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Long Beach: Visit This Southern California Playground

Patty Burness specializes in culinary & wine tourism & luxury travel. Get up close & personal with the best of her worldwide adventures.

A glimpse of Long Beach

A glimpse of Long Beach

Just south of Los Angeles, Long Beach is a bustling port and the seventh largest city in California. Its Mediterranean climate makes this city a destination.

In the 1840s, the original Spanish land grants changed hands, and over the course of successive years, several Americans shared ownership of the land that finally became known as Long Beach in 1897. Initially, farming was the major industry. In the early 1900s, farming died away and the area became a seaside resort. In 1921 oil was discovered and in 1933, the Long Beach earthquake caused major damage to the area. Since then, Long Beach has been rebuilt and offers fun and sun for tourists and locals alike.

The beautiful Queen Mary

The beautiful Queen Mary


The Queen Mary is an Art Deco lover’s delight. This historic vessel hauled troops during World War II but is best known for carrying well-heeled tourists—that is, until its last voyage in 1967. Today, you can imagine what luxury travel was like by staying on this remarkable ship, now a floating hotel. Pick from a variety of suites and staterooms and find beautiful wood finishes and décor, original 1930s artwork, and best of all, rooms that are larger than you find on most cruise ships today. Take guided tours, see shows and shop—there’s even a spa.

The iconic Varden Hotel sign

The iconic Varden Hotel sign

Another historic property in Long Beach is The Varden Hotel. Built in 1929, it has maintained an intimate feel with only 35 rooms. Word has it that a wealthy businessman bought the hotel for his lover, Dolly Varden, who lived in the penthouse until she died. The original neon sign (now a landmark) remains on the roof paying homage to Dolly and the resort town of Long Beach.

The renovated boutique hotel boasts friendly service, a “green” environment, nine foot ceilings in the guest rooms, luxe bedding, marble bathrooms, and complimentary wine and hors d’ouevres in the afternoon. Don’t bring too much luggage since the rooms are on the small side.

There are many Long Beach attractions that draw thousands of visitors every year.

The Aquarium of the Pacific will delight visitors of every age. With more than 11,000 animals in over 50 exhibits, explore the Pacific Ocean in all of its glory—from the warm waters of Baja California to the icy waters of the northern Pacific and all the way to the tropical Pacific reefs. Get up close and personal with penguins, sea lions, sharks, crabs, colorful birds, and more. Save time to find out about their environmental initiatives. You can also take a scuba dive.

The East Village Arts District is a thriving neighborhood in Long Beach with trendy exhibits, galleries, cafés and boutiques frequented by locals and tourists. Hip Retro Row, also known as 4th Street, is another popular area for vintage shopping and dining in addition to first-run shows at the restored Art Theater.

Don't Miss All the Culture

The view of Long Beach, Catalina, the Pacific and more from the Long Beach Museum of Art is stunning. The main 1912 building is an historic Craftsman mansion and sits atop a bluff. The grounds are also home to an exhibit pavilion and lush gardens. You’ll be attracted by the changing shows, educational programs, and appealing gift shop.

Carpenter Performing Arts Center and the Long Beach Performing Arts Center are two venues that delight visitors with a variety of offerings. Check the schedule and enjoy music, dance, theater, Broadway shows, and more.

It's always fun at the beach

It's always fun at the beach

It's Great to Be on the Coast

Don’t forget that Long Beach is right on the water, so after shopping and absorbing the culture head out to kayak, surf, sail, fish, or take a whale watching or harbor cruise. There’s even a great walking and biking path that hugs the coastline.


The Stave Bar gets it energy from all of the single malts, bourbons, ryes, and other whiskeys they serve. Add an assortment of charcuterie, microbrews and pizza (delivered to the bar), and you know you are in for a good time.

If you love barbeque and you love beer, head to Beachwood BBQ. Find an unlimited supply of pulled pork, brisket and ribs, and 22 rotating taps of beer. They favor a dry rub on their slow cooked meats with sauce available on the table. There’s also fish, chicken, and an assortment of salads and sides on the menu.

Nick’s on 2nd offers a lively venue and a perfect spot to people watch. Outside on the patio or inside through the large windows—you won’t miss the scene. Find comfort food, burgers, and even asparagus fries. Choose from specialty cocktails or something from the international wine list heavy on Napa Valley producers. Lots of decadent desserts so save room.

Don't Forget Long Beach

Long Beach is an oft forgotten place to visit, but it shouldn’t be. There’s fun in store for everyone with interesting places to stay, delicious places to eat, and great things to do.