likely seen its final days at sea. But it’s good news for tourists, because it’s open to the public to witness the ship’s elegance, history, and more.
Climb aboard to walk the deck, where you’ll be amazed by the scale of the ship stacks towering above you. Then, descend the stairs to see the grand rooms preserved as they would have appeared in a past era. The boat offers history tours, haunted tours, and even hotel accommodations to stay overnight.
Editor’s Note: The Queen Mary is temporarily closed for repairs. We’ll let you know when we hear about her opening back up!
Day and night, you’ll find ShoreLine Village buzzing with activity. During the day, families can be seen enjoying a funnel cake while pointing out their favorite boats in Rainbow Harbor. At night, you can see couples hanging out for a date night at one of the upscale restaurants.
The colorful buildings that make up ShoreLine Village are a unique part of the Long Beach Waterfront that resembles a traditional fishing village. It’s a hub for shopping, dining, and entertainment for all ages. Charming buildings hold plenty of places to find souvenirs, gifts, and merchandise to document your trip to Long Beach, grab a bite to eat, or enjoy the waterfront atmosphere.
LONG BEACH MUSEUM OF ART
Long Beach has a thriving artistic energy, evident by the colorful murals and museums dotting the city. See some of the best works from the local community by visiting the Long Beach Museum of Art (LBMA).
Colorful pop art paintings, sculptures depicting fun cartoon characters, and sketches that give insight into the art process of local artists are just a few of the more than 4,000 works of art exhibited in the museum. Browse the contemporary galleries to see the permanent collection with works from accomplished artists from Southern California or attend one of the temporary exhibitions.
LBMA is established in a historical home with art displayed throughout its three floors. Be sure to check out the scenic outdoor art installation set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.
EAST VILLAGE ARTS DISTRICT
Artistic murals depicting everything from the LBC lifestyle to imaginative creations of the artist help define the East Village Arts District in Downtown Long Beach. Walking tours are available, or download a self-guided map to immerse yourself into the artsy side of Long Beach.
East Village Arts District is one of the trendiest areas in Long Beach. En route to the murals dotting the neighborhood, you’ll pass eclectic boutique shops. Go crate-digging for old-school vinyl records in Fingerprints or browse the unique home goods inside Anneise. Treat the district like a gallery opening with spirits served at District Wine or try one of the contemporary restaurants revolutionizing California cuisine.
You’ll find a couple of unique museums in the East Village Arts District. The Museum of Latin American Art and the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum are the only museums in the U.S. solely dedicated to showcasing the best of Latin and Pacific Island arts, respectively.
EARL BURNS MILLER JAPANESE GARDEN
The lush greenery blossoming in the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden has everyone flocking to it to take photos. This peaceful oasis is an excellent place to relax after a day of walking around Long Beach.
Revel in the charming ambiance of the Japanese Garden-inspired attraction. The garden was established by the wife of late Earl Burns Miller and opened to the public in 1981 on the California State University Long Beach campus.
Paved pathways meander through the garden decorated with bonsai trees, a waterfall, and stone carvings. A tranquil pond sits as the garden’s centerpiece and remains custom to Japanese gardens by holding an abundance of koi fish. Fish food is available via a dispensary, and you can feed the fish as they swim gracefully beneath the pond’s lily pads.
ROSIE’S DOG BEACH
In 2003, the dog moms and doggy dads rejoiced at the opening of Rosie’s Dog Beach, the only one of its kind in all LA County! It’s time to let your four-legged friend run wild and create their own fun memories of visiting Long Beach.
Unclip your dog’s leash once you reach the beach entrance pillars and watch your dog jolt for the ocean while kicking up the soft sand. Rosie’s Dog Beach spans four acres, giving plenty of room for your trusted pal to run around and play with other dogs. When they get tired, there’s even a designated dog water fountain on site.
Rosie’s Dog Beach is an excellent place to meet other dog lovers in Long Beach.
PACIFIC ISLAND ETHNIC ART MUSEUM
The diverse cultures and history of Oceania come to life inside the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM). Curated by Fran Lujan, an islander, it gives an accurate look at the region through visual arts.
PIEAM is the first museum in the United States dedicated to Pacific Island art. Its permanent collection sourced art and artifacts from the various islands throughout the Pacific to showcase their vibrant yet distinct cultures.
Walk through the galleries to see wood and stone carvings that depict some of the earliest art from the region. A photo gallery about tribal tattoos explores the meaning behind this symbolic body art. There is even a full-sized hut to peek into to get a glimpse into the traditional way of life for an islander.
Nestled between Ocean Boulevard and the beach is a grassy bluff running the length of the coastline. A section of this natural formation was developed as Bluff Park, expanding into a quiet, residential neighborhood.
Bluff Park is a slender green space along the oceanfront offering picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean. If you prefer not to get your clothes sandy on the beach, this public park has paved walkways for leisure or recreation.
Enjoy cool ocean breezes as you stroll along the Shoreline Way Trail. You’ll encounter landmarks like the Lone Sailor Memorial and the Duc Me Hoa Binh Buddhist Temple. Be sure to step aside for people jogging or walking their dogs in the park. The bluff also frequently hosts free outdoor yoga activities open to everyone.
EL DORADO EAST REGIONAL PARK
If you’re up for some recreation, then the El Dorado East Regional Park is one of the best things to do in Long Beach. This sprawling park spans more than 165 acres, giving you (and your pets!) plenty of space to run around.
Beautiful days in Long Beach are always best spent in the park. Bring a group of friends, split up into teams, compete on the disc golf courses, or see who can hit the bullseye target at the archery range. Then, go for a walk along the paved paths with easy-to-follow signs pointing to the different sites around the El Dorado Nature Center.
End the day by lounging on the grassy fields next to the fountain pond, where the park’s soundtrack is created by ducks splashing around and birds chirping in the shade-providing trees.
Just a hop-skip away from Long Beach Museum of Art, you’ll find the picturesque Junipero Beach, aka Cherry Beach. Plan a beach day on the sandy shores that make you feel like you’re on a remote island in paradise.
Arrive early to score one of the free parking spaces in the lot just above the beach. Kick off your sandals at the bottom of the bluff and sink your toes into the soft, warm sand as you find the perfect spot to pitch your umbrella. Sunbathe in the cozy California sun, or go for a refreshing swim as the cool, gentle waves brush lightly against you.
Junipero Beach is a popular spot for families to hang out. And as day turns to night, the cherry-colored sky will quickly become your favorite sunset view in Long Beach.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO CALIFORNIA
- YOUR CALIFORNIA VACATION
- VENTURA: 17 Amazing Things To Do In Ventura, California
- MALIBU: 16 Best Things To Do In Malibu For Outdoor Lovers
- MONTEREY: 13 Sensational Things To Do In Monterey
- SAN DIEGO: 19 Most Popular San Diego Beaches You Don’t Want To Miss
WHERE TO STAY IN LONG BEACH
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