Sidetrip: Long Beach, California

Located roughly 20 miles due south of downtown L.A., Long Beach is the seventh-largest city in California, although it’s often considered part of the “Greater Los Angeles Area.” There’s truth in advertising too, for Long Beach has a nearly 5.5-mile long beach that’s perfect for sun worshippers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The beach is mostly shielded by an off-shore breakwater so the waves never get big, making it great for families too. Below are some sights and attractions that help make Long Beach a great travel destination.

Shoreline Village – Designed to resemble a 19th century fishing village, Shoreline Village is located in Rainbow Harbor adjacent to the Long Beach Convention Center and Aquarium of the Pacific. Casual restaurants, like the Yard House and Parker’s Lighthouse, as well as several specialty shops fill the brightly painted clapboard-sided buildings. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll find purveyors of everything from funnel cake and cotton candy to gourmet chocolates and ice-cream as you stroll along the marina. Visitors can rent beach cruisers, tandem bicycles or four-passenger surreys from the Wheel Fun Rentals kiosk, and then ride down the ocean-side bike lane too. [429 Shoreline Village Dr., Long Beach, CA 90802]

The Queen Mary – Nearly 200 feet (61 meters) longer than the infamous Titanic, the RMS Queen Mary was built in 1936 and was the biggest, fastest, most luxurious ocean liner for decades. The glamorous Art Deco ship has been a permanent fixture of Long Beach’s waterfront since 1967. It’s now an operational hotel where guests can check-in to a First Class stateroom and imagine what it was like to live in a bygone era. The Queen Mary features several restaurants and a shopping promenade and also offers guided behind-the-scenes tours too. [1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90802]

Aquarium of the Pacific – One of the largest and best aquariums in the United States, the Aquarium of the Pacific features nearly twelve-thousand ocean animals in fifty habitats. Three regions of the Pacific Ocean—sunny Southern California/Baja, the tropical Pacific, and the frigid Northern Pacific are represented at the aquarium. Some highlights include Shark Lagoon, the sea otter habitat, and the enormous, colorful tropical reef tank which holds 350,000 gallons of water. [100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802]

Belmont Shores – A three-mile (4.8 km) long concrete pathway connects Shoreline Village with the neighborhood of Belmont Shores in southeast Long Beach. This is a perfect place for a leisurely bike ride, or to jog or rollerblade along the sandy beach.  2nd Street—the main boulevard in Belmont Shores—features restaurants and cafés, boutiques, jewelers, books, floral and specialty shops.

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor– The Pike is a 369,000 square foot dining and entertainment center linking the Long Beach Convention Center to Rainbow Harbor. Built on the site of an amusement zone of the same name that was located there from 1902 to the 1960s, the current Pike features a giant Ferris wheel and antique carousel as well as Cinemark Theatres, the Laugh Factory and a variety of restaurants including Gladstones 4 Fish, P.F. Changs and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. [95 South Pine Avenue, Long Beach, CA 90802]


Getting There: To get to downtown Long Beach from Los Angeles, take I-405 South to I-710 South, and exit at Shoreline Drive. From Orange County, take I-405 North to I-710 South, and exit at Shoreline Drive. You can also take the Metro Blue Line light rail train from downtown Los Angeles to the Long Beach Transit Center, in the heart of downtown and only a couple blocks away from the sites listed above. Bright red Long Beach “Passport” shuttles offer free rides between these attractions on the “C” line and in the summer months, water taxis connect the sites for only $1 per trip.

Click on the thumbnails below to see some more photos:

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