Located on the Pacific Coast, LB is the 7th largest city in California some 30 minutes south of Los Angeles. Priceonomics named it the 4th most diverse city in the United States for their 2014 report. Culturally, it has aspects of just about everything.
With waterfront attractions, there are are a great number of things to do in Long Beach that's free, fun, for the weekend, day or night. With many places to see, activities are limited only by time. In a word, eclectic is a fitting description.
For bicyclists, it was rated the 3rd most bike friendly city in the USA. The Shoreline Path, shown above, is a 3.1 mile scenic bike path. Bicycling is the best way to experience LB unencumbered at your pace. For getting around town at no cost, take The Passport, a bus to connect to downtown hotels and events.
Before you get started, let's cover parking. Get 2 hours free in downtown. The following garages require no validation:
- Lot A: 50 E. 6th St,
- Lot B: 50 E. 5th St.
- Lot C: 50 E 3rd St.
Meters run $1.00 to $2.00 an hour. Just running in quick? Press the green button for 5 minutes at no cost. Use your smart phone and set a timer! Enforcement are like hawks.
Here's our list for some of the best things to do in Long Beach.
1. Take the Water Taxi to Explore. Cost is $5 each way. The AquaLink connects you to most of the waterfront destinations. There is a bar with snacks. Service runs from summer into fall. Kids aged 2 and under ride at no cost. Best of all, racks to fasten your bike. Runs on the hour 11 am to 6 pm. The Aquabus is $1. For a relaxing ride, start from Alamitos Landing which park at no cost. Tel: (562) 591-2301.
2. The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. Plenty of entertainment. Enjoy Bowling, movie theaters, retail outlets, and a ferris wheel. The ferris wheel is $3.00 per person. They do valuate for parking. Best time is in the evening to see the harbor lights and the Queen Mary.
3. Rent a Hydrobike. Cost: Daytime Rentals $20.00/hour or sunset $30/hour. Cruise through the Naples Canals. LB Hydrobikes at 110 North Marina Drive. Reservations, call or text: 562.546.2493. Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
4. Kayak Rental. Cost: Singles $15 / 2 hours, Doubles $25 / 2 hours. Relax just outside the city or kayak thru the Naples canals. Near Spinnaker Bay you can observe moon jellyfish. They also rent foot pedal kayaks. Great upper body workout. OEX at 6910 Pacific Coast Highway. Phone: 562-592-0800. Rentals: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM.
5. Rent a Bicycle to explore.
Take in the city at your own pace. Cost: Hourly: $12 Half Day: $25, Full Day: $32. A great alternative to a car. Hours: 9 am to Sunset. Wheel Fun Rentals, 429 Shoreline Village Dr. Tel: (562) 951-3857.
6. Learn How to Sail! Cost: $100 for SYC members and $175 for non-members. The Shoreline Yacht Club offers sailing lessons Monday evenings and Saturday afternoons May until August. Instructors are SYCSF Certified. Boats are Cal 20. 386 Shoreline Drive South. Tel: 714-293-8165.
7. Watch Movies at the Art Theatre.
Tickets: $11.00, senior child is $8. Built in 1924, it's an independent movie theatre restored to art deco glory. Watch independent, classics, and animation movies. In 2008, they completely revamped the sound and vision. The Art Theatre is the oldest running single screen theatre in Southern California. 2025 East 4th Street. Movie Times: (562) 438-5435.
8. Visit Catalina Island. Tickets: round trip is $74.50. It offers a casino, golf, shopping, camping, hiking, zip line for propelling from 6,000 feet. Great place for weddings and anniversaries. Located 22 miles off the coast, the Catalina Express provides marine transportation in about an hour. It offers a free pass on your birthday. Register online. 400 Oceangate, Ste 300. Reservations: (800) 481-3470 5:45 am – 7:00 pm daily.
9. Santa Catalina Island Company offers an undersea expedition. Take a daytime trip in their semi-submersible vessel. 11AM, 12PM, 1PM, 2PM, 3PM daily. 800-626-7489. Once your on the island, there a range of activities. Propel down 5 separate zip lines from 600 feet above sea level!
10. Play Billiards in Nearby Lakewood.
Cost: $7 an hour. 29 billiard tables. This about as inexpensive as it gets. Lakewood Family Billiards 4125 Paramount Blvd. Hours: Sun - Thurs Noon to 12:30 am, Fri and Sat Noon to 1:30 am.
11. Swim at the Belmont Pool. Cost: Adult $4, Senior $3, Youth $1. The swimming pool is home to the U.S. Olympic Swim trials! Let's do this. For relaxing things to do in Long Beach, this is as good as it gets price wise. Belmont Pool, 4320 Olympic Plaza. Tel: (562) 570-1806.
12. Take a Harbor Tour. Cost: $12.00 adult, under 12 years old is $6.00. Explore the beach coastline. Learn the history of the harbor. See cargo ships from all over the world, sea lions, and the Queen Mary. Harbor Breeze Cruises Dock #2 at 100 Aquarium Way. Tel: (562) 983-6880.
13. Rent a motorcycle at MOTOQUEST. Rates start at $100 a day and go down after the 4th day. According to their website you must be 21 years or older and have 3 years of riding experience. 2115 E. Spring St. Ring their rental phone: (562)-997-RENT (7368). Mon - Fri 9 - 6 and Sat 9 - 5. Closed on Sundays.
14. Charter a Gondola. Cost: 1-4 passengers: $125.00, plus $20 for each additional person up to six. What better way to take in the city and the ocean at the same time? A great Long Beach date idea! The closest thing to being in Venice, Italy. Gondola Getaway, 5437 E Ocean Blvd. Telephone: (562) 433-9595. It's one of the best things to do at night or prior to sunset.
15. Wakeboarding Lessons. Cost: $95. Take lessons from Pro Wakeboarder Nick Heaney, a former top 10 in the world. Wake Experience. 5255 East Paoli Way. Tel: 310 251 7227
16. Whale Watching on The Open Sea. Tickets: From $30.00 to $45.00 depending on the time of year. Harbor Breeze Cruises offers watching of the gray whale (winter) and blue whale (summer). 100 Aquarium Way, Dock #2. Parking is $8 with validation. Hours: weekdays at 12:30 and weekends from 11:30 am. Tel: (562) 432-4900.
17. Visit Made in LB Market. Features local artists offer unique souvenirs, baked goods, bags, jewelry, furniture. 236 Pine Ave. (877) 752-1550.
18. Brush Strokes and Beverages. Cost: $35-$45 depends on the night, location and painting. Take a step by step on how to paint from artists over wine. An artist will guide you on how to replicate a painting. A mobile event that takes place at local restaurants and wine bars. One of the best things to do with friends in Long Beach. Hours: 2:00 pm on Saturdays, 3:00 pm on Sundays and 7:00 pm on weekdays. Tel: (310) 961-8082 • firstname.lastname@example.org
19. Cruise around the canals of Naples in a rented boat. Cost: It's about as chill as it gets. Starts at $75 although they have an early bird special. LB Boat Rentals. 401 Shoreline Village Dr. Tel: (562) 491-7400
20. Walking Tour. LB Heritage takes you on an exploration of Downtown. This event happens on the 3rd Saturday of every month at 9:30 am. Grab your walking shoes as it runs 2 to 2.5 hours. $10 per adult, tix payed thru PayPal. For reservations: 562-493-7019. Parking: $0 at 3rd & Promenade. Meets at 205 East 3rd Street.
1.) El Dorado East Regional Park. Cost: $0. One gigantic park full of fun activities (388.2 acres). Fishing, paddle boats, row boats, camping, bounce houses, train rides, playgrounds, model plane flying, bicycle trails, fishing lakes, and archery. Stay with me. During the summer there are concession stands. Vehicle entry fees are: $5 (cash only) Monday through Thursday; $6 Friday: $7 Saturday and Sunday; and $8 on Holidays. Hours are 7am-dusk, closed on Christmas. The park is located on 7550 E. Spring St. Tel: (562) 570-1771.
- Pedal Boat Rentals: (562) 824-7717
- Train Rides: (562) 824-7725 (kids & adults)
- Reserve Picnic Area (562) 570-3111
2.) Walk 4th Street. Cost: $0. Known as retro row, 4th Street holds court to over 40 shops and businesses. From contemporary to retro, find the coolness here. They also have bike designated lanes for you and yours. So much variety in one stretch!
3. Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. Cost: $0. For dates ideas in Long Beach, it dos not get any more chill than this. Feed Koi fish, hear running water, take in flowers with lush landscaping. A tranquil place, it's located on the campus of California State University. Hours: 8:00 am to 3:30 pm, Sunday: Noon to 4:00 pm. Closed: Mondays and Saturdays.
4.) Visit the Playhouse. Support local. Feel good. Celebrate the human experience. Watch pulitzer prize winning plays. Experience comedies to classic dramas. Tickets: $24, $14 for students, group discounts of 10 or more. 5021 E. Anaheim Street. Tel: (562) 494-1014
5. Take an Architectural Tour. LB Heritage promotes public knowledge of historical and architectural buildings. Tickets run $5 to $40 for non-members. Members start at $40 and feature exclusive tours. Tel: 562-493-7019
6. Visit the Flea Market. Cost: $6.00 from 6:30 AM to 2:00 PM, Early Bird Admission (oh my GOD it's early): $12.00 from 5:30 AM - 6:30 AM. Kids under 12 no charge. No Pets. Reviewers claim it to be the Best of Los Angeles. Find vintage furniture spanning several decades, glassware, games, or toys. It goes down on the 3rd Sunday of each Month. Park at no cost but arrive early.
Veterans Stadium, 4901 E. Conant St. Tel: (323) 655-5703.
7. Take an Education Harbor Cruise. Cost: $15 Adults / $7 kids (5-12 years). Choose either a 1 hour educational tour of Los Angeles or the harbor. Visit over 50 points. Spirit Cruises. Two Locations. (310) 548-8080. Hours: 10 am to 5pm.
8. Visit 2nd Street in Belmont Shore. Unique and small business shops mixed with national brands line 2nd street. Shopping, coffee, and cafes makes for a relaxing weekend. It has a cozy town feel and holds festivals throughout the year. Pay attention to the alleys and side streets as you explore.
1.) Visit the Convention Center. A performing arts center, it features exhibits, trade shows, art, and concert events. For live music, this is the premier hall. It also has 34 meeting rooms for companies. The convention center is walkable to more than 5,000 hotel rooms. Tel: 562-436-3636.
2.) Laugh Factory. Cost: At the door $20, $17 in advance. Part of The Pike, this is the sister location to its original Sunset Blvd. Location in Los Angeles. The venue features some of LA.'s best comics. Lighten up, everyone needs a good laugh. 151 S. Pine Ave. Tel:(562) 495-2844 Ext. 1
3. Harvelle's. Catch the Toledo show. A combination of burlesque mixed with speak-easy jazz that's evocative and cool. 201 E. Broadway. Tel: 562.239.3700. Tickets start at $10.00 for standing.
4. Watch Current Movies at Cinemark. This theatre features all stadium seating with electric recliners. Tuesday is discount days with tix at $6.50. GA is $11.75 and $9.75 for students during peak times. Reserve seating is available. Parking is validated for 3.5 hours. 99 South Pine Avenue. Tel: 562-435-5754. Note: Park at the structure across from the theatre.
5. Catch a performance at Terrace Theatre. One of the many venues attached to the convention center it seats over 3,000. Events range from concerts, comedy, and preforming arts. Concession is pricey. Parking is $10. Exit to Shoreline Drive which is faster. 300 E Ocean Blvd, Box Office: (562) 436-3661
1. Aquarium Of The Pacific. Cost: Tickets $28.95 for adult, $14.95 for kids. The public aquarium sits on 5 acres with an underwater walkway. It features a vast collection of marine life and public speakers.
2.) Visit the Queen Mary. Cost: tickets start at $20 for kids. $31 for adults online. One of the more interesting and fun things to do in Long Beach, the Queen Mary has a number of different tours and exhibits. A retired luxury ocean liner that has a colorful history docked permanently in the harbor. Its interior is that of the art deco period. Take the haunted tour. Hours are 10 am to 6 pm daily. Tickets: 877-342-0752, Group Tours: 562-499-1623. The Queen Mary address is 1126 Queens Hwy.
3.) Visit The Scorpion Submarine. Cost: $14 for adults, $12 for kids. Step back in time with an authentic cold war submarine that remains unchanged. View the torpedo room, use the telescope, and get a feel for what its like being on a Russian submarine. Hours: 10AM - 5PM daily. Kids must be 48 inches to board.
4. Visit the Museum of Art. Cost: FREE on Fridays! Other than Friday, $7 for Adults, $6 for Seniors. A small historical museum that has ocean views with lush lawns. Some have chosen to have their wedding held here. Ladies rate this as great romantic date idea. While it's not the LACMA, it does offer some unique exhibits. Parking can be had at no cost on the side streets. Please be respectful of the neighbors. Metered parking is down the hill. NOTE: It's recommended to check their website as they close for specials events. 2300 E Ocean Blvd. Tel: 562-439-2119
5. Visit The Museum of Latin American Art. Cost: FREE on Sundays otherwise $9/adults,$6 for students/seniors and Parking at no cost. Smaller than most museums but considered a gem by visitors for its rich art and exhibits. MOLAA offers modern and contemporary Latin American art. Experience an outside fountain and garden which features live music and dancing. Cafe has latino inspired food and a gift shop. 628 Alamitos Avenue. Tel: 562.437.1689.
6. Rancho Los Alamitos Ranch and Gardens. Cost: FREE. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it explores the early history of the city. Take a tour to understand the traditional birthplace of the native people of the Los Angeles Basin. Hear about the Bixby family who owned it and learn about one of the last working ranches. Lush gardens, massive trees, shire horses, and sitting areas. A place to escape and relax. You'll forget your in the city. Hours: Wednesday thru Sunday 1-5 p.m. Tel: (562) 431-3541. 6400 East Bixby Hill Road. Enter at the intersection of Anaheim and Palo Verde.
7. University Art Museum. Located at California State, it's a small one but puts on interesting exhibits. Modern work ranges from renown international artists to students. 1250 Bellflower Boulevard. Cost: $0. Parking is $7. Hours: Main gallery 12 PM to 5pm, closed Fridays. Tel: 562-985-5761
1.) Skateboarding. It wouldn't be Southern California without skateboarding parks. Parks open from dawn to 10 pm daily. Helmets, knee pads, elbow pads and shirts required.
- Michael Green Skate Park, 14th St between Pacific and Pine Ave.
- El Dorado Regional Park West, 2800 Studebaker Rd., Tel: (562) 570-3225
2.) Moonlight Movies on The Beach. Mom's and Grenada Beach feature free movie classics making it ideal for kids. It runs from June through September. There is also free parking in the beach lot. Purchase dinner, snacks, or popcorn. Starts at Dusk. 5101 E Ocean BlvdTel: (562) 477-6820
3.) Attend Art Walk. It's held in downtown the second Saturday of each month. Take in street performances and live music. It features sculptures, paintings, photography, and crafts. Unplug a little and relax. It's held on linden between Broadway and 1st. Many nearby galleries are open.
4.) Go biking on the San Gabriel River Bike Trail. A 28 mile bicycle path spanning the San Gabriel River. It's unbelievable scenery will have you in a different state of mind. Your body may be sore but your brain will thank you. Enter at El Dorado Park.
5. Relax on The Beach Pedestrian Bike Path. Chill out on a 3.1-mile, two lane path for bicyclists & pedestrians. The Path starts at the lighthouse in Shoreline Aquatic Park and returns to the beach.
6. Shark Lagoon Nights on Fridays. One of the more relaxing and free things to do in Long Beach with family or friends. The Aquarium of the Pacific offers a close up look at these ocean predators. Live bands are featured on select nights. Some Fridays excluded. Coffee, hot chocolate, beer, wine, desserts, and snacks can be purchased. 100 Aquarium Way. (562) 590-3100, ext. 0
7.) Fingerprints Record Store. The answer to Los Angeles' Amoeba Records. From in store signings by Brian Wilson to performances by Damian Rice and the Foo Fighters, it's a must. See what's going down. Get yourself perpendicular and head over 420 E. 4th Street. Tel: (562) 433-4996.
8. Get Free Roller Skate Lessons on Saturdays. Visit the Moxie Skate Shop. They're a full service roller skate shop in the heart of retro row. They also do custom colors which can really make your day. They can transform almost any shoe or boot into roller skates! How cool is that? 2132 E 4th street. Tel: (562)434-8488.
9. Visit Shoreline Aquatic Park. A wide open area perfect for picnics. Pack a basket full of goodies. Catch the sunset over the bay. Accessible to strollers and wheelchairs. Park in the structure across from the pike. Free for 90 minutes. Make a trip to visit the lighthouse. One of the best places to spend an afternoon! 200 Aquarium way. Tel: (562) 570-3100
10. First Fridays. Experience the community of local businesses the first Friday each month. Live music and artists showcase their talents. One of the more family oriented and fun thing to do in Long Beach. Hours: 6:30pm-9:30pm. Atlantic Ave from Bixby Rd to San Antonio Dr. Bixby Knolls neighborhood.
11. Watch the Sunset at Hilltop Park. Located in Signal hill, it has serene 360 views. On a clear night take in the stars and the lighted backdrop of Long Beach. Free parking. 2351 Dawson Ave
Signal Hill, CA 90755. Note: gets Breezy, bring a jacket.
12. Attend The County Fair. Sponsored by the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, local artists and musicians showcase their work. Local art, music, games, and animals. This event occurs the first Friday of every month. 6:30pm-9:30pm. Atlantic Ave & Bixby Rd.
There are several great annual events; some are must see.
1.) Toyota Grand Prix. As the single largest event in the city, the grand prix draws as many as 200,000 people. With cars reaching 150 mph, it's considered a must see event. Its held in early April and races through the streets of downtown. Tickets: 3-day general admission starts at $85. Parking is $40. Tel: (888) 827-7333 or buy online gplb.com.
2. Formula Drift. Since 1977, this 2-day event kick starts the grand prix. It happens the weekend before. Competitors are judged on style rather fastest time for course completion. Drifting is a technique where intentional oversteer of the rear wheels results in lost traction. The world's top drivers must maintain control for the entire corner. In some cases the front wheels end up pointed in the opposite direction! Tickets from $40 thru TicketMaster. Tel: 562-901-2600.
3.) Crawfish Festival. Tickets: $13.00 An annual event that takes place typically in the first weekend of August. The festival features fresh crawfish Louisiana Style. Cajun, Zydeco, and New Orleans music, dance floor, two stages and beach bars. Telephone: 562.495.5959
4. Comic Book Convention. Comic Con is held annually September 12th and 13th at the convention center. Cost: tickets start at $25. This isn't like San Diego which covers a number of mediums. This is focused solely on comic books.
5. Dragon Boat Festival. Cost: FREE. An annual event that's typically held in late July. This amateur water sport dates back 2000 years in China. In addition, experience art, acrobats, traditional dance, hip hop, music with martial arts. A fun family event. Marine Stadium, 5225 E Paoli Way. Tel: (626) 288-2888.
6. Attend the Belmont Shore Car Show. Cost: FREE. View over 650 cars consisting of pristine hot rods, muscle cars, and customs from the 1920s through the 1970s. Put on by The Bay City Rodders, it typically takes place in early September on 2nd Street. Attendance draws over 40,000 people. Parking at Ocean Ave beach lots or the Marine lot off Appian Way. This years event takes place on the 11th. Hours: 9 am to 3 pm. Tel: (562) 434-3066
7. Thunder Thursday. Cost: FREE. Witness freestyle motorcross stunts and acrobatics. One of the many events leading up to the Grand Prix, its moving to the Pike. It goes down on April 6th and starts at 6:30 pm
See anything we missed? If you have ideas for things to do in Long Beach, discuss in the comments.
A Brief History of Long Beach, CA
Long Beach, CA is a city located in Los Angeles County 25 miles south of Los Angeles on the Pacific Coast. Population wise, it's the second largest city consisting of almost a half million people! The last census in 2013 counted 469,428 residents. The seaport is one of the largest in the United States. In terms of cargo, it ranks 21st in the world. Incorporated in 1897, the city is rich in art, music, and theatre. Experience many cultural events and attractions year round. It has its own public airport, LGB, although the number of commercial flights are restricted for noise reduction. Long Beach Airport was ranked 7th by Cheap Flights on their 2015 Airport Affordability Report.
4th Street in Downtown is referred to as "retro row". Unique stores and specialty shops line the street ranging from: skate shops, coffee, wine bars, dive bars, furniture, and antiques. A bike designated district, makes it the best way to experience it. The New York Times calls it "the retro chic capital of California".
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1. Lighthouse photo courtesy of Daniel Sinoca, public domain
2. Surry Bike courtesy of Ian D. Keating, Public domain