Long Beach is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct look and feel. Luckily for us, many of them also feature their own distinct shopping districts. These districts share a commitment to local independent shops, and the shops share a commitment to being fiercely unique in what they have to offer. Here are five of those districts and what you can expect to find there. Trust us, once there, you’ll find a lot more.
Bixby Knolls–This north Long Beach neighborhood is not only home to the popular First Fridays Art Walk and a cluster of exceptional craft beer outfits dubbed “Brewery Knolls,” but dozens of independently owned boutique shops and galleries. Though primarily located over many blocks on either side of one of Long Beach’s busiest thoroughfares – Atlantic Avenue – the Bixby Knolls shopping district is remarkably cohesive. Shops strike a balance between offering the latest items in an atmosphere conjuring up the past of one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, the kind of place you can window shop by using your legs, not a cursor. Most shops have large window facades and are compact enough to see what they offer. Pixie Toys, for example, offers a colorful view of things kids want from dolls to dollhouses to Tonka Trucks to Minecraft. That’s the thing about walking the Knolls, something is bound to catch your eye and lure you in. Wine, beer, and spirit shop Corked offers a remarkable roster of beverages for every occasion and price point and recently featured a small batch gin called, wait for it, Bixby Dry Gin!
East Village Arts District–This uber-cool shopping district is a little less well-defined. Generally, it refers to that area in Downtown Long Beach sandwiched between Alamitos Avenue to the east and Long Beach Boulevard to the west. As the name implies, East Village is artsy and comes with its share of galleries such as the provocative Hellada Gallery which sells works by local artists while acting as a community hub. Art is literally everywhere, from the large outdoor murals painted on district walls to smaller creations on sidewalk utility boxes to the offerings of Long Beach Museum of Art’s satellite LBMA Downtown space. Shops reflect that artistic sensibility, offering personal, curated items, whether at Fingerprints Music, one of the country’s best music stores – it has played host to performances by the likes of Foo Fighters and Brian Wilson – or the cool range of men’s fashion, everything from Hawaiian shirts to motorcycle wear, at ButterScotch LBC. Many of the shops are housed in the restored historic buildings that have made this area a popular filming location for productions such as “This Is Us” and “La La Land.”
Retro Row – Located on Fourth Street, this area became known as Retro Row rather organically as one shop after another (more than 40 packed into a few blocks) offered the look and feel of a different, many times more stylish time. Practically hidden between Hermosa and Temple avenues and, for the most part, inhabiting just one side of the street, the Row is where locals go to hang out and find unique goods, experiences, and people. The bedrock of the district is vintage clothing icon Meow, a go-to boutique for people and Hollywood productions looking for all manner of authentic, vintage clothes and accessories. Vintage clothing and home furnishings define the area, some offering a wide range of items. Others like Deja Vu Vintage Furnishings, focusing on a particular time, in its case, mid-century modern furniture that make you feel you’ve wandered onto the set of Mad Men. As roller skating has made yet another comeback, Retro Row has become a headquarters of sorts, in large part due to Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop which serves as a hub for Long Beach’s tight-knit skate community.
Shoreline Village – This area is often associated with what you can do, whether it’s gaze across at the Queen Mary, eat at one of its many restaurants or circumnavigate the harbor via ship or parasail. But Shoreline Village has a retail area as fun and unique as the experiences it offers. Much of Shoreline’s shopping is fun, flip flops kinda shopping. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, whether it’s gourmet jerky outfit B.U.L.K where you can great jerky for you AND your dog or Find Your Feet, a sock and sandal shop where you can find every kind of sock representing every type of team, personality and show, everything from Tupac to Bigfoot. See, this is Shoreline Village. It’s not the place anyone thinks of first when it comes to retail, but it is the kind of place where you’re likely to find something so unique, maybe even a bit silly, it’ll scream, Man, you gotta get this!
Second Street – For more than a few people, when they think of Long Beach, they think of Second Street in Belmont Shore. With blocks of options, it’s home to more than 60 retail stores ranging from national chains to those that are proudly local. The choices are so great, with such a range, that you can do as much or as little as you like. For many people, a nice afternoon is simply walking the area, gazing in the shops, and sipping on a beverage of choice. The street is home to lots of gift shops such as Blue Windows and Luna selling not only beach-themed but beach items, everything from clothes and accessories to home and garden furnishings. (Luna is well known to offer some most unique Christmas ornaments, which is why they hang in their window year-round.) In many ways, Second Street has operated as a sort of de facto outdoor mall, with something for everyone – estate jewelry to running shoes to handcrafted cigars at Don Lupe Cigar Lounge – making it popular with locals and tourists alike. And, if you think ahead, pack a swimsuit and some sunscreen, Second Street is bordered by not one, but two beaches.