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17 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Long Beach, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Mar 30, 2022

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Long Beach is an ocean-facing city in Los Angeles County in Southern California, approximately 20 miles south of Los Angeles. Its central attraction is the ocean, with approximately 5.5 miles of beach. The Shoreline Pedestrian Bike Path runs the entire length of this long stretch of sand, connecting its different beaches and points of interest.

The ocean experience in Long Beach culminates in the Downtown Waterfront District. Here, places like the Aquarium of the Pacific and Rainbow Harbor offer authentic Southern California travel experiences. And nearby, The Queen Mary ocean liner enjoys her retirement in Queensway Bay, where those looking for something unique to do can hop aboard and enjoy the history.

And it's not all nautical adventures in Long Beach, even though the smell of saltwater is always present. Other ways to enjoy the city's beautiful weather include visiting the expansive regional parks; Japanese gardens; and the inland downtown district, bursting with a community flavor. Extended adventures in the area include the nearby Naples neighborhood, home to the Gondola Getaway, operating one of the largest fleets of gondolas in the country.

Enjoy some Southern California sunshine with our list of top things to do in Long Beach, California.

1. Downtown Waterfront

Long Beach waterfront at dusk
Long Beach waterfront at dusk

The Downtown Waterfront overlooks Queensway Bay on the south side of the city. It's often the first place to visit for tourists and residents looking for entertainment. The area is packed with tourist attractions, including the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Long Beach Convention Center. And its water-adjacent landscape offers a scenic place to walk and spend the day.

Shoreline Village and Shoreline Aquatic Park, Downtown Waterfront
Shoreline Village and Shoreline Aquatic Park, Downtown Waterfront | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Other notable things to do in the Downtown Waterfront include sightseeing at Shoreline Aquatic Park and perusing the shops and restaurants at Shoreline Village. Many of these seaside spots are connected via the Rainbow Harbor Esplanade. All types of bikes and pedal-cruisers are available to rent at Shoreline Village.

2. Junipero Cherry Beach

Junipero Cherry Beach
Junipero Cherry Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Junipero Cherry Beach, also known as Junipero Beach or Long Beach City Beach, is the central spot to access the ocean. This long stretch of sand sits below the aptly named Bluff Park and Ocean Boulevard. The beach itself is very wide and accomodating for all types of under-the-sun activity.

Parking is available along Ocean Boulevard, and the beach is accessible via different stairways and graded ramps throughout Bluff Park. Restroom facilities and showers are available along the sand. Swimming can be a popular activity, but visitors will want to check the water conditions before jumping in.

Shoreline Pedestrian Bike Path
Shoreline Pedestrian Bike Path | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The sand stretches east and west from the central and south-facing Junipero Cherry Beach. To the west, Alamitos Beach extends almost all the way to Shoreline Village. To the south, the Belmont Pier denotes the beginning of Belmont Shore Beach and Rosie's Dog Beach.

One of the most popular activities at the beach is traveling the entirety of the beach on the Shoreline Pedestrian Bike Path. This weaving concrete trail features separate lanes for pedestrians and non-motorized commuters.

3. Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The esteemed Aquarium of the Pacific, in the Downtown Waterfront, has approximately 100 exhibits, and houses over 12,000 ocean animals. These impressive statistics make it the largest facility of its kind in Southern California, and millions of tourists visit the aquarium each year to marvel at the exhibits showcasing the nearby Pacific Ocean.

The aquarium has something for adults and children alike, including the family favorite June Keyes Penguin Habitat, home to 20 Magellanic penguins. Other popular exhibits include the Lorikeet Forest, Shark Lagoon, and the Moon Jelly Touch Lab. And the Ocean Science Center at the aquarium also uses a unique NOAA Science on a Sphere® to give an engaging presentation of ocean impacts across the globe.

Visitors can sign up for special animal encounters, including interactions with sea otters, octopuses, penguins, and seals. Other special happenings include professionally led science discussions and behind-the-scenes tours.

Address: 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, California

Official site: http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/

4. The Queen Mary

The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Queen Mary once was the grandest ocean liner to navigate the Pacific Ocean. It first set sail in 1936 from Southampton, England, and was an instant hit. Thousands of tourists boarded The Queen Mary, followed by thousands of soldiers, as the luxury cruise liner actively participated in the Second World War.

Upon the advent of affordable air travel, fewer passengers began boarding The Queen Mary, ultimately leading to her 1967 retirement along the sunny shores of Southern. And today, it's permanently docked in Long Beach in Queensway Bay.

The Queen Mary has seen more passengers as a retired vessel than as an active ocean liner. Currently, the The Queen Mary is under repair and is closed to the public. The city aims to reopen the historic boat by the end of 2022. Visitors can still see the eye-catching vessel on the downtown waterfront. And special outdoor events hosted by the Queen Mary are still scheduled at the adjacent Harry Bridges Memorial Park.

Address: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://www.queenmary.com/

5. Downtown Long Beach

Downtown Long Beach
Downtown Long Beach

For local shopping, dining, and nighttime entertainment, downtown Long Beach has it all. Pine Avenue is a historic thoroughfare extending from the attraction-dense Downtown Waterfront district, offering international flavors at local eateries like George's Greek Café and L'Opera Ristorante.

Both inland and along the waterfront, the downtown district is very walkable and designed with cyclists in mind, including well-marked bike lanes.

Major events occur in the downtown area throughout the year. The Long Beach Art Walk always brings out creative characters, and nightlife in downtown occurs every day of the week. Perhaps the biggest event to hit downtown Long Beach is the annual Grand Prix of Long Beach, where turbocharged cars take over the streets for thrilling race-day action.

6. Bluff Park

Bluff Park
Bluff Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Bluff Park is between Ocean Avenue and the Pacific Ocean and is one of the most scenic green spaces in Long Beach. This 13-acre linear park comprises only palms trees and vibrant green grass, but no more is needed with the ocean vista available. Couple the long-distance view of Junipero Beach with the gentle sea breeze that is nearly always present, and this park offers serenity on any sunny day.

Bluff Park was an active military space in World War II. Interpretive information stands today where gun batteries were once installed, and the Lone Sailor Memorial statue commemorates the naval history of the city.

Bluff Park interpretive sign
Bluff Park interpretive sign | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the north end of Bluff Park, the Long Beach Museum of Art offers cultural works to pair with the surrounding natural beauty. And for those interested in exploring the beach, several stairways and graded ramps lead down to the sand.

Official site: http://www.longbeach.gov/park/park-and-facilities/directory/bluff-park/

7. Shoreline Village

Shoreline Village
Shoreline Village | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Shoreline Village is a charming collection of restaurants and shops overlooking Rainbow Harbor on the downtown waterfront. It's a central hub for several activities, too, including visitor favorites like bike rentals, harbor cruises, and rides on a carousel. It's also an excellent starting spot for exploring the waterfront and beaches to the south.

Restaurants are top places to visit in Shoreline Village. Places like Parker's Lighthouse are a great spot for fresh seafood, while other spots, like Louisiana Charlie's, are perfect for more casual dining. And most of the village's restaurants feature waterfront dining. Other items like ice cream and funnel cakes are also available.

For extended adventures outside of Shoreline village, consider renting a beach bike and heading south toward the sand. Alamitos Beach is a short distance south, while Junipero Cherry Beach requires a bit more of a ride. North of Shoreline Village, the campus surrounding the Aquarium of the Pacific also draws a crowd.

8. Long Beach Museum of Art

Long Beach Museum of Art
Long Beach Museum of Art | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Long Beach Museum of Art is within a century-old summer home overlooking the ocean, on the north end of Bluff Park. It features American decorative art, regional contemporary art, and early-20th-century European Art. While much of the artwork on display is from the permanent collection, the museum also hosts rotating works from regional and national artists.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, with free admission offered every Friday. The museum's restaurant, Claire's at the Museum, is a popular spot to enjoy lunch near the ocean.

Address: 2300 E. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://www.lbma.org/

9. Naples

Naples canal
Naples canal | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Naples is the southernmost neighborhood of Long Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It's a charming neighborhood built on three islands lined with picturesque canals. A landscaped plaza and decorative fountain sit at the center of Naples, surrounded by multi-million-dollar homes and street names reminiscent of the Italian character of the neighborhood.

One of the best ways to explore Naples is hopping aboard a gondola via the Gondola Getaway. Departing from the Leeway Sailing Center, Gondola Getaway operates the oldest and largest fleet of Gondolas in America.

On all sides of Alamitos Bay surrounding Naples, other Long Beach attractions provide popular things to do. Inland, the Marina Pacifica Mall features hundreds of retail shopping opportunities close to the ocean.

10. Catalina Island

Avalon Bay at Catalina Island
Avalon Bay at Catalina Island

Catalina Island is 22 miles off the shore of Southern California, providing a picture-perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The Downtown Waterfront district in Long Beach is a prominent port to embark on a pleasure cruise to Catalina Island, departing next to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

The Catalina Express shuttles visitors to Catalina Island throughout the day with a typical hour-long ride. Upscale hotels, oceanside dining, and an air of traveling abroad define most visits to Catalina Island, making it one of the most popular day trips from Los Angeles.

Address: 320 Golden Shore, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://www.catalinaexpress.com

11. Rosie's Dog Beach

Rosie's Dog Beach
Rosie's Dog Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Rosie's Dog Beach is part of the long stretch of sand on the city's southern border. It's one of the most eastern beaches, situated beyond the Belmont Pier. Much like the city's entire shoreline, it's a picturesque ocean scene, but it's extra popular thanks to its off-leash status.

Rosie's Dog Beach isn't fenced in like a traditional dog park. Users must have voice control of their pets. Visitors are also asked to bring their own bags, although some are available at the beach. Parking is metered nearby.

12. El Dorado East Regional Park

El Dorado East Regional Park
El Dorado East Regional Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

El Dorado East Regional Park is an expansive natural space close to downtown. It's one of the best parks in Long Beach and the largest near the city. And it's a favorite place to escape the hustle and bustle of city streets.

A four-mile bike and pedestrian path winds throughout the park area, connecting two stocked fishing lakes and other park amenities, including playgrounds, picnic shelters, and a model aircraft flying area. The El Dorado Dog Park is popular with pet owners, and the El Dorado Nature Center provides educational displays and local artwork on the walls.

It's a small cost of admission to drive a vehicle into the park throughout the week, with higher rates on the weekends. On the other side of the San Gabriel River, El Dorado West City Park is free to enjoy and features a popular 18-hole disc golf course.

Address: 7550 E Spring Street, Long Beach, California

Official site: http://www.longbeach.gov/park/park-and-facilities/parks-centers-pier/el-dorado-nature-center/

13. Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

This intricately landscaped park is on the California State University Long Beach campus, and students and community members alike use this relaxing green space. A meandering path navigates the 1.3 acres of the garden, connecting scenic park amenities like pagodas, decorative bridges, and a koi pond.

Admission is free for faculty and students of the university. It's also a popular place to visit for special occasions and has the capacity to host up to 150 people.

Address: Earl Warren Drive, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://web.csulb.edu/~jgarden/

14. Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center

Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center
Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Featuring multiple theaters, an impressive plaza, and over 400,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center is often ground zero for some of the city's largest events and expos.

The convention center is in the heart of downtown, overlooking the waterfront, and its sheer size is something of a spectacle. The fountains and open space provided by the plaza offer plenty of chances to sit and enjoy the day.

Address: 100 S. Pine Avenue, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://www.longbeachcc.com

15. Museum of Latin American Art

The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is n the East Village Arts District of downtown. It's one of the only museums in the country solely dedicated to contemporary Latin American art. The museum features a wide range of rotating artworks, as well as a 15,000-square-foot, outdoor Sculpture Garden. Admission to this signature downtown museum is free on Sundays.

Address: 628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, California

Official site: https://molaa.org/

16. Walter Pyramid

Walter Pyramid, Long Beach State University
Walter Pyramid, Long Beach State University | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The California State University campus in Long Beach encompasses over 320 acres on the city's east side. It's a beautiful campus that boasts its own zip code and approximately 38,000 students. This abundance of space and culture draws the general public to campus, with several events and places to explore.

No other building stands out on campus like the Walter Pyramid. This cobalt-blue structure stands over 18 stories high and houses a state-of-the-art arena. It's home to several athletic programs, including Long Beach State basketball and volleyball for over 20 years.

The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is another notable place to visit on campus. This 1.3-acre landscaped space features a hybrid of Southern California horticulture and traditional Japanese landscaping. A few eye-catching garden objects include a Tea House and Zen Garden.

17. The Pike Outlets

Pike Outlets
Pike Outlets | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Pike Outlets provide bountiful shopping opportunities across from the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. It's a popular spot for shopping, with several large name-brand stores on the directory.

Pike Outlets are also a central spot for dining, with a selection of restaurants ranging from fast food to casual and sit-down dining. And with other amenities, like a comedy club, movie theater, Ferris wheel, and carousel, it's a common spot for date nights.

Where to Stay in Long Beach, California for Sightseeing

Best Hotels for Business:

  • Conveniently located near the Long Beach Airport, the Hampton Inn Long Beach Airport makes business travel a breeze. On-site amenities to help stay connected include free Wi-Fi, a fully equipped business center, and plenty of available plugs in each room. For post-work hours, the hotel also provides stress-relieving amenities like a heated indoor pool and fitness center. Both standard rooms and spacious suites are available.
  • In downtown Long Beach, close to the waterfront, the Best Western Plus Hotel at the Convention Center is another popular spot for business travel – especially for those attending a conference at the Convention Center. It's great for staying connected and for experiencing a taste of Long Beach between work hours. The hotel provides essential business services like printing, faxing, and has fast, free Wi-Fi throughout. It's also within walking distance to many area attractions, including a thriving restaurant scene.
  • Expect to meet fellow business travelers at the Courtyard by Marriott Long Beach Airport, surrounded by local businesses and near the airport. This stylish hotel features several common spaces to gather or do work, including a modern lobby and bistro and an outdoor pool deck. The hotel provides versatile workspaces for typing on a laptop or facilitating meetings, and fast and reliable Wi-Fi is available throughout.

Best Hotels for Family Travel:

  • The larger rooms at the Residence Inn by Marriott Long Beach Downtown make it a popular spot for family vacations. The location, too, near top attractions like the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, make it easy to get everyone out the door to explore the city. Each studio or suite at the Residence Inn features a fully equipped kitchen, including a stove, for cooking family meals.
  • With an excellent downtown location, Hilton Long Beach offers the perfect basecamp for a family vacation. Several of Long Beach's top attractions are within a short walking distance, and the hotel provides transportation for anything a bit farther away. Kids stay free at this reputable hotel, and pets are also welcome to join in on the overnight adventure. Accommodations range from standard king and two-queen bedrooms to more spacious suites with separate sitting rooms.
  • For family travel, the Courtyard by Marriott Long Beach Downtown offers spacious rooms and proximity to the area's top attractions. This kid-friendly hotel is also pet-friendly so that the whole family can join the vacation. The guest rooms provide a clean and relaxing spot to rest between exploring nearby places like the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Best Hotels for Couples:

  • For a romantic retreat in Long Beach, consider booking a few nights at The Cove Hotel, Ascend Hotel Collection. This stylish hotel pampers couples with each visit and provides sumptuous surroundings to enjoy each other's company. Room amenities include ultra-plush bedding and rainfall shower heads. Common spaces to relax at the hotel include a beautiful outdoor pool deck and patio and a chic indoor lounge.
  • Another popular spot for romantic weekends, the Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach is centrally located near downtown and the shoreline. This prime location makes date nights easy, with several area restaurants within walking distance. For a casual dining experience without leaving the property, the hotel's rooftop pool offers light fare alongside a great view. The rooms are airy and breezy at the Hyatt Centric, each with sophisticated and stylish decor.
  • For a romantic vacation, the Hotel Maya - A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel offers a luxurious resort experience. With Latin-American inspirations mixing with a SoCal vibe, this fashionable hotel encompasses 14 acres of waterfront property across Queensway Bay from the downtown skyline. Alongside authentic and unique decor, the hotel features the "Playa at the Maya" – one of the most extensive human-made beaches in the state.

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