Like most Angelenos, I've been to Long Beach—but until recently I had never considered taking a weekend getaway there. Without traffic I can make it to Long Beach in roughly half an hour, meaning that a trip to the aquarium or to see the holiday lights at the Queen Mary is no big deal. 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.
At the Aquarium of the Pacific, divers can talk to children from under water
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 local bus to move around.
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, or lunch at the aquarium cafe with a view of the penguins.
Cruising around Naples Island in a gondola is a treat! Photo by Mommy Poppins
Here are our favorite 30 things to do around Long Beach with the family:
- Pet the stingrays in the touch tanks at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and feed the lorikeets before you go!
- Explore every corner of the Queen Mary, from radio room to Lego Room, with photo ops on every deck.
- Take a harbor cruise.
- Rent a bicycle or surrey and pedal the beach path.
- Go on a whale watching cruise.
- Indulge in a gondola ride around Naples Island.
- Check out the Museum of Latin American Art.
- Have a little shopping spree in Shoreline Village.
- Learn about women's contributions to WWII at Rosie the Riveter Park & Interpretive Center.
El Dorado Nature Center
- Chill out at the El Dorado Nature Center.
- Ride the Aquabus between docks.
- Take out a paddle boat in Rainbow Lagoon.
- Have a beach day.
- Hit some balls at Ondeck Batting Cages.
- Get a speed fix cheering on the cars at the annual Long Beach Grand Prix.
- See free summer evening movies at Alfredo's Beach Club.
- See something at the historic Warner Grand Theatre.
- Or catch a show at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center.
- Go on an iconic midnight grunion run.
Family ArtMaking Workshops take place on the Long Beach Museum of Art’s lawn. Photo courtesy of the museum
- Spend some time at the Long Beach Museum of Art—maybe do one of the Family ArtMaking Workshops.
- Go ice skating (or try speed skating!) at Lakewood Ice.
- Check out a 4D movie.
- Try a Glow Ride on a Hydrobike on Alamitos Bay.
- Have a haunted encounter 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.
- Catch a show at the Long Beach Playhouse.
- Learn local history from the Tongva through today at Rancho Los Alamitos.
- Savor the incredible flavors at the decadently delicious Long Beach Creamery.
Typing our names in Morse code in the Queen Mary radio room. Photo by Mommy Poppins
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?
Photos courtesy of Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, unless otherwise noted