20 Best Things to Do in Long Beach, CA

Long Beach, CA
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Long Beach is a coastal city in Southern California in the metropolitan region of Los Angeles.

This city has everything, from stunning beaches and waterfront adventures to chic shopping scenes and a diverse gastronomical spread!

While the waterfront adventures are charming, Long Beach is also home to the RMS Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, Southern California’s largest aquarium.

The city also annually hosts the Long Beach Pride Festival and Parade, the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and the Long Beach Marathon.

But beyond the waters of the harbor and its surrounding sights, this dynamic city also bears a quaint personality.

Interested to know more about this place?

Here are the 20 best things to do in Long Beach, California:

See Aquatic Creatures at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Outside view of the Aquarium of the Pacific
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The Aquarium of the Pacific is Southern California’s largest aquarium.

Located along Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach, this impressive aquarium is a must-do activity for people of all ages.

The Aquarium houses over 11,000 marine animal exhibits divided into three water regions.

The Southern California Gallery has marine life from Catalina Island, the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat, and the Ray Touch Pool.

The aquarium in Aquarium of the Pacific
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The Northern Pacific Gallery exhibits include jellyfish, sea otters, and the largest octopus species in the world.

The Tropical Pacific Gallery holds thousands of colorful fish, corals, sea turtles, and sharks.

It also has a seahorse and a sea dragon exhibit.

Additionally, the aquarium organized several outdoor exhibits, educational programs, and interactive activities to get personal with marine life.

The latest Pacific Visions wing is a state-of-the-art exhibit that educates visitors about the environmental challenges to the Pacific ecosystem.

Marine life in the Aquarium of the Pacific
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Tour around Rancho Los Alamitos

Adobe house at Rancho Los Alamitos
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The Rancho Los Alamitos is a historic preserved ranch near the campus of California State University, Long Beach.

Over the course of its history, the rancho has been occupied by the Tongva people, Spanish and Mexican colonists, and American farmers.

You can explore this ranch's historic buildings and gardens, whose name literally translates to “Ranch of the Cottonwoods.”

Its barnyard is popular with tourists today.

The barnyard has been restored and is home to horses, goats, chickens, and rabbits.

Browse Collections at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)

Outside the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)
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The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is America’s leading museum dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art and culture.

Established in 1996, the museum is located in Long Beach’s East Village Art District.

MOLAA has an impressive permanent collection of over 1,300 works of art and a 15,000-square-foot sculpture garden.

It offers visitors the opportunity to expand their knowledge and appreciation of Latin American history, art, and culture through its art exhibits, educational programs, cultural events, and other exhibitions.

Did you know that between 1913 and 1918, the place where MOLAA now stands belonged to the Balboa Amusement Producing Company?

It was the most productive and innovative silent film studio globally that produces as much as 20,000 feet of negative film in a week!

Today, MOLAA is a cultural and artistic hub that is definitely worth a visit.

Stroll along the East Village Arts District

Wildlife habitat at East Village Arts District
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East Village Arts District lends Long Beach its quirky and eccentric personality.

Known for its eclectic cafes, art studios, and specialty shops, you can spend an entire day discovering great art, music, and food.

You can head to the Berlin Bistro for some sumptuous, healthy, and innovative brunch options or dive into some pizza and beer in the apocalypse-themed pizzeria – The 4th Horseman.

East Village Arts District is also home to the Fingerprints Music record store.

You can find some great vintage and contemporary records here.

If you’re lucky, you may even be able to catch one of the secret concerts that the store holds!

See the Gigantic RMS Queen Mary

Aerial view of RMS Queen Mary
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The RMS Queen Mary is a permanently docked retired British cruise liner in Long Beach.

She sailed primarily on the North Atlantic Ocean for the Cunard-White Star Line between 1936 and 1967.

During World War II, she was converted into a troopship to ferry Allied soldiers during the War.

Following World War II, the ship was refitted as a passenger ship for transatlantic voyages.

By the mid-1960s, she was aging and operating at a loss.

View of the docked RMS Queen Mary
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Consequently, she retired from service in 1967 and is now permanently docked on the Long Beach waterfront.

The RMS Queen Mary is now a popular tourist destination with restaurants, museums, and hotels.

The hotel is recognized as part of the Historic Hotels of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

In 2021, the City of Long Beach took over the RMS Queen Mary to maintain the ship and make necessary repairs.

Enjoy Outdoor Activities at Marine Park (Mother’s Beach)

Aerial view of Marine Park (Mother’s Beach)
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Marine Park is a wonderful family-friendly destination in Long Beach.

Located in a beautiful marina, the Marine Park offers a range of outdoor activities.

There are picnic sites, a volleyball court, and a play area for children.

It has also earned the name ‘Mother’s Beach’ because of its gentle waves, shallow swimming area, and lifeguard supervision during peak periods.

Marine Park makes a great outing for your entire family with its clean beach and plays areas for children!

Have a Relaxing Day at Belmont Shore Beach

Sunset in Belmont Shore Beach
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Belmont Shore Beach is another family-friendly beach that should be on your list if you visit with kids.

This sandy beach offers exciting opportunities for a range of water sports.

You can windsurf, jet-ski or water-ski.

People enjoying the sun at Belmont Shore Beach
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Rentals are available on-site for those who don't have equipment.

And for those who prefer to spend a leisurely day at the beach, you can sunbathe at the shore or enjoy a cool and relaxing swim in the lagoons of Alamitos Bay.

Children can enjoy their day building sandcastles or take a splash or a swim in the waters of Belmont shore.

Hammock at Belmont Shore Beach
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Sip Cocktails at The Exhibition Room

A false wall in a telephone booth in the restaurant Roxanne’s takes you to The Exhibition Room.

A unique bar, the walls are filled with décor reminiscent of the city’s olden days as a port town.

The bar has a unique selection of cocktails aptly named to suit its theme.

You will need to make a reservation that will give you a password to enter the bar.

Get Romantic at Naples Island

Naples Island in Long Beach
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Modeled in the city of Venice in Italy, Naples in Long Beach is a beautiful community designed around an extensive and picturesque canal system.

This gives Naples a classic romantic vibe.

The community also has elegant homes, unique boutiques, and opportunities for fine dining.

You can even take a romantic ride in authentic Venetian gondolas in the canals of Naples.

Trail at Naples Island
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Gondoliers will serenade you with their soulful voices!

The community also hosts its annual Boa Parade in December.

If you are in Naples in December, make sure to check out the colorful, decorated yachts and boats that cruise through the canals.

Boats on the water of Naples Island
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Shop and Dine at Second Street

Plaza at Second Street
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Second Street is a 15-block entertainment district downtown Long Beach near Belmont Shore and Naples.

Second Street is a popular shopping and dining hub.

It is home to unique restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and specialty shops.

Its diverse clubs, pubs, coffee houses, and restaurants offer plenty of nightlife options for visitors.

The specialty shops, retailers, and boutiques on Second Street offer everything from swimwear and surfing apparel to the latest European fashion and jewelry trends.

Second Street also hosts the Belmont Shore Car Show, the largest one-day car show on the West Coast, every September.

If you want to enjoy the finer things that Long Beach offers, you should definitely visit Second Street!

Bring the Family to the Marketplace and Marina Pacifica Mall

The Marketplace and marina Pacifica Malls lie east of Belmont Shore and Naples.

These premier shopping destinations are open-air centers that house several fine-dining restaurants, specialty shops and boutiques, and movie theaters.

The Marketplace’s central waterscape makes an inviting ambiance to shop and dine in its various restaurants and boutiques.

The Marina Pacifica Mall has a number of nationally recognized retailers and smaller shops and restaurants.

These malls offer plenty of opportunities for good retail therapy in Long Beach!

Go for an Enjoyable Marine Tour with Harbor Breeze Cruises

Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach, CA
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A top destination for whale watching and city tours, Harbor Breeze Cruises offers guided tours of the city.

You can learn about the waterfront's history and marine life as you cruise along the coastline.

Alternatively, you can book a Southern Californian whale-watching tour to journey up close with some of the largest mammals on the planet.

People aboard the Harbor Breeze Cruises
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The whale-watching tours are highly informative and exciting.

While on tour, you are sure to spot a Humpback Whale or a gray whale as it comes to the surface of the water.

If lucky, you may even be able to catch a sighting of a blue whale!

Book Cruise Events with City Cruises by Hornblower

If you visit Long Beach to celebrate holidays on the oceanfront, City Cruises by Hornblower might interest you, as it offers a wide range of cruises for special events and festivities.

There are premier lunch, brunch, and dinner cruise packages for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day.

These cruise packages are carefully crafted to provide you with a fabulous cruising experience.

Apart from the special city cruises, be sure to check out the guide cruise tours and whale-watching tours offered by Hornblower.

Sign up for Water Activities at Captain Kirk's Water Sports

Captain Kirk’s Water Sports offers one-on-one professional guidance and lessons in kiteboarding, windsurfing, and paddleboarding for all watersports enthusiasts.

You can sign up for lessons with professional instructors or book rental equipment if you already have the skills.

You can also rent standup paddleboards, aqua bikes, kayaks, and surfing apparatus in Rainbow Marina.

Enjoy Tasty Seafood Plates at Parker’s Lighthouse

Exterior view of Parker’s Lighthouse
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A visit to Long Beach is incomplete without savoring its fresh seafood.

Home to a beautiful two-story wine cellar, Parker’s Lighthouse offers an exquisite fine dining experience in Long Beach.

It is known for its mesquite-grilled fresh seafood and spectacular views of the Long Beach Harbour from every table!

The restaurant has an extensive menu of innovative dishes from the freshest seafood.

Front view of Parker’s Lighthouse
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The restaurant has been awarded the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence with an impressively extensive wine list.

Parker’s Lighthouse is also home to the Queensview Steakhouse, located on the third floor.

The Queensview Steakhouse is an upscale club offering live music and the finest steaks, chops, lobster, and grilled seafood.

Check the Stores along Retro Row

If you are into some good vintage finds, Retro Row is the place for you!

This 3-block shopping neighborhood has one of the quirkiest collections of stores, boutiques, pubs, and coffee shops.

Here you will find some great deals on vintage clothes, kitschy collectibles, and off-beat souvenirs.

For more retro deals, you can head to Third Eye Records for some great vinyl or pick up some roller skates from Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop!

But even if you aren’t here for the shopping, you can grab a beer or some coffee and enjoy the sights and sounds of the boulevard.

Have Filling Baked Treats at Gusto Bread

Gusto’s Bread in Retro Row has developed an almost cult following in Long Beach.

The founder is a self-taught baker whose delectable goods include freshly baked loaves, extended breaks, biscuits, conchas, pies, and polvorones.

Head to Gusto Bread early, as you may find a long queue!

People wait in line just to savor these delicious goodies!

Get Entertained at The Laugh Factory

Outside view of The Laugh Factory
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If you’re in the mood for some good stand-up comedy, head over to the Laugh Factory.

Opened in 2008 in Long Beach, this space has been rated as "the #1 comedy club in the country" by USA Today.

Its original predecessor in Hollywood opened its doors in 1979.

Signage of The Laugh Factory
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The Laugh Factory in Long Beach attracts some of the best talents in comedy today.

You can grab a drink and just sit back and enjoy some feel-good laughs after a long day in the city.

Find Local Buys at The Urban Hive Market

The Urban Hive Market is held every fourth Friday of the month.

The UHM is a community of small businesses and local artisans who gather to retail their carefully crafted and handmade wares.

Here, you will find a wide variety of vendors selling unique and original finds.

There is also an organic farmer’s market and an artisanal food court to help you satisfy your cravings.

The UMH is much more than just a local artisanal marketplace.

It also curates some good art and music to help elevate your shopping experience!

If you are here on the last Friday of a month, do give this place a visit.

Pick Your Favorite Quality Brands at Pike Outlets

Exterior of Pike Outlets
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Long Beach’s Pike Outlets offer an all-around shopping experience.

These outlets have a number of retail stores and restaurants in a pedestrian-friendly setting.

You can walk through these outlets and browse the various shops and popular brand stores, such as H&M, Nike, Converse, GAP, etc.

The grounds of Pike Outlets
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The outlets are also an excellent place to take an evening stroll with the family or spend the night with friends at a local pub.

The outlets also host the Urban Hive Market.

Food trucks at Pike Outlets
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Catch the Parade and Festivities at Long Beach Pride

Balloon arch during the Long Beach Pride
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One of the popular annual happenings in the city, the Long Beach Pride celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and focuses on inclusion, diversity, and promoting a healthier society.

The three-day colorful event features festivals, parades, and attractions open for everyone.

Parade during the Long Beach Pride
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It’s the third-largest Pride festival and parade in California, which started in the early 1980s.

Long Beach Pride features music, stage entertainment, and attractions to build an atmosphere of acceptance and unity within the community.

People holding a pride flags at the Long Beach Pride
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Watch Cars on High Speed at the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Race car at the Grand Prix of Long Beach
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You’ll surely get the adrenaline rush watching speeding race cars at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Held every April, its history goes back to the first inaugural race held in 1975 during the Formula 5000 series.

This race event was founded by Christopher Pook and has been known as the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach since 2019.

Driver preparing for the Grand Prix of Long Beach
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Catch this IndyCar Series race along the street circuits of downtown Long Beach with thousands of race car fans and enthusiasts.

You’ll see different racing categories like the North American Touring Car Championship, Drifting, Formula E, and the Long Beach ePrix of the FIA Formula E Championship.

Enjoy the exciting Grand Prix of Long Beach races.

Close view of a race car at the Grand Prix of Long Beach
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Stroll the Beautiful Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Koi pond at Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
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Situated right inside California State University, the lovely Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is another relaxing spot you can visit in Long Beach.

The garden is open to the public from Tuesday to Friday, and you’ll just need to make a reservation to schedule your complimentary visit.

You’ll enjoy the views of tranquil landscapes and strolling along winding paths; likewise, drop by the Tea House or take time to meditate at the Zen Garden.

Your kids will also enjoy feeding the colorful koi and exploring the different floral blooms and plants.

Great heron at Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
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You might also catch featured cultural exhibitions and exciting exhibits on display; don’t forget to check out some merchandise at the 49er shops.

Have an enjoyable visit to the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden.

Person admiring the view at Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
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Enjoy the Stage Plays at Long Beach Playhouse

If you’re well into theater arts, you must see what’s up at Long Beach Playhouse.

Located on East Anaheim Street, this theater company has produced theatrical shows for over 80 years.

Presenting nothing less than quality theatre entertainment, the company is known for presenting themes of social significance, classics, and contemporary subjects.

They have two locations, the Mainstage, and the Studio, with over 15 productions featured yearly.

Watch local stage artists and get immersed in their characters and performances.

Enjoy captivating theater acts at Long Beach Playhouse.

View Different Exhibits at the Long Beach Museum of Art

Exterior of the Long Beach Museum of Art
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Located on East Ocean Boulevard, the Long Beach Museum of Art is a museum complex housed in the historic 1912 summer house of Elizabeth Milbank Anderson.

It was formerly known as the Municipal Art Center, established in 1950 and has held its present name since 1957.

You can appreciate the permanent European and California art collections from Abstract Classicists like Karl Benjamin and John McLaughlin.

Browse the prints and drawings of June Wayne, along with sculpture pieces by Claire Falkenstein, Bob Stocksdale’s woodcrafts, and many others.

Entrance to the Long Beach Museum of Art
Chris Allan / Shutterstock.com

View the modern art collections, and you’ll be impressed by displays that include Milton Wichner’s Early European Modernist themes.

Step outside the Sculpture Garden, which includes 12 impressive artworks.

After your museum tour, dine at Claire’s at the Museum restaurant with an oceanfront view and enjoy some fresh, well-loved brunch meals.

Enjoy your time at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Final Thought

Long Beach offers an unending list of activities your family will enjoy.

This dynamic coastal city hosts several annual events that make it even more colorful and unique.

It’s teeming with shopping venues, entertainment spots, specialty restaurants, and attractions for some relaxing leisure.

Take time to see the city and enjoy the best things to do in Long Beach, California.  

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