Gifted with one of Southern California’s mildest climates and a citywide selection of things to do ranging from biking to boating to bowing and arrowing, Long Beach gives you and your family every reason to get outdoors. There are picturesque canals, designer theme parks and natural havens, many of them located close enough to each other to double up on the fun. Here are some suggestions to get you out the door.
This sanctuary is amazing and not just because of the trails, ponds, wildlife, streams and fauna contained in its 105 acres. It’s because once you cross over its entrance bridge, the commotion of the outside world, including a nearby freeway, disappears. Like completely. What’s left is serene yet exciting as you and the kids not only discover nature but regulate yourself to its rhythms. It starts on that bridge situated over a pond where kids usually linger while communing with the adorable turtles below.
One of the most popular public spaces in the city, Bluff Park’s success is based in its simplicity: an 11-acre ribbon of green grass and trees that sits above the beach and offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Queen Mary and Catalina. Views aside, this is where people come to kick soccer balls, exercise, play with their kids or just spread out a blanket and take a nap. It’s also very popular with the yoga crowd and classes are offered to the public, twice daily.
If you’re feeling it, you can walk down the steps from Bluff Park and connect with the Shoreline Pedestrian Bikepath, which begins at Shoreline Village and winds along the beach before ultimately ending in Belmont Shore. There are lanes exclusively for walking and others for cycling, roller skating, skateboarding and scootering. Several places near the path will rent you all manner of bicycles, electric bikes and surreys in two-, four- and six-person models.
Though these waterways wind their way through one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, there’s always a welcoming air to the place, especially during the holiday season when Naples goes all-out with the decorations. Walk the sidewalks to do a bit of lookie-looing, or you can dive right into the water below, either by renting a Venetian-style gondola–complete with singing gondolier–from Gondola Getaway or a kayak or waterbike at nearby Bayshore beach to explore the canals at your own speed.
The 7.5-acre Los Alamitos estate’s early 19th-century adobe house still stands and is surrounded by gardens designed by, among others, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. It’s got a collection of farm animals that include horses, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits. Los Cerritos’ main house dates back to 1844. It has a swath of gardens that include California native plants and fruit trees. Most stunning is an Italian Cypress and Moreton Bay Fig tree planted in the late-1800s.
A relatively recent addition, swan boats come in two sizes–small for couples, large for families–and are propelled as you pedal. Any time is great to go for a paddle, though you might try it at night when the boats are lit up by LCDs, giving them an other-worldly air. Once you’ve finished “Swanning,” walk across the street to Shoreline Village, a seaside collection of restaurants, activities–harbor tours, parasailing–and shops, as well as being home to the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Like the city it borders, Long Beach’s harbor offers a wide range of experiences. If you want to check out the harbor in full, try Harbor Breeze’s 45-minute, narrated cruise that will take you by the Queen Mary. Whale watching cruises are available during the migration season that runs from December 26 through April 9. There’s also a two-hour cruise along the Palos Verdes Peninsula that will show you a wide variety of marine life including dolphins and sea lions as well as the historic Point Fermin Lighthouse.
This gem of an amusement park is the passion project of Patricio Wolovich, who pretty much designed and built the thing himself. Its five acres contain a vintage train, a carousel built from scratch, car rides, a puppet theater and picnic areas. Before or after amusing yourselves, you might want to check out the rest of El Dorado Park, Long Beach’s version of Central Park. The 100-acre oasis contains six lakes, tennis courts, ball fields and miles of paved bike trails.
If you’ve ever wanted to get your Robin Hood on, the archery center provides a space for that. Site of the archery events during the 1984 Summer Olympics, the center has recently been refurbished. Before shooting, everyone is required to take a safety class because, you know, arrows. The classes are $5 and offered every weekend. The El Dorado Archers club also offers classes for beginners every Saturday at the facility. You have to be at least 8-years of age to participate because, again, arrows.
Though the city’s music scene is world famous, its community of visual artists is equally vibrant. Nowhere is this more obvious, or stunning, than in the many–more than 100–large-scale murals located throughout the city. When we say large, we mean entire-side-of-a-building large and when we say stunning, we mean in both style and subject matter. The GPSmyCity app maps out a 1.1 mile downtown walking tour that will take you by six of these wonders, mostly created as part of the international mural festival, POW!WOW! Long Beach. If you choose to meander off the path you’re bound to stumble on a few more. What’s nice is that you go at your own pace, which could leave you plenty of time to also check out some of the city’s best places for coffee, dining and shopping.