Located just 25 miles south of Los Angeles, the city of Long Beach can feel like a fresh new world. Take a weekend—or a daytrip—to explore the area’s many outdoor activities and local gems you won’t find anyplace else.
1. Hit the Beach
The city’s Downtown district rests just above the coast, making the beaches easily and readily accessible. Park directly above the shores and experience stretches of sand and sea—as well as beach volleyball courts and an active pier with a restaurant at its tip.
2. Become and Aquarium VIP
The acclaimed Aquarium of the Pacific may not be able to have its indoor exhibits open for a while, but still on view outside are habitats of sharks, rays, seals, penguins, jelly fish, and rare birds—most of which you can touch. Have the entire area to yourself (and a guide, of course), by booking the Animal Encounter program with Magellanic penguins (offered at 8:30am for $150/person). The activity is limited to single households and no more than four participants, making it a truly special experience.
3. Rent a Boat
Head to London Boat Rentals and take out your own boat—or wave runner—to explore Alamitos Bay and the Naples Canals. Each seats up to 8, has a covered canopy, and is easy for novice captains to navigate. Plus: pets welcome too!
4. Have a Piece of Greece
George’s Greek Café has been a Long Beach mainstay ever since it opened more than 20 years ago. Combining traditional dishes like their lamb chops (with hormone-free, grass-fed lamb from New Zealand), saganaki flaming cheese, and dolmathes, along with a completely outdoor patio setting directly on the pedestrian-friendly Pine Avenue, the venue is fantastic for a long lazy lunch or lively dinner.
5. Experience Some Southern Charm
While the 1920s bungalow that houses The Attic carries a certain amount of historic charm, its patio seating continues to win people over—along with their eclectic offerings of Southern dishes. Don’t miss their signature beignets, fried chicken and biscuit sandwiches, and Mac ‘n Cheetos, served in an overflowing bowl and made from house-made pasta coated in creamy cheddar, mozzarella, and jack cheese and topped with flaming-hot Cheetos and green onions.
6. Take a Sweet Walk
Two of the city’s most popular dessert destinations happen to rest side by side on pedestrian-centric Pine Avenue. Grab a Cutie Pie Jar (flavors include banana cream, key lime, and s’mores) from The Pie Bar or chocolate-dipped strawberries (or dark chocolate brownies made from 65% Ecuador dark chocolate or churro truffles with cinnamon sable Belgian chocolate) from Romeo Chocolate and enjoy them on foot while exploring the sites downtown.
7. Retreat into Nature
Escape the action of the city and head to the 105-acre oasis that makes up the El Dorado Nature Center where animals and plants have found their sanctuary. Two miles of dirt trails wind through two lakes, a stream, and forested areas—all located between the San Gabriel River and the 605.
8. Jump on a Bargain
All of the walking around making you think of updating your kicks? Head to the Nike Factory Store at the Pike Outlets and snag deals on everything from shoes to athletic wear for the whole family—all located just steps from the heart of downtown.
9. Have a Whale of a Time
Relax on the Pacific with Harbor Breeze Yacht Charters and Cruises and explore the ocean for sea mammals. Knowledgeable captains provide narration and information on the coast and its marine life.
10. Spin and Din
Rent a bike—options range from a surrey to a triple surrey to e-bikes and quad sport bikes— from Wheel Fun Rentals and cruise around Shoreline Village. At the end of the day cruise up to one of the many eateries and grab dinner to-go from any of the village’s seaside eateries.
Bonus: Can’t get your kids off their screens? Help them get educated on the area before heading down by exploring some of the city’s museums virtually. Both the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Museum of Latin American Art are offering digital visits of their respective collections of 3,200 works encompassing 300 years of American and European art and collection of modern and contemporary Latin American art.
Where to Stay: Kids and adults alike will love The Hilton Long Beach and its new outdoor movie nights and taco Tuesdays. The copper-colored recently renovated Westin commands its central location on East Ocean Boulevard, complete with outdoor pool, and views of the ocean and downtown. For families in need of more space, the Residence Inn Downtown offers residential-like accommodations with kitchens and free breakfast.