With so many things to do in Long Beach, California, it’s hard not to fall in love with everything the city offers, from cultural enlightenment to pure relaxation.
Often overshadowed by its bigger-than-life neighbor, Los Angeles, Long Beach is one of California’s most underrated destinations.
The first time I visited Long Beach, I was thrown off by how much the seventh-largest city in the state felt like a small town.
And yet, as you’ll discover with a visit to the city, there’s also no shortage of fun things to do around Long Beach.
In fact, it took plenty of constraint to stop myself from turning this article into a lengthy book with how many unique Long Beach attractions there are to do.
Whether you want to soak up as much California sun as possible or you’re in the mood for cultural enlightenment and cool entertainment, these are my favorite things to do in Long Beach, California.
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Top Things to Do in Long Beach
At first glance, downtown Long Beach is just another cliché downtown in Southern California with high-rise, glass buildings, and trendy restaurants along a palm-lined promenade.
And although that’s not far from the truth, don’t write downtown Long Beach off just yet. You might be surprised by its easygoing character and charm.
Speaking of charm, The Ordinarie has plenty! This warm tavern in downtown Long Beach serves delicious American cuisine accompanied by good music ranging from jazz to country.
What locals love most about this place though is the holiday-themed food and drink during December.
Or, if you want to bring gifts to your friends back home, visit MADE by Millworks, a boutique where everything is designed by local artists.
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Get Lost in the Scenic Neighborhood of Naples
Once you step on the streets of Naples, you’ll understand where the Italian names of the neighborhood and streets come from.
Sitting atop three islands separated by canals, the entire neighborhood evokes an unmistakable Italian charm.
You can expect gondolas floating in the canals, luscious greenery following you everywhere you look, and beautiful homes washed in sunlight.
The Naples neighborhood makes you feel like you went through a portal and landed on Burano Island in Venice.
The houses are beautifully decorated, holiday music blasts from speakers, and the locals even give out hot cocoa and cookies.
Hit the Beach
Unlike much of the California Coast, where the Pacific Ocean is wild with waves and riptides, the beaches in Long Beach are on the calmer side.
It’s only natural then that going to the beach is one of the main Long Beach activities to enjoy when you’re in town.
Whether you’re with friends, family, or a loved one – there’s a beach for every occasion. The following are a few of my favorites.
Alamitos Park Beach
Head to Alamitos Park Beach if you’re looking for things to do in Long Beach with kids – the water here is usually pretty calm and gentle.
On the side, there’s a grassy area with picnic tables and a little shade from the towering palms.
Rosie’s Dog Beach
Rosie’s Dog Beach is ideal if you’re looking for a good beach to bring your furry friend to.
Between 6 am and 8 pm all doggos are welcome to play in the water or run around off-leash. The only rule is that you can’t bring more than one dog.
If you want to mingle with the crowds and have access to more amenities, head to Cherry Beach (also known as Junipero Beach).
For the early birds, there might be some free parking spots, otherwise, use the metered parking along the nearby streets.
With lifeguards always on duty, Junipero Beach is one of the safest beaches to swim at in town. Also, their recreational facilities are popular among the younger folk.
Explore the Bustling East Village Arts District
Show appreciation for local artists by heading to the Arts District of Long Beach.
Despite being in downtown Long Beach, the East Village Arts District has the laid-back energy of a small town.
Inside the restored historic buildings you’ll find art galleries, independent shops, cozy cafes, and restaurants.
Whether you’re hungry for food, art, or a quirky chat with people from all backgrounds, the Arts District is the place to be.
Visit the Long Beach Museum of Art
Another hot spot for art and history enthusiasts – the Long Beach Museum of Art has a permanent art collection of over 3,000 pieces in different mediums.
The permanent collection, as well as the temporary exhibits, pay homage to American and European art from the last three centuries.
With free parking and a general admission of $12, the Long Beach Museum of Art offers one of the most affordable yet brain-stimulating experiences in town.
Additionally, the Long Beach Museum of Art operates Claire’s, a restaurant with a gorgeous ocean view. It’s the perfect spot for a romantic date night, just make reservations ahead of time.
Learn History at Rancho Los Cerritos
Dating back to 1844, the Los Cerritos Ranch House provides a window into the Mexican history of the area.
During its heyday, it was the most remarkable adobe residence in Southern California, housing cattle and sheep.
Today, it’s high on the list of top places to visit in Long Beach.
It operates as a public Long Beach museum showcasing a Victorian-era interior, a formal Italian garden, library, and a gift shop.
Have your camera ready to take some Instagram-worthy pictures!
Stroll Around Long Beach Waterfront
The bustling Long Beach Waterfront gives a special lure to the city.
With so many vibrant boutiques and dining spots in Shoreline Village (the charming seaside hangout on the east side of Rainbow Harbor), it’s an unsurprisingly busy place at all times.
One of the landmark spots drawing the most crowds is Parkers’ Lighthouse, a restaurant famous not only for its delicious food but also for the splendid harbor views from every table.
Once you’ve wined and dined, you can take a casual walk around ShoreLine Aquatic Park.
It’s a public park with spectacular ocean views, rich greenery, and a lighthouse that separates Rainbow Harbor from Queensway Bay.
Another fun thing to do around the waterfront is shopping at The Pike Outlets. This is where you can find a good lineup of outlet stores for well-known brands and there’s even a Ferris wheel for the kids.
See the Marine Life Up Close in the Aquarium of the Pacific
One of the most popular Long Beach attractions with over 1.5 million visitors per year, the Aquarium of the Pacific is home to more than 12,000 aquatic animals from the largest ocean in the world.
Of all the things to do in Long Beach with the family, visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific is definitely the most entertaining and educational.
This is especially the case for the more interactive parts of the aquarium, like Shark Lagoon where you can go from being a spectator to a member of this aquatic community.
You’ll have a hard time pretending you’re not as excited as your kids to feed the sharks, pet the sturgeon and stingrays, touch the jellyfish, and so much more.
The admission might be on the pricier side but it’s worth every penny.
Local tip: Visit in the morning to avoid the bulk of the crowds.
Go Whale Watching
Depending on what time of year you visit Long Beach, there will be a parade of different types of whales swimming past the shore.
These beautiful creatures are perhaps one of the most exciting things to see in Long Beach.
You can grab your binoculars and watch the largest mammals on Earth from the beach for free.
However, I highly recommend hopping on one of the whale watching cruises that leave Long Beach.
Even if they feel shy that day and don’t show up, you’ll most certainly see their cute friends, the bottlenose dolphins, and a beautiful view of Long Beach from the water.
Either way, whale watching in Long Beach is always a fun day out on the water.
Fun Things to Do in Long Beach
Get Furry Cuddles at Feline Good Social Club
If you want to unwind during your time in Long Beach, head to the Feline Good Social Club.
It’s a cat lounge founded by a caring lady where you can play and socialize with over 25 adoptable cats.
Anyone who walks in the Feline Good Social Club leaves with record-high dopamine levels.
And who knows, maybe one of these purry creatures will steal your heart and come with you back home.
Take the Ferry to Catalina Island
It’s probably weird that I’m sending you off of Long Beach, but hear me out.
Catalina Island is Southern California’s jewel and Long Beach is the location of one of the main departure ports to get to the island.
So, trust me on this one and hop on the Catalina Express for a day trip.
This small California island with infectious Mediterranean appeal offers hands down the best things to do near Long Beach.
Not only does it have the warmest water in SoCal and some of the most beautiful beaches to boot, but it also features diverse and colorful aquatic life and clear water for stunning snorkeling.
Or, if you don’t want to get wet, there’s plenty more to do on Catalina in a day: wander the streets of the waterfront town, hike the island and spot the bison, grab a buffalo milk cocktail, or indulge your taste buds in delicious seafood.
Hang Out at The Hangar
Gone are the days when Boeing manufactured commercial and military aircraft in Long Beach.
But a couple of years ago, their 17,000 square foot facility was turned into a vibrant retail and dining area where locals now love to hang.
So if you’re looking for things to do in Long Beach at night, stop by The Hangar, even if you’re with kids.
Kids will have a blast in the playground area while you enjoy live music with a cold pint of beer and seriously delicious food.
Have a Good Laugh at Que Sera
Que Sera is a bar on 7th Street greatly loved by locals for their cheap prices and busy dancefloor. On Wednesdays though they attract huge crowds for something else – the best comedy show in town.
They partner up with Bear City Comedy to bring the most hilarious comedians on stage – among them are quite a few familiar faces from Netflix, HBO, and Comedy Central.
One thing is for sure, you’ll leave the venue with sore abs from laughing all night long.
Go Vintage Shopping on Retro Row
As you’ve probably already guessed from the name, Retro Row isn’t filled with high-end designer brands.
What you’ll find instead is trendy clothing, soulful antiques, rare furniture, a diverse food scene, and a few hipsters milling about.
Speaking of food, the vegan housemade falafels at The HipPea are so wholesome, even the carnivores rave about them.
But if you want to avoid any surprises in terms of flavor, The Little Coyote is the place for you – they serve the best pizza made with fresh ingredients.
And once you’re here don’t miss the local legend, Fingerprints Music. This vinyl records shop is widely popular for hosting local musicians as well as big names like the Foo Fighters and Brian Wilson.
Scout Famous Filming Locations
If you’re looking for a more cinematic Long Beach sightseeing experience, finding famous filming locations can be a fun scavenger hunt around the city.
Located only a stone’s throw away from Los Angeles, the city of Long Beach has appeared in many famous movies and shows.
Although, more often than not, it’s under the disguise of another US city.
If you grew up during the 90s, you’d probably want to visit the houses from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and American Pie. And if you’re a La La Land fan, go for a drink at the Blind Donkey.
Free Things to Do in Long Beach
Visit Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
One of the loveliest secret places in Long Beach, The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is quietly hiding on the campus of California State University Long Beach.
Although it’s smaller in size, the garden is an oasis of tranquility. Plus, its romantic appeal makes for one of the best date ideas in Long Beach.
Until recently there was an entrance fee but you can now visit Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden free of charge during weekdays. You’ll just need to make an online reservation ahead of time.
Bike the Shoreline Beach Path
Whether you’re into biking or skating, the Shoreline Bike Path is always a good bet for exercising in a scenic area.
It stretches 7.3 miles from one end of the city to the other and provides the best views of the ocean, especially during sunset.
There are many shops along the path to rent a bike from, but those in Shoreline Village are usually the most convenient.
Local tip: Although the walking lane is separate from the Shoreline Beach Path, ride with extra caution because it gets busy and pedestrians sometimes walk into the bike lane.
Watch the Sunset from Hilltop Park
Of all the things to do in Long Beach for couples, watching the sunset from Hilltop Park is certainly the cheapest and most breathtaking.
The park offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Long Beach, Downtown LA, Orange County, the mountains, and the ocean.
It’s the best place to watch the sky light up in colorful hues and the city lights turn on as the sun slips below the horizon.
That being said, finding parking around sunset can be impossible, so either plan to climb the hill on foot or visit earlier to find a spot.
Get Fit with Yoga on the Bluff
Just a block away from the ocean, there’s a green area known as Bluff Park where locals go twice a day to do outdoor yoga.
And it’s not just because it’s free, the friendly teachers at Yoga on the Bluff have really created a heartfelt community with their free classes.
If you decide to attend one of the Yoga on the Bluff classes, you’ll remember the experience long after leaving Long Beach.
Show Off Your Disc Golf Skills at El Dorado Park
This local’s favorite 18-hole disc golf course has been drawing crowds for four decades.
Although you might occasionally stumble upon some competitive dudes, most people are super friendly and chill and just want to have some fun playing disc golf.
The only downside to the course is that the trees in the park sometimes make it hard for beginners, but, all in all, it’s a great disc golf park with regular maintenance.
Experience the Long Beach Grand Prix
Every April since 1975, over 100,000 people gather downtown to watch the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The Grand Prix of Long Beach is a three-day event that offers world-class racing, interactive displays, and fun for the entire family.
The tickets range from $27 to $345 depending on when, where, and what you want to attend.
Some Airbnbs with a direct view of the racing circuit get up to $6,000 per night! For that reason, you’ll want to book well in advance because, view or not, this is probably the busiest tourist time in Long Beach.
Unique Things to Do in Long Beach
Take a Ride on the Aqualink Water Taxi
Offering an entirely different perspective of the Long Beach Waterfront and downtown, riding the Aqualink Water Taxi for $5 is worth every penny and more!
Besides the spectacular views, there are also snacks and alcohol to buy onboard so the half-hour drive makes the perfect start to a romantic date night.
Board the taxi at Alamitos Bay and ride to the Pacific Aquarium, the Queen Mary, or Belmont Pier – whichever route you pick, you won’t be disappointed.
Soak Up the Art at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)
Being the culturally diverse city that is, Long Beach is home to the Museum of Latin American Art – the only museum of contemporary Latin art nationwide.
Although there are 1,300 pieces in the permanent collection, the Museum of Latin American Art doesn’t stop there.
Understanding the importance that art has in society, the temporary exhibits always focus on underrepresented groups.
And if you love dancing under the starry sky as much as I do, you’ll love the Mariachi Nights in the Sculpture Garden.
The tequila helps loosen up stiff feet and hips, and the tasty food will keep you happy all night long.
Go See the Skinny House
It was the year 1932 and Newton P. Rummonds bought a tiny piece of land measuring 10 feet by 50 feet – it was either that or never getting his $100 back.
But can you build a house on such a tiny lot? Others didn’t think so, but Newton took the bet and proved them all wrong.
So today, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, this skinny Tudor-style home at 708 Gladys Avenue, is America’s skinniest house.
And it has been inhabited ever since it was built. The last known owner, a nice cat-lady, lived in the three-story house at the end of the last millennium. In 2001 she decided to sell it, but to whom, remains a mystery to this day.
Take the Paranormal Tour on the Queen Mary
If you’ve ever heard of Long Beach before, you’ve also probably heard of its legendary ocean liner, the Queen Mary.
Inaugurated in 1936, the transatlantic ship quickly became popular among Hollywood stars. Then World War II happened and the luxurious Queen Mary converted to the largest and fastest troopship in the world.
In 1947, the Queen Mary welcomed passengers back onboard, reclaiming its old glory. Twenty years later, it set for its final cruise, docking permanently in the port of Long Beach and becoming a city landmark.
With so much history on deck, it’s no wonder that the Queen Mary has been named the most haunted hotel in America. Throughout the years, there have said to be many ghost sightings and paranormal activities witnessed by visitors and staff.
Don’t believe them? Then you won’t be scared to take one of the Twilight tours of Queen Mary. The guides take you to the most haunted places and just might convince you otherwise. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Showcase Your Detective Skills on the Mystery Dinner Cruise
The paranormal might not be your schtick, but there’s rarely a soul who can resist a thrilling detective mystery.
The Murder Mystery Dinner Show is widely known for its hilarious murder scenarios played by talented actors infiltrated among the guests.
Although the prices can be steep, the experience is well worth it. The spontaneity of the entire show creates an unforgettable experience to tell your grandchildren one day.
The most exciting part of the evening is that everyone can end up being the Prime Suspect, including yourself.
So if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes, this might be one of the best things to do in Long Beach, especially if you’re looking for a good evening activity.
See the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum
Another museum visit for your Long Beach bucket list! This time it’s the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum.
Same as the Museum of Latin American Art, this is the only museum in the US that’s dedicated to preserving the cultural and artistic heritage of the people of Oceania.
Anyone who visits the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum only has words of praise for the curator, Fran, and the rest of the staff.
Their permanent collection is a powerful reflection of the complex history of Oceania and the rotating temporary exhibits are just as well done, inviting visitors back time and again.
Outdoorsy Things to Do in Long Beach
Hike in White Point Nature Preserve
A wilderness oasis inside a concrete jungle, the White Point Nature Education Center and Preserve is the go-to place for locals seeking to reconnect with nature.
Although the colors of the sky during sunset add a special flair, I find mornings to be the best time for a hike here. The trails aren’t as busy and the sun isn’t too hot yet.
If you happen to visit in summer, prepare for a nature preserve in full bloom. July is especially magical when the sunflowers are in bloom.
Kayak in Naples Canal
There’s a long list of Long Beach water activities to enliven your visit. While some of them can scare off beginners, that’s usually not the case with kayaking.
For only $15 per hour, you get a one-of-a-kind tour around Naples Island and a close-up opportunity to see moon jellyfish and some open-air exercise while you’re at it.
Have a Picnic at the Bluffs
Of all the outdoor activities to do in Long Beach, laying barefoot under the shade in Bluff Park, snacking on some light food, and breathing the salty air might be the most relaxing one.
Due to its location, on one side you’ll enjoy a front-row view of the Pacific Ocean and on the other, the jaw-dropping mansions on Ocean Boulevard.
The serene atmosphere of Bluff Park is equally enticing to families with kids as well as to couples who want relaxed, romantic dates that don’t break the bank.
Moreover, the park is usually packed with joggers and other folks trying to achieve their steps for the day.
Paddle Board in Alamitos Bay
It turns out that many fun activities in Long Beach include paddling in some way or form.
Another beautiful place to explore in Long Beach is Alamitos Bay, right next to Naples, and sharing the same calm waters and charm.
You can bring your own paddleboard or decide to rent one there. The friendly staff provide appropriate gear and walk you through the basics for maximum safety.
And if paddleboarding in still waters doesn’t excite you, you can check out the dolphin tours instead.
On these tours, a boat takes you to the ocean where you can paddle with cute bottlenose dolphins that pop up near shore.
Tours only take place on days when the ocean is calm enough to allow safe paddleboarding, but it’s a fun experience to have if you’re up for the adventure.
Explore the El Dorado Nature Center
I’ve already told you about the disc golf course at El Dorado, but the El Dorado Nature Center offers even more.
Some people go as far as comparing it to Narnia, so that might give you an idea of how beautiful it is.
Trees and shade are scarce in Southern California, but not at El Dorado Nature Center.
Turtles, squirrels, butterflies, and other lovely creatures will keep you company while exploring this slice of wilderness in the middle of the city.
Throughout the preserve, you can walk along miles of paved and unpaved trails that go through scenic lakes and forests.
There’s no entrance fee if you walk in but plan to pay for parking if you drive there.
Surf at Seal Beach
No, there aren’t any seals at Seal Beach and technically Seal Beach isn’t in Long Beach, but it’s the closest beach near Long Beach with good waves.
You’d think that Long Beach would have some good surfing locations with neighboring surf hot spots like Huntington Beach, but, weirdly, that’s not the case.
Anyway, coming to Southern California and not hopping on a surfboard is like going to Italy and not eating pasta.
Finally, a water activity in Long Beach that doesn’t involve paddling! Opting for a day of sailing means you’ll get to ride the Pacific Ocean waves without even dipping a toe in the cold water (if you don’t want to).
Charter a sailboat, bring your own food, and forget about any worries for two to three hours on the water.
Depending on the time of year, besides the fantastic views, there’s also a good chance you might spot some local dolphins coming to greet you.
Local tip: Wear warm clothes because the breeze and ocean spray can sometimes feel like Chicago in January. Well, almost.
Where to Eat & Drink in Long Beach
- Open Sesame – For the tasty Mediterranean food.
- George’s Greek Cafe – For the best Greek food.
- Sweet Jill’s – Get the cinnamon roll with nuts and no white icing.
- Michael’s – For a great selection of wines with amazing food.
- Pie Bar or Romeo’s – For delicious dessert.
- Heritage Sandwich Shop – For juicy sandwiches to bring to a beach picnic.
- Saltwater Deck – For the Ice cream.
- Phnom Penh Noodle Shack – For the best Cambodian food in town.
- Low Key Burritos – Nothing about their taste is lowkey.
- Ahimsa Cafe – For excellent vegan food.
- 4th Horseman – A craft beer and pizza bar with quirky vibes.
Where to Stay in Long Beach
Considering its location between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach has a surprising amount of affordable accommodation options.
Here are a few of the best places to stay in Long Beach.
Best Time to Visit Long Beach
Since this is California, weather-wise there’s no such thing as a bad time to visit Long Beach.
Nevertheless, being a coastal town, you’ll have a better experience in May through September when all events and outdoor activities are back in full swing.
With that said, July and August are the hottest and most crowded, so it’s good to bear that in mind if you’re planning a summer visit.
December, on the other hand, might be a good time to visit if Christmas is your favorite holiday.
The whole city, especially Naples and Alamitos Bay, turns into a Christmas wonderland and the weather is still beautiful.
How to Get Around Long Beach
As is the case with most big cities in Southern California, driving around Long Beach can be overwhelming.
Instead of getting stuck in traffic and wasting time trying to find a parking space, consider some of the transportation options below.
Passport Bus & Water Taxi
The Passport buses operate between downtown Long Beach and its major attractions. The best part about it? It’s FREE. Yes, you read that right. Just get on the bus and save yourself money, time, and stress.
The Aqua Bus, on the other hand, costs $1 and moves around the harbor.
A third option is the Water Taxi which costs $5 per ride and goes from the Aquarium of the Pacific or the Queen Mary to Alamitos Bay.
The city of Long Beach has partnered with several operators which are allowed to deploy up to 1,000 e-scooters across the city.
You can download the app and rent an electric scooter with a few taps.
Note: If you’re renting an e-scooter, please be careful moving around and abide by the rules. It’s illegal for electric scooters to ride on sidewalks and the maximum allowed speed is 15mph.
Just as the e-scooter program is run by the city, there’s another program for rentable bikes called BikeShare.
They have different plans to choose from depending on how much time you’ll have in Long Beach. On their app, you can conveniently check locations and bike availability.
Or, if the city’s bike share program is a nuisance for you, there are at least a dozen bike rental places scattered across Long Beach where you can find yourself a two-wheel ride.
Note: If you want to visit Downtown Los Angeles, the Metro Blue Line light rail takes you directly there.
Tips for Visiting Long Beach
- Embrace the cultural diversity – Long Beach is proud of its culture and diverse communities. Embrace the cultural nature of the city through its food, unique neighborhoods, and annual events. Fun fact: There are more Cambodians in Long Beach than any other place in the world except for Cambodia.
- Long Beach has its own airport – Before you book a ticket for LAX you might want to check for flights to Long Beach Airport from your destination. Even though it’s smaller, the airport is serviced by a handful of regional and major airlines and prices are often affordable, especially within California. Popular routes include San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and more.
- Summer weekends in the city can get very busy – During the summer season, and especially during weekends, Long Beach streets, highways, and beaches get packed. If you’re visiting in the summer, plan out your itinerary ahead of time, book things in advance, and factor in extra time for traffic to prevent stressful situations.
What to Pack for Long Beach
- Sun hat
- Breathable, lightweight tops
- Light jacket
- Sandals or flip flops
- Walking shoes
- Dry bag
- Beach bag
- Reusable water bottle
- Travel insurance
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Claudia Nikolova is a legal alien with an Eastern European accent who settled in California after three years of living in France. After graduating from Tourism in her home country, Macedonia, she accidentally ended up in content writing which ultimately lead her to digital marketing. These days she spends most of her free time on the beach in California.
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