Like most Angelenos, I've been to Long Beach; but until recently I had never considered spending a weekend there. Without traffic I can make it to Long Beach in roughly half an hour, meaning that a trip to the aquarium or a seasonal visit to CHILL doesn't require an overnight. So why would I commit to a full weekend there? The folks at the Long Beach Visitors Bureau invited me to find the answer to that rhetorical question, and I am so glad they did. What a wonderful surprise it was to discover that Long Beach is much more than just a busy port wrapped around an aquarium! In fact, this gem, hidden in plain sight, is a delightful beach town full of family activities and indulgent recreation.
Our home base for the weekend was the Courtyard by Marriott, which is well situated in the middle of town, has a great pool, offers lovely views of the harbor, and is very accommodating of families. The desk staff were helpful in figuring out our days' itineraries, and the in-house restaurant, James Republic, is so wonderful that it was hard to pry ourselves away to try other restaurants! We were able to get to most places without moving our car from the Courtyard's lot; we walked or used the free Passport bus service to move around.
A peaceful gondola ride
Our favorite activity of the weekend was a gondola ride around Naples Island. What a treat! A tip to future travelers: had we known that we could bring a picnic and eat dinner on the gondola, we totally would have done that. The gondoliers can even put drinks on ice for you. Another of our favorite discoveries was the Aquabus: for $1 per ride, a long walk from dock to dock becomes a short boat ride instead - a big hit with the kids. And for some memorable meal ideas (other than dining on a gondola) consider the classic Parkers' Lighthouse, a sunset window table at Boathouse on the Bay, lunch at the aquarium cafe with a view of the Penguins, or even a murder mystery dinner cruise on a New Orleans style river boat.
Typing our names in Morse code in the Queen Mary radio room
Here are our favorite 25 things to do around Long Beach with the family; feel free to add your favorites in the comments below!
- Explore the Aquarium of the Pacific.
- Tour the Queen Mary.
- Take a harbor cruise.
- Rent a bicycle or surrey.
- Go on a whale watching cruise.
- Indulge in a gondola ride around Naples Island.
- Check out the Museum of Latin American Art.
- Shop Shoreline Village.
- Visit the El Dorado Nature Center.
- Ride the Aquabus.
- Take out a paddle boat in Rainbow Lagoon.
- Have a meal on the river boat Grand Romance.
- Have a beach day.
- See free summer evening movies at Alfredo's Beach Club.
- See something at the historic Warner Grand Theatre.
- Go on a grunion run.
- Spend some time at the Long Beach Museum of Art.
- Go ice skating (or try speed skating!) at Lakewood Ice.
- Check out the Russian submarine Scorpion.
- Learn Morse code from ham radio operators on the Queen Mary.
- Get from A to B in a bicycle taxi.
- Try a Stand up and Paddle (SUP) lesson.
- Take a day trip to Catalina.
- Bundle up to enjoy CHILL in the winter months.
- Catch a show at the Long Beach Playhouse.
For more ideas around Long Beach, check out the Long Beach Visitors' Bureau website. And when you're done playing staycation in Long Beach, why not try 25 things to do in Laguna or Redondo Beach?
Riding off into the sunset in our surrey