HL Travel: Long Beach, California - SoCal’s Undiscovered Jewel

Long Beach, California, the other city on the bay, thirty miles south of the City of Angels, has quietly built a global reputation as the popular destination city of choice for travelers looking to visit Los Angeles, Hollywood and the famed beaches of Southern California.

Long Beach, once known only for its shipping, docks and global ports, has transformed into a vibrant, colorful, artistic, flavorful destination city. Close enough to the L.A. scene and far enough away to be completely removed from many of the common drawbacks of life in the big city.

Why Long Beach?

Long Beach, California, a gateway to the region, offers world travelers the chance to familiarize themselves with the bigger, more aloof and gentrified Los Angeles, with its maze of highways and neighborhoods, while enjoying the great small town welcoming.

Those looking to explore greater SoCal will find Long Beach has key destinations that travelers to Southern California shouldn't miss. For locals traveling to Long Beach is easily accessible and well worth the trip.

With a dedicated staff working to bring tourists into Long Beach, year around the city offers something for everyone: A cultural magnet and transforming city.

Long Beach has 345 days of sunshine, so head this way for the fun, the sun, beachcombing, sightseeing, the culture, history and arts.

How to Get There

Long Beach is accessible on any transportation level air, car, bus, train and of course as a port city, boats and ships.

Air Travel

Long Beach Airport welcomes flights from 12 major cities from around the country every day. The recently renovated airport terminal was named one the 10 most beautiful airports in the world by the BBC. It is lounge inspired, comfortable seating, warm welcoming, resort appearance, with brand new terminals and local eateries that won the opportunity to build a sister site at the newly renovated Airport.

For travelers flying direct into LAX, Long Beach is 22 miles from Los Angeles International Airport. The trip in normal driving conditions should be a 30-minute drive.

Train Travel

Amtrak services Long Beach with a connecting coach to Union Station in Los Angeles. Like much of the city's public spaces, transportation hubs and infrastructure, the Amtrak coach stop have been renovated. There is no ticket agent or assistance. All reservations must be made prior to boarding.  

By Bus/Car

Traveling into Long Beach by car, one needs only to familiarize oneself with streets and parking rules and regulations. Greyhound Bus Service also services the Long Beach, California. Long Beach is also connected through the Los Angeles Metro System.

Day trippers can take the Blue Line Light Rail from several transportation hubs in L.A. and arrive within an hour. Over the ground buses, Los Angeles Metro and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus, also make daily runs from points North.

What to Do?

Long Beach, as an extension of Los Angeles is the suburbs of a huge, gentrified, city and actually, Long Beach is its own city, thirty miles south of its larger neighbor, with a compact, walkable downtown, and many of the attractions within minutes of driving time of each other.

As the base of regional exploration: Catalina Island is 22 miles away; Disneyland, 18 miles, Hollywood 31 miles and Outlet Shopping, from Forever 21 to H&M, 1 mile as these major brands and many others now call downtown Long Beach home.  

The "must see" of any vacation, staycation and down for the day trip should include the following:

The Legendary Queen Mary

Breathtaking, awesome, stunning are just a few words used to describe the beauty of this majestic vessel.

From the Ship's groundbreaking construction and royal launch as the most luxurious and technologically advanced ocean liner at the time, to her duty as a troopship during World War II, to her golden days of the 1950's, to her earning the nickname "haunted ship," the Queen Mary's history is full of action, adventure, romance and paranormal activity.

The Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967 after leaving Southampton the last time sailing to the port of Long Beach, California, United states, where she remains permanently moored. The ship serves as a tourist attraction featuring restaurants, a museum and hotel. The ship is listed on the national register of historic places, the National Trust for historic preservation has accepted the Queen Mary as part of the historic hotels in American. 

The Queen is a phenomenal vessel. Majestic, the ship offers more than one opportunity for travelers and visitors: The Tour, which is the most common. Annually the Queen caters to the community and changes its style for the holidays: it becomes a Haunted Ship for Halloween, and any, year-round, tour is given a glimpse of the most famed ghost sightings.

It is said by locals it is the most frightening (and fun) haunted House they've ever experienced. During the November-December traditional holiday season it becomes a themed paradise, changing annually and the pier and boardwalk adjacent opens into a bazaar of holiday offerings.

At any time the Queen Mary is a must see destination.

Gondola Getaway Cruises

Gondola Getaway Cruises bring old world charm and a thousand-year-old tradition to Southern California. Authentic venetian gondolas gently cruise the enchanting canals and waterways of Naples Island, near the resort area of Belmont shores in Long Beach, CA.

The Gondola Cruises for those who have never enjoyed the area or a gondola cruise will find they offer an unusual way to relax and truly an ultimate romantic cruise. The perfect prescription to calm and quiet the soul and spirit.

Each cruise is approximately one hour, the Gondola Cruises have the first and largest fleet in america. The Long Beach Gondoliers are skilled and among the world's best competing in Venice, Italy, every year. And they also sing in Italian!

Wine, cheese, dinners, are permitted and encouraged.

Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth most attended aquarium in the nation. It displays over 11,000 animals in more than 50 exhibits that represent the diversity of the Pacific Ocean.

With periodic petting stations, aquarium guests are encouraged to interact with special pools of sharks, Jellyfish, stingrays, and other Pacific Ocean animals. The unique displays mirroring natural habitats allow these animals the freedom to thrive.

From the largest animals in the aquarium to the smallest, each are living in an environment not any different than their natural environment. From Sea Horses, who appear as ancient warriors, dressed and ready for battle to the Pacific Otter, a fun loving, torpedo swimmer, to clear jellies, a shy Octopus and starfish who show up every day, the Aquarium is an interactive experience not to be missed.

The Aquarium of the Pacific has redefined the modern aquarium. It is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and a place where important topics facing our planet and our ocean are explored by scientists, policymakers and stakeholders in the search for sustainable solutions.

Yoga, Sunrise, Sunset, Stargazing

For those who are spending any time in Long beach the sponsored sunrise and sunset free Yoga is worth the extra effort to arrive early or just sit within the circle of participants and experience the calming presence as all energies are dedicated to the movements.

Water Sports

Long Beach sits on the Alamitos Bay, the San Pedro Bay, Long Beach Harbor which all feed into the Pacific Ocean. To say it is a waterfront community is an understatement.

Long Beach welcomes any number of watersports from Aquatic cycling, bicycles that float and move through peddling through the water. Paddle Boards, kayaking, swimming, diving and those are just some of the open water sports.

Swimming is a big draw in Long beach with many Olympic Swimmers residing in the city. The old Olympic training facility is currently under renovation. The new facility will meet all Olympic specifications and standards for Olympic trials.

Beach Walking/Promenade

Of course, any as with any waterfront community a vibrant boardwalk is a staple for the area, Long Beach is no different.

When city planners huddled many years ago, after the main employer Douglas MacArthur, who had been in Long Beach, since the 1940's, moved and military installations closed, they took an aggressive approach to spare a long term cycle of recession that usually follows closings.

Approaching their future with a "T" approach, Tourism became a main outreach for Long Beach. The Promenade caters to that ideal as does much of the waterfront community. 

The recent Pow Wow! Long Beach is the perfect example as an urban program in Hawaii, artists submit their name and work and local merchants and building owners donate the side of the building for major art canvases. The images in this section are from the recent Pow Wow! Long Beach.

A carnival, street fair fun atmosphere is year-round with neon lights, a walkable shoreline drive, with every outdoor activity from simply stargazing to people watching while enjoying alfresco dining and marina activity.

Both sides of the Harbor offer a healthy walk path allowing conventioneers, guests and residents the perfect atmosphere and invitation to stay fit while enjoy the surroundings. 

Museums/Art Galleries

Long Beach is a cultural mecca with several key Museum's, many galleries and a commitment to urban transformation and artistic development by bringing installation art to urban spaces inspiring the community and enhancing the barren with the vibrant. 

In addition to the Queen Mary museum, which transports visitors to the era of ship travel, elegant and prestigious, Atlantic Crossings. Each room is filled with artifacts, ornate and intricate designs from the wood, restored to its original and brass fixtures, the original metal murals, are rich with details of a time and era. The history of the royal family, the monarch and more contemporary history on limited display, and has just been extended, dedicated to Diana, Princess of Wales.

The Museum of Modern Art, which was recently chosen as the official art partner for the prestigious Longines Masters, The Grand Slam Indoor of Show Jumping offers a modernistic approach to art and is influenced by the area.

Pieces displayed during the Longines included impressionist interpretation of the event. Also maintaining a thoroughbred and horse theme additional pieces were contemporary collections. With limited space to display the heart of the Museum, a large green sea mammal, that had undergone the artists' interpretation welcome visitors. 

The Museum of Latin American Art is a vibrant part of the Long Beach community. Celebrating 20 years, the Museum is more than a historic account of Latin American art work and renderings, collections and pieces.

The chosen art tells a story of a people, in some cases, oppressed, in others liberated as it moves from political structure of stabilization to the insecurity of the drug trade era, the artists maintained a commitment to rendering work that personified the time.

Specific pieces on display some recognizable, Che Guevara, the Argentinian revolutionary in an Andy Warhol inspired display to the current "Trees for Guns" interactive display that shows the progression of cities in Mexico tired of the gun violence collected guns melted them down and created shovels. The shovels were used to plant trees and now the Shovel Exhibit is on permanent display at the MoLAA.

Of course, as in any society some pieces represent a vibrancy of the soul, work inspired by dreamscapes, and others the fun house glass distortion asks, "What do you really see?"

The Museum of Latin American Art is a must see. Don't end the tour without a stop at the Purple Wall and visit the desert sanctuary.

Nightlife – Where to Eat, Drink?

With a community catering to tourism, Long Beach has a vibrant foodie culture with everything from high end offerings to food truck representation from the real thing, make your eyes water Mexican to Seafood, Steaks, the oldest Italian restaurant in SoCal is located in Long Beach, to comfort country foods and fixings and, of course, a healthy mix of vegan, veggies and even fast food.

Sir Winston's - A Five Star Experience

Sir Winston's Restaurant & Lounge, RMS Queen Mary offers award winning cuisine and five star, white glove service. The history of the ship carries over into the dining.

The décor is vintage England with deep woods, with pictures of its namesake, Winston Churchill lining the walls. Churchill, obviously a man who enjoyed a good meal from time to time has established a tradition of fine, luxurious dining.

Comfortable seating, impeccable service, beautiful table settings, exquisite china, the experience of Sir Winston's begins with the Maître D's welcome.

The menu offers an array of appetizers including Helix Escargot, Carpaccio, Fresh Market Oysters, Chilled Crab Timbale and Braised Pork Belly, soups, Lobster Bisque and French Onion, Salads, Lobster, Tomato Caprese, Farmer's Market and Caesar are simply the prelude to a Classic's and Entrée menu that is Christmas morning to the foodie.

Beef Wellington, Chateaubriand, Dover Sole Meuniere represent the classics with Dry Aged Bone in New York Steak, Australian Rack of Lamb, Steelhead Salmon, Seared Ahi, Seared Day Boat Scallops, Sea Trout Almondine, Petaluma Duck, Herb Chicken Roulade and the nightly special on Classic Surf and Turf, Rock Maine Lobster and Filet Mignon served with roasted vegetables.

Sir Winston's also offers a variety of desserts from chocolate dipped strawberries to Chocolate Lava Cake and Chocolate and Vanilla Soufflés.

Sir Winston's also serves an entremets sorbet. Use in high end and ultra-luxurious rated French dining the non-descript, very cool, and unsweetened, ice cleanses and prepares the palate to enjoy the fullness of the dining experience.

OpenTable, the world's leading provider of restaurant reservations, has named Sir Winston's, in 2015, as one of the top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America.

A new addition to the Queen, Pappy Van Winkle's Family Bourbon has arrived on board. This extremely rare, limited edition bourbon takes generations too perfect and produce.

Truly, Sir Winston's is an unmatched dining experience.

Lola's Mexican Cuisine

Lola's grandmother passed down her recipes to Lola when she was just a little girl growing up in Guadalajara, Mexico. The menu at this authentic Mexican restaurant located in the trendy Retro Row section of Long Beach reflects an authenticity modernized.

Having the opportunity to enjoy a sampling of this famed foodie stop, it is delicious! The guacamole, chunky with flavors that pop, the picante packed a nice kick, not overbearing, a smooth heat; the chips are crispy and don't break in the scoop. 

A menu that offers all the favorites one could think of, for the Mexican foodies, Lola can match even the most distinguished Mexican palate and leave them wanting.

Everything at Lola's is made from scratch and with naturally grown, quality ingredients. The mission at Lola's is for their guest to enjoy the food they way they have come to know it and love it – Right from Mom's Kitchen!

For Cocktails on the Harbor Side - Fuego at Hotel Maya

Fuego serves premium Tequila! With the largest selection of tequila in the region (!) that can be sampled in handcrafted Margaritas and other signature cocktails.

Appetizers include delicious blend of seafood and Mexicali samplers such as Mexican Baja Lobster Cocktail, Crab Cakes, Grilled Lamb Chops, signature Fuego Guacamole with Tortilla chips.  

Pine Street and 120 Choices

Long Beach, the only walkable downtown SoCal city, offers 120 restaurants, bars, clubs and live music venues in an eight block radius beginning at Pine Avenue from 4th to Pike and Shoreline Village.

A few suggestions include Hamburger Marys (www.hamburgermarys.com/longbeach), The Federal Bar, www.lb.thefederalbar.com), The Stave Bar, (www.thestavebar.com)  and SGT. Peppers Dueling Pianos (www.pepperpianos.com/the-show)

Breakfast, Early Morning and All Day Comfort foods

With all these late night offerings Breakfast would seem to be grab and go coffee which is available as Long Beach host many neighborhood familiar national chain coffee houses. For a local taste the Breakfast Bar offers a variety of comfort food selection from Sausage and Egg and Gravy Biscuits, Shrimp and Grits, Old Fashioned Oatmeal, Signature Waffles, Seasonal Fruit, and the single most important ingredient after an evening out: A long pour with refills on the coffee!

The Breakfast Bar is family owned with a local crowd and serve breakfast and lunch with an expanded afternoon menu of alcoholic beverages.

Where to Stay?

With tourism one of the mainstays of this waterfront communities economy, Long Beach has invested in construction of high end, upscale housing as well as short stay accommodations and hotels.  

Long Beach has a total of 4,528 room inventory throughout the entire city. 3,145 of those are in the downtown area along. Long Beach has all major accommodation providers including Hyatt Regency, The Westin Long Beach, the newly renovated Hilton Long beach, Renaissance Long beach, Long Beach Marriott, the Downtown Marriott, Hyatt Centric, Hotel Maya by Doubletree Hilton. The Queen Mary also offers traditional state rooms.

Long Beach Region

With a thriving arts community, Long Beach, is so much more than the Queen Mary, which of course, is docked at the Long Beach Port and definitely a star attraction. Long Beach is home to an arts community. Artists, mural and large Installation artists are finding Long Beach to be welcome home for their work.

With music, dance, theater, live bands and performances, Long Beach is a cultural mecca, with something for everyone, Long Beach has professional performance artists and talent performing at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, Industry known names, and local and regional theater. to the professional artists who mecca for artists, beachcombers, luxury events, shopping.

Long Beach, the undiscovered jewel, a creative, popular, magical, welcoming destination city.

For more information on Long Beach, California: www.visitlongbeach.com

Images in Transportation Section, Lola's Restaurant, final image in Gondola section, waterfront image at dusk with pink sky and small article summary image courtesy of Long Beach Convention Bureau, (CVB) and used with permission.

"Welcome Aboard" image of the Queen Mary courtesy of The Queen Mary and used with permission.

For more information: www.queenmary.comwww.aquariumofthepacific.comwww.lolasmexicancuisine.com





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