01 of 20
The Queen Mary oceanliner, which is today a hotel and popular attraction
With one of the second-busiest ports in the world and a population of more than a half-million, Long Beach is one of the West Coast's most important cities. It's proximity to L.A. and San Diego is a mixed blessing - it's easy to get to but somewhat overlooked by many tourists. There's much to see and do here, however, and a prominent GLBT community that convenes each May for one of the country's largest Pride Festivals. Here's a photo tour of Long Beach, from gay bars to historic neighborhoods.
Launched in 1934 and tied up in Long Beach Harbor since it ended passenger service in 1967, the 12-deck, 1,000-foot Queen Mary (1126 Queen's Hwy., 877-342-0738 for general info, and 877-342-0742 for hotel reservations) is one of the city's most recognizable attractions. Today the sleek, Art Deco beauty is a working hotel - a fun, if quirky, place to stay that's appealing for a chance to experience the... ship's grandeur. Accommodations and amenities, however, are understandably a bit dated. Even if you don't stay here, come by for a tour - several kinds are offered, including self-guided audio tours, as well as guided walks with different themes (the ship's role during World War II, ghosts and legends, behind-the-scenes, etc.).
The hotel has 314 staterooms, although decorated true to the period, they do contain such modern amenities as iPod docks, satellite TV, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. Amenities include a the full-service Queen Mary Spa, as well as several restaurants and ships. If there's a "must" among these, it's the classy Observation Bar, a swank Art Deco landmark with lovely sunset views, great cocktails, and a light food menu. There's also a kitschy shop called (go ahead and snicker) the Land of Fruits and Nuts, which is worth a stop for an authentic California date shake.Continue to 2 of 20 below.
02 of 20
The Falcon, a hipster-infested gay dive bar on East Broadway
The story of the Falcon (1435 E. Broadway, 562-432-4146) is one of those cautionary tales of what happens when an old-school dive bar that few but hard-core, day-long drinkers ever paid much attention to develops serious cachet among hipsters and poseurs. Personally, I had a great time in this place, but I was an outsider stopping by for a drink. Longtime locals appear more divided on the Falcon's increasing popularity, some uneasy about the crowds. Other like that the Falcon draws a genuine mix of Long Beach revelers - gays, straights, alternative-music fans (there's a rockin' jukebox), and even a few suits after work. If you're a fan of Akbar up in Silver Lake, or Roosterfish in Venice, you'll likely feel right at home here.Continue to 3 of 20 below.
03 of 20
Art Theatre, a classic art deco indie moviehouse on East 4th Street
A classic example of the art deco era's Streamline Moderne style, the stunning restored Art Theatre (2025 E. 4th St., 562-438-5435) is along funky East 4th Street "Retro Row", right beside the city's gay and lesbian community center. Opened originally as a silent-movie house, the theater has just one screen and shows a mix of art-house, classic, GLBT, and documentary movies. Adjacent to the theater are Art du Vin wine bar and the Portfolio Annex Coffee Bar, both of which tend to draw quite a few gays and lesbians. Recent restoration upgrades in 2008 vastly improved the audio and video, returned the interior to its original style, and added a replica of the 1934 marquee. There's a reason indie-movie lovers and history buffs from throughout metro Los Angeles flock to this place - it's truly one of the architectural gems of Southern California.Continue to 4 of 20 below.
04 of 20
The Center, an LGBT community space along the funky 4th Street Retro Row
Next to the beautifully restored Art Theatre along the city's funky 4th Street "Retro Row," the Center (2017 E. 4th St., 562-434-4455) acts as an LGBT community space and resource for greater Long Beach. The building is open weekdays 9 until 9 and hosts a range of health and social services, youth programs, meetings, and useful events. If you're new in the area or visiting for a while, it's definitely worth stopping by here. The center's website has links to many organizations as well as a calender of GLBT-relevant events.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20
Hot Java Community Coffeehouse, a GLBT-popular cafe on East Broadway
There may not be a coffeehouse in California with a more loyal gay following than Hot Java (2101 E. Broadway, 562-433-0688) an attractive cafe with plush couches, a fireplace, hardwood floors, and tall windows overlooking the city's main gay-bar strip, East Broadway, as well as leafy Bixby Park. Hot Java is just a 10-minute walk north of the beach, too, which is an excellent place to carry your iced latte, Italian soda, slice of cake, or dish of gelato. This GLBT favorite also stocks many of the area's free gay mags and papers.Continue to 6 of 20 below.
06 of 20
Belmont Shore beach (the gay-popular section across from Club Ripples)
There isn't necessarily a clear gay section at any of the broad, sandy beaches in Long Beach, but the area of Belmont Shore beach (E. Ocean Blvd., at Granada Ave.) across from the gay bar Club Ripples has the strongest GLBT following. This part of the beach adjoins a parking area with metered spots. Belmont Shore is popular for kite-flying, jogging, fishing off the pier (several blocks west of here), and biking or blading along a paved path that curves through the center of the beach. It's always a fun mix of people.Visible from the beach is the curious mix of ships that ply the waters of Long Beach, from enormous tankers to Navy craft to cruise ships.
Belmont Shore is on the east side of Long Beach, adjacent to a historic residential neighborhood of the same name that abounds with enchanting arts and crafts bungalows. A few blocks inland, East 2nd Street is lined with restaurants and shopping, and to the east, the Naples neighborhood is a series of tiny islands separated by... canals that bears a resemblance to Venice Beach. The beach continues well west of the Belmont Shore neighborhood toward downtown - in fact, you can follow the paved jogging/blading path right into downtown.Continue to 7 of 20 below.
07 of 20
Hamburger Mary's gay bar and restaurant, on East Broadway just east of downtown
The nearest gay bar in Long Beach to downtown, Hamburger Mary's (740 E. Broadway, 562-436-7900) is part of the much-loved, high-camp chain of burger joints with locations throughout the country (and the greatest number in California). The large patio is the best spot for lunch or dinner, while inside the bar serves up potent drinks, with specials throughout the week. Nightly themes include Club Lucky Wednesdays with go-go boys and drag shows, bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch, Friday's Boy Bar, and lesbian-focused Doll House Thursdays.
Of course, burgers are a major draw here, with the open-faced "sloppy Mary" a particularly favorite among piggier patrons (it's smothered with chili as well as Jack and cheddar cheese). Fish tacos, chicken sandwiches, coconut-shrimp salads, and similarly hearty and fare round out the menu.Continue to 8 of 20 below.
08 of 20
The Silver Fox, a gay neighborhood bar just off the 4th Street Corridor
In a handsomely restored art deco building just off the quirky 4th Street Corridor and a bit northeast of the main gay bar district in Long Beach, the Silver Fox (411 Redondo Ave., 562-439-6343) has been one of the city's nightlife mainstays for many years (it opened in 1981). It's not, despite the name, necessarily geared toward older men - age-wise, the crowd is very mixed. The attractive interior, friendly staff, huge video library (mostly comedy clips and music), and relatively compact dimensions make this a good spot to socialize, especially early in the evening, when it's most popular. Occasional go-go dancers, piano cabaret, and karaoke are among the better draws.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20
Retro Row, a stretch of E. 4th Street rife with vintage design shops
East 4th Street, roughly from Walnut Avenue to Junipero Avenue, has emerged in recent years as "Retro Row", a strip of boutiques and galleries specializing in art, housewares, furnishings, clothing, and assorted odds and ends. Pictured here are a couple of neighborhood favorites, Deja Vu (mid-century modern furnishings) and Xcape (old-school patio furniture, retro antiques, etc.). But you'll also find several restaurants (Lola's is a great choice for Mexican fare), the city's LGBT community center, and the stunning Art Theatre cinema. Cool neighborhood events include "Last Saturdays", a monthly evening festival that includes free art and entertainment.Continue to 10 of 20 below.
10 of 20
Turret House B&B, in downtown Long Beach
Downtown Long Beach has relatively few historic accommodations, but the Turret House B&B (556 Chestnut Ave., 562-624-1991) is a great little find, set in a residential area a few blocks west of Pacific Avenue and the Blue Line Light Rail into downtown Los Angeles. This meticulously restored Victorian with five guestrooms dates to 1906 and has budget-friendly rates starting at just $79 nightly. All rooms have private baths and satellite TV, and there's free Wi-Fi throughout the house. The inn is also pet-friendly, and a Continental breakfast buffet is included.Continue to 11 of 20 below.
11 of 20
Lola's Mexican Cuisine, a Guadalajara-inspired restaurant on East 4th Street
A cheerful, casual Mexican restaurant across from the Long Beach GLBT Center and the handsome Art Theater along the hip 4th Street Retro Row, Lola's (2030 E. 4th St., 562-343-5506) serves a mix of California-style and regional Mexican cuisine - everything from camarones al ajillo (shrimp with garlic sauce), carne asada, and mole verde, plus an excellent Birria Guadalajara (made with pork and veal, and served with frijoles charros). Save room for Lola's Tres Leches cake.Continue to 12 of 20 below.
12 of 20
Paradise piano bar and restaurant, a favorite GLBT hangout on East Broadway
This attractive piano bar and restaurant along East Broadway was known for many years as The Bird of Paradise. Nowadays the space goes by the simple name Paradise (1800 E. Broadway, 562-590-8773), and it's one of the most popular gay and lesbian hangouts in the city - it's actually pretty mixed gay-straight many evenings.
Fans appreciate the lively piano cabaret, drag bingo shows, and very good American food, much of it with Asian accents and other fare tending toward updated comfort-food recipes. There's weekend brunch and dinner served late. Favorites from the kitchen include ahi poke with ginger and chives, calamari with a citrus-soy aioli, braised short ribs with sweet-potato puree, and Portobello mushroom burgers. For brunch consider the Cobb omelet (chicken, bacon, tomatoes, gorgonzola, and avocado) and brioche French toast soaked in cinnamon-coconut cream.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
13 of 20
Club Broadway (closed 2011)
Note: Club Broadway has closed.
Small, laid-back, and generally pretty mellow, Club Broadway (3348 E. Broadway) is a long-running lesbian bar along the city's main GLBT-bar strip, East Broadway (it's actually several blocks east of most of the other bars). Inside you'll find a pool table, darts, and ample seating and standing areas. It's just a few steps from one of the more raffishly endearing dive bars in Long Beach, the Reno Room, which is mostly hetero but also draws quite a few gays and lesbians.Continue to 14 of 20 below.
14 of 20
Blue Line light rail stop, downtown at 1st Street and Long Beach Boulevard
Downtown Long Beach is connected with downtown Los Angeles (with connections there to the Red Line) via the Blue Line Light Rail, which opened in 1990. The ride along this 22-mile line takes a little under an hour, which is generally much faster (and easier) than driving. Stops in downtown Long Beach include this one pictured here at 1st Street and Long Beach Boulevard, plus stops at Pacific Avenue Transit Mall (at West 1st St.) and at 4th and Pacific and 4th and Long Beach Boulevard.Continue to 15 of 20 below.
15 of 20
Executive Suite, a popular gay club with ladies', men's, and Latin nights
Executive Suite (3428 Pacific Coast Hwy., 562-597-3884) is the closest gay club in Long Beach to the 405 Freeway - it's about 3 miles east of downtown, and it operates with a different approach than other GLBT hangouts in the city: it's open only Thursday through Saturday, and each night is geared toward a different crowd (Latin on Thursdays, gay guys on Fridays, and lesbians on Saturdays). Of these events, the lesbian nights are highly popular, but all have their fans. For the most part, it's about dancing and clubbing here - there's a cover charge every night, and the crowd tends toward younger and from throughout the southern L.A. region and neighboring Orange County. The dance floor is upstairs and can feel a bit cramped. Downstairs is a bar with pool tables and a patio.Continue to 16 of 20 below.
16 of 20
Mineshaft Tavern, a laid-back leather-and-Levi's bar on East Broadway
Like many classic leather bars, the Mineshaft (1720 E. Broadway, 562-436-2433) has steadily transitioned over time to more of a Levi's and T-shirts bar - it's still very much a butch guys' hangout, with a somewhat cruisy vibe (at least late on weekend evenings), but this unpretentious neighborhood bar with a mock-Western facade is mostly just a laid-back spots for affordable drinks and shooting pool. Dim lighting and a rustic wood interior give the Mineshaft a bit more character than some of the other gay bars along the busy East Broadway gay nightlife strip.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
17 of 20
Westin Long Beach, a 469-room upscale hotel downtown overlooking the harbor
Among the several mid- and upscale hotels in downtown Long Beach, most of them clustered around the harbor and the city's convention center, the Westin Long Beach (333 E. Ocean Blvd., 562-436-3000) stands out for its spacious, contemporary, and nicely appointed rooms. Many of them have harbor views, and all are outfitted with classic Heavenly Beds and stylish bathrooms with double-headed massage showers. Amenities include The Grill restaurant (fine for hotel dining, but not a destination restaurant), a fitness center, and pool.Continue to 18 of 20 below.
18 of 20
Sweetwater Saloon, a low-keyed gay neighborhood bar on East Broadway
One of the several greatest hits that make up the East Broadway gay bar strip near downtown Long Beach, Sweetwater Saloon (1201 E. Broadway, 562-432-7044) is a pretty classic neighborhood bar - there aren't a lot of bells and whistles here, just a no-nonsense bar with an outgoing staff serving low-price booze to low-keyed gay guys (and a fair number of straights). There's a patio off the bar, a pool table, and a cool jukebox with a wide variety of tunes.Continue to 19 of 20 below.
19 of 20
The Brit Bar, a gay neighborhood joint on East Broadway
The Brit (, 562-432-9742) is one of several gay neighborhood bars along the East Broadway strip in Long Beach. There's not a whole lot to distinguish this one from some of the others along here - it's a relatively quiet spot with a largely local following. Amusements, beyond the stiff drinks (at low prices), include pool, darts, and a fun jukebox.Continue to 20 of 20 below.
20 of 20
Club Ripples, a popular gay club near Belmont Shore Beach
Southern California has surprisingly few gay beach bars, especially with the demise a few years ago of the Boom Boom Room in Laguna Beach, but in the laid-back, underrated city of Long Beach - just 30 miles south of Los Angeles - you'll find one of the biggest and the best, Club Ripples (5101 E. Ocean Blvd., 562-433-0357). This two-story gay nightclub has been catering to the GLBT community since it opened in the early 1970s, just across the street from Belmont Shore's gay beach. Although the bar is an icon, it had seen a steady decline in patronage in recent years, prompting the owners to invite Tabatha Coffey of Bravo's Tabatha Takes Over to come and work her business-makeover and marketing magic in 2011.
The proximity of the beautiful surf and sand of the beachfront, as well as the bustling retail and dining scene just a couple of blocks inland along East Second Street, makes Club Ripples a particularly convenient and enjoyable place to socialize. You can stop in here to... cruise the cute crowd and sip cocktails after lazing in the sand, or perhaps following dinner on East Second. Belmont Bay, it should be noted, is a popular municipal beach and is by no means a gay-exclusive stretch of sand, but especially on weekends, it enjoys an ardent gay and lesbian following - and it can be quite cruisy, too (although be warned that police patrol the area heavily at night).
Club Ripples is a spacious club, and the crowd here fits the easy vibe you might expect of a California beach hangout - friendly, unpretentious, and well-tanned. The crowd is usually a mix of men and women (Fridays are usually more of a lesbian crowd), and there's a sizable Latino and African-American following, which fits with Long Beach's racially diverse population. On weekends, the under-30 set dominates, but everyone is quite welcome here. Watch for theme nights and parties catering especially to the Latin crowd, bears, and women, depending on the night. There's a good-size dance floor (with go-go dancers), and also a large, breezy patio.