Long Beach is emerging as the hip, fresh, urban alternative for SoCal adventures
Long Beach is emerging as the hip, fresh, urban alternative for SoCal adventures.
By Sondra Barr
Long Beach isn’t Los Angeles. It’s not Orange County either. It’s somewhere decidedly different and a heck of a lot cooler than you’d expect––literally and figuratively. Just a quick flight from Phoenix (FYI, the Long Beach Airport was named one of the 10 most beautiful airports by the BBC), it’s a fun spot for a quick getaway.
Not only is LB (don’t call it ‘The LBC,’ lest you want people to know you listened to Snoop Dogg’s song Gin and Juice one too many times) typically 10 degrees cooler than LA, it has a much better sense of style than the OC. Plus, it’s only 18 miles away from the happiest place on Earth, just in case you need to get a quick Disney fix. From funky street art to hip restaurants, trendy shopping, and exciting events, Long Beach is emerging from the shadows of its more well known neighbors to become a destination for travelers in the know.
One of the most prestigious equestrian competitions in the world, the Longines Masters selected Long Beach to be its new host city for the American portion of the tour starting in 2016. Considering the event’s other two stops are Paris and Hong Kong, the caliber of competition and attendance is high. The Longines Masters returns to Long Beach this year for four days of equestrian action beginning on Aug. 31.
For a different sort of horsepower, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach attracts over 170,000 people who flock to see racecars reach speeds of up to 200 miles per hour while zipping through the streets of downtown Long Beach. The longest running major road race held on the North American continent, it makes its 2017 return to Long Beach’s streets in April. There’s more, of course, including the annual Catalina Ski Race, where 110 super boats race between Long Beach and Catalina Island.
Art & Culture
The city takes art and culture seriously. Long Beach is home to two acclaimed museums: the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA). Many one-of-a-kind galleries showcasing the work of local artists can also be found throughout the city. Meanwhile, the waterside Long Beach Performing Arts Center hosts the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, Long Beach Opera, and International City Theater.
Art in Long Beach extends to the outdoors too. The past two years, Pow! Wow!, an art-focused festival with large, site-specific murals and multimedia installations by cutting-edge artists from around the world, has landed in Long Beach. Originally established in Hawaii, Pow! Wow! brought international and local artists together to create murals and other forms of art throughout downtown Long Beach. Located in unexpected spaces and places, these large-scale murals greet passersby with bright colors and intriguing images.
Shopping & Dining
For something slightly less cerebral, Long Beach’s funky East Village offers the chance to explore the area’s many eclectic boutique stores. From vintage finds to handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts and crafts, this colorful area is a celebration of all things local, with nary a chain in sight.
Foodies can delight in dozens of independent and innovative restaurant concepts throughout the area. Consider The Breakfast Bar, a creative take on breakfast and lunch run by locals Josh and Pamela Beadel. Meanwhile, one of Long Beach’s hippest restaurants, James Republic, is generating national buzz. It’s being hailed by restaurant critics as a world-class restaurant in a modest Courtyard Marriott that is setting the bar high in local sustainable dining. Don’t let the Marriott connection fool you, the food is swoon worthy, as is the view from the modern open air dining space.
Yes, Long Beach is still home to the historic Queen Mary. If you haven’t been to visit her in awhile, it’s time for another voyage back in time. Floating hotel, attraction, and curiosity, this royal lady still delivers the goods with first-class dining at Sir Winston’s, live entertainment, exhibits, tours, and the occasional ghost sighting to keep visitors on their toes. The ship also sports a restored 1920s Art Deco bar with amazing city views for those with more leisurely pursuits in mind.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean, with 5.5 miles of sandy beach front, plus miles of inland bays and waterways, it’s no surprise a multitude of aquatic adventures can be had. Because a breakwater about a mile offshore prevents waves from reaching the beach, Long Beach is an ideal place to learn how to kite surf and sail. SoCal Kite Surfing offers lessons at Belmont Shores, while Leeway Sailing and Aquatics Center provides sailing, kayaking, and canoeing instruction.
For those preferring to stay dry but still get out on the water. The Gondola Getaway company cruises the canals and waterways of Naples Islands in authentic Venetian gondolas. Able to accommodate groups of up to 60 for wine tastings, romantic sunset and moon lit cruises, engagements, anniversaries, and more, each ride come complete with singing gondoliers. It’s a unique way to see the shores of the resort town of Long Beach’s Belmont Shore and enjoy some relaxing time on the water.
If staying on solid footing is more your thing, Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific features a collection of over 11,000 animals representing over 500 different species. Among their many exhibits is Shark Lagoon, where guests can touch a bonnethead shark or a cownose ray.
Long Beach wouldn’t be a burgeoning tourist destination without accommodations as unique as the city. An eclectic assortment of places to lay your head can be found throughout the city. Views. Location. Amenities. Check! From the resort-style Hotel Maya, situated on 14 acres of waterfront amongst 400 plus palm trees with a sparkling view of downtown to The Varden, a European-style boutique hotel within walking distance of all Long Beach has to offer, there are also many choices in between.
IF YOU GO
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach
700 Queensway Dr., Long Beach
Museum of Latin American Art
628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach
The Gondola Getaway
5437 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Hwy., Long Beach
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