Recently, we had an opportunity to experience Long Beach, California, in depth – the transformation of this city over the decades is nothing less than astonishing.
What was an unremarkable middle-class town has magically morphed into an exciting convention and vacation destination that rivals the best of what other Southern California beach towns have to offer.
Note: Everything you will read about our Long Beach holiday is available for your enjoyment. We have provided links to each topic. Just click on a link for more details about the subject. You can also follow this story in pictures by viewing the 20-photo slideshow in the left margin.
We started out at SFO
Our Long Beach adventure began with a flight from San Francisco on Jet Blue airline. This was our first experience on the airline and it certainly will not be our last. We found that on our flight, the extra leg room in standard economy was enough to make Jet Blue our new coach-class favorite over the ever-shrinking, sardine-like seats we are all too familiar with on our United and American flights out of SFO.
Additionally, we liked the fact that there was no charge for our checked luggage. As long as Jet Blue provides these benefits to a grateful traveling public, we will be “True Blue” when it comes to flying economy coach.
LGB is a delightful airport
We relish flying into small town airports, and although Long Beach is certainly not a little town, the LGB airport has a small, open, easy-going, vibe.
Stay at the Westin
Within minutes of our arrival at LGB we were relaxing in our room at the Westin on Ocean Boulevard. The hotel is close to the Queen Mary and many of the other attractions on our itinerary.
After getting settled we were off for a tour of the Queen Mary led by Honorary Commodore Everette Hoard, followed by dinner aboard at the Sir Winston’s restaurant.
About the Queen
The city of Long Beach went into promotional overdrive in 1967 when it acquired the iconic RMS Queen Mary. Like the city itself, the Queen has known good times and bad, and through it all has become a symbol of pride and enduring strength in America.
Highly visible in Long Beach Harbor, the Queen Mary humbly accepts daily accolades for her beauty and durability, and for those who know, for her valiant courage.
When launched in 1936, the Queen was the fastest ship afloat. During WW2, she made 72 wartime crossings of the treacherous Atlantic and was the prize never won by Nazi U-Boat captains determined to sink her for the Fatherland and Adolf Hitler.
During the war, Winston Churchill said he felt as safe aboard the Queen Mary as he did in Parliament.
Churchill’s comfortable suite on board the Queen is now part of the array of staterooms available by reservation at the Queen Mary hotel. (see photo in slideshow) A stay on this venerable ship is an extraordinary historical privilege.
A few years back, we stayed at the Queen Mary hotel. If you would like to read about our experience on the famous ship click here for the story.
Morning on the water
The following day we toured Long Beach Harbor on the Triumphant of Harbor Breeze Cruises. This is an excellent way to see all that the waterfront of Long Beach has to offer. Harbor Breeze also offers whale watching cruises. Take a look at the video that accompanies this article for exhilarating sights that we never tire of seeing at sea.
Next we strolled around Shoreline Village with its many interesting shops, boutiques, and attractions. Our walk ended with a seafood lunch at the famous (and delicious) Parkers’ Lighthouse.
Afternoon at the Aquarium
Our afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific proved it to be a family attraction we could highly recommend. Exhibits were both entertaining and educational. Great fun for all ages.
The following morning we had breakfast at The Attic on Broadway. The cuisine was unique and tasty. How about a Bloody Mary with bacon and a pickle?
Tour with Pedego
It was a beautiful Long Beach morning so we signed up for an electric bike tour along the ocean bike path. Our host was Pedego Electric Bikes. This is an excellent way to view the 5.5 miles of manicured sand and shoreline residences along the beach.
The bikes were all in super shape, and depending on YOUR shape, you can pedal or leave the pedaling to the Pedego. The outing was great fun.
Time for culture
There are plenty of indoor activities in Long Beach and in the afternoon we left the sun to visit the Long Beach Museum of Art. We were captivated by the exhibition Baroque Sensibilities by Sherrie Wolf. The museum changes exhibits regularly, so keep an eye on their website.
Back in time
A quite unusual attraction that is not highly publicized is Long Beach’s 4th Street, a.k.a. the “Retro Row.” It is comprised of several blocks of funky little boutiques, antique, and pre-owned clothing shops that will take you back to mother’s time – or maybe your time, if you recognize lots of the habiliments. Locally owned restaurants and wine bars add to the joy of meandering. The Rows landmark 1920’s Art Theater hosts events such as contemporary and vintage films and live concerts.
A little touch of Venice
Our next Long Beach adventure had us back on the water.
Gliding along the waterways of Venice, Italy is one of our fondest memories, and we had an opportunity to reminisce in Long Beach on a romantic gondola ride thru Naples Island with Gondola Getaway. We watched the sun set into the Pacific – a perfect ending to an exceptional day.
Our last dinner on this getaway was at the Boathouse on the Bay. The water oriented restaurant was busy on a balmy Long Beach evening, and the service and food were as advertised i.e., excellent.
Our entrees consisted of the biggest-ever and perfectly prepared King Crab Legs accompanied by a chopped cucumber sprinkled with dill and drizzled with a light vinegar – a brilliant pairing of tastes. We can also recommend the tasty sea bass on potato mash amidst a savory sassy mix of carrots, peas and green beans. Delicious!
Things to know before you go
Long Beach boasts 345 days of sunshine and it is cold at 50 degrees in January, and hot when it’s 83 degrees in August and September. How great is that!
The outdoor activities in Long Beach are numerous and include fishing, harbor cruises, kayaking, rollerblading, biking, horseback riding, tennis and of course, golf. If that weren’t enough, windsurfing, scuba diving, parasailing, water skiing, whale watching, and sailing are also available. Whew!
There are over 5,000 hotel rooms in Long Beach, and 17 hotels that have complete meeting facilities. The public transportation is unsurpassed, and with all the available activities, Long Beach is a spectacular convention town.
As evidenced by its many nightspots and hip restaurants, the city has become an exciting destination for up and coming young tourists.
There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. We recommend a visit. You will not be disappointed.
For additional information check out www.longbeachcvb.org
If you go
Long Beach is 22-miles south of downtown Los Angeles and is well serviced by the airlines and the California Freeway System.
© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff
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