The 26 Best Things to Do in Long Beach, California

Along the shore in Long Beach, California

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Long Beach, California, known as "LBC" by the locals, is a city of about half a million people in Los Angeles (LA) County, located directly to the south of Downtown L.A.  Best known for its urban waterfront attractions like the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, the city has a small-town, provincial feel despite being the sixth largest in California, with bike-friendly streets, active neighborhood associations, and artist collectives.

You’ll find more music and cultural festivals every year in Long Beach than anywhere else in Southern California, while its thriving entertainment scene includes famed dive bars and live music venues that have launched a number of notable bands. The city also hosts the annual Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, an event that turns downtown streets into a speedway every April. Overall, it's a great destination for anyone looking for fun times by the beach. With that said, here are the best things to do in town.

01 of 26

Hit the Beach

Long Beach, California, at sunset

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Long Beach City Beach, Long Beach, CA 90803, USA

While the beaches you'll find in this part of California offer a variety of activities like biking, skating, and kiteboarding, they are sheltered by a breakwater, so there are no large waves for surfing here. Instead, the calmer waters here make Long Beach City's beaches a popular beach destination for families and beginner-level swimmers.

If you want to enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean without getting too sandy, try visiting grassy Bluff Park, which runs parallel to the shoreline from the Long Beach Museum of Art to roughly Loma Avenue. The park's paved sidewalk makes it a favorite spot for romantic sunset walks and picnics that can be enjoyed on the green.

02 of 26

Visit the City's Best Art Museums

Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Long Beach is home to three incredible art museums, perfect for all tastes and budgets during a trip to the Los Angeles area. Start with a trip to the only museum in the U.S. dedicated to contemporary Latin American art, The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), which houses an outstanding collection of modern paintings as well as sculptures in the museum's courtyard garden.

Nearby, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum is based on the personal collection of the late Robert Gumbiner, who also founded the Museum of Latin American Art, showcasing pieces from the Pacific Islands​ while focusing mainly on Micronesian art.

The Long Beach Museum of Art, meanwhile, is a bluff-top museum that overlooks the beach. There are rotating exhibits as well as a permanent collection, while the onsite restaurant Claire's offers incredible views of the ocean below.

03 of 26

Stroll the Boardwalk at Shoreline Village

Shoreline Village in Long Beach, California

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 562-435-2668

Shoreline Village's boardwalk is dotted with funky shops, family-friendly attractions, restaurants, and bars, all located along the Shoreline Marina. You'll find a carousel and an arcade, as well as rentals for powerboats, jet skis, electric boats, kayaks, and sailboats that can be arranged right from the marina. Shoreline Village also hosts live music on most summer weekends and throughout the holiday season.

04 of 26

Feel the Need for Speed at the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Brian Cleary / Getty Images

Satisfy your need for speed by planning your trip during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, which typically takes place each year in April. Pack your earplugs (the races can be quite noisy) and watch as the streets of Long Beach are transformed into a world-class racetrack. Stop by the Family Fun Zone at the Long Beach Arena to check out racing simulators, video games, rock climbing walls, and other kid-friendly attractions. Stick around to see the exotic car paddock, NTT Indycar Series, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Superdrift Challenge, Porsche Carrera Cup, and a special event featuring super trucks.

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05 of 26

Discover Nature’s Beauty at the Dominquez Gap Wetlands

Dominguez Gap Wetlands in Long Beach, California

James Mobley / Getty Images

Long Beach, CA 90807, USA

Located just around the corner from Rancho Los Cerritos, the Dominguez Gap Wetlands is a great spot to get away from the hustle and bustle for a break in nature just 15 minutes from downtown Long Beach. With 37 acres to play in, you’ll have plenty of space to unwind on your choice of walkways, bike trails, or equestrian trails, all while admiring the peaceful natural setting.

06 of 26

See Sand Sculptures Crafted on the Beach

Great Sand Sculpture Contest Long Beach

Great Sand Sculpture Contest

1 Granada Ave, Long Beach, CA 90803, USA

Start a new summertime tradition by coming to the Great Sand Sculpture Contest, held each year in mid-August since 1938 along the Belmont Shore. Watch as professional sand artists transform the beach in front of you into works of art during this annual event that feels like a family party on the beach. Best of all, it’s free to attend, while a portion of the proceeds from food vendors and other attractions benefits the Long Beach Ronald McDonald House.

07 of 26

Catch a Comedy Show at the Laugh Factory

Comedian Jon Lovitz performs at the Laugh Factory in Long Beach

Michael S. Schwartz / Getty Images

151 S Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 562-495-2844

If you’re in the mood for a good laugh during your trip to the L.A. area, head to the Long Beach outpost of the Laugh Factory for a few hours of entertainment by some of the best comedians in the world. Opened in 2008, the Long Beach location is more low-key, with comics from throughout Southern California joining the mix, along with well-known names like Tig Notaro, Bill Burr, Carlos Menica, Sarah Silverman, and others who either got their start here or return every so often.

08 of 26

Take a Swan Pedal Boat for a Spin on Rainbow Lagoon

Swan pedal boats on Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach

Wheel Fun Rentals

400 E Shoreline Dr, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 562-570-3100

Whether you’re looking to take a romantic spin on the water with your loved one or to entertain the kids on your Long Beach trip, renting a giant swan pedal boat for a quick trip around Rainbow Lagoon is a fun and easy way to create some memories and get some exercise. Available to rent hourly during the day and at night, large boats fit up to five people, while the smaller ones hold up to two adults and two children. There are also light-up swan boats up for rent if you want an evening paddle around the lagoon.

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09 of 26

Relax at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden  

Earl Warren Dr, Long Beach, CA 90840, USA
Phone +1 562-985-8885

The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden at California State University, Long Beach is a beautiful 1.3-acre green space retreat complete with a peaceful koi pond. Free and open to the public all year long with a free online reservation​, a visit here will surely melt any stress away. Ponder the mysteries of life in the Zen Garden, feed the koi fish, check out the tea house, and go for a relaxing stroll around the grounds for a refreshing break from your everyday routine.

10 of 26

See Marine Life at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Japanese Sea Nettles at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach

Gabriel Bouys / Getty Images

100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802-8126, USA
Phone +1 562-590-3100

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located on Rainbow Harbor in Downtown Long Beach and is home to more than 12,000 Pacific Coast creatures including penguins, sea otters, puffins, sea lions, and seals, among others. The lorikeet forest is a very popular exhibit and guests are given the chance to feed these cute and colorful birds. Visitors also have the rare opportunity to touch a moon jelly, stingray, or a nurse shark.

11 of 26

Take a Whale Watching Cruise

Harbor Breeze Cruises in Long Beach, California

Harbor Breeze Cruises

A variety of boat tours and harbor cruises depart from Long Beach, though whale watching tours are the most popular choice among visitors. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to spot gray whales, blue whales, fin whales, humpback, minke whales, or orcas. A number of other creatures can also be seen while searching for whales, including common, bottlenose, Risso's, and Pacific white-sided dolphins, as well as stingrays and pinniped seals.

12 of 26

Venture Out to Naples Island

Buildings on Naples Island in Long Beach

Neil Setchfield / Getty Images 

Naples, Long Beach, CA 90803, USA

Naples Island is actually comprised of three islands in Alamitos Bay; when people talk about visiting this part of Long Beach, they are usually referring to the inner island, which is accessible by car. For a real treat, stroll the walkway at sunset, past million-dollar mansions, picturesque bridges, and grand yachts. During the holiday season, visitors flock to Naples Island to view the decorated houses along the water and take in the festive boat parade that goes past the outer and inner islands.

While you're there, enjoy a gondola ride around the island's canals with The Gondola Getaway. They offer the most authentic Italian-style gondola rides outside Venice.

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13 of 26

Discover Belmont Shore

Belmont Shore Long Beach

Sergei Gussev / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

Belmont Shore, Long Beach, CA 90803, USA

Every beach town has a main drag and in Long Beach, that's Second Street in Belmont Shore. This vibrant stretch is lined with sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and small boutique shops overlooking the beach. Belmont Shore hosts a number of events throughout the year, including a chocolate festival, a sidewalk chalk art festival, a pre-Grand Prix event, the Haute Dog Howl'oween Pet Parade, and a Christmas Parade during the holidays.

14 of 26

Shop for Vintage Styles Along Retro Row

Meow Vintage on 4th Street Retro Row in Long Beach, CA

Kayte Deioma

4th Street Corridor, Long Beach, CA, USA

Retro Row gets its name from the many thrift shops packed into just a few blocks. Hollywood costume and set designers are known to raid these shops to outfit movies and TV shows, so the vintage items sold here are always of the highest quality. It's a fun place to visit on any trip to Los Angeles and you might end up with a quirky souvenir to wear home.

15 of 26

Take in the View at Lighthouse Park

Lighthouse Park in Long Beach, California

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

200 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 562-570-3100

While you can't climb the lighthouse in Lighthouse Park (also known as ShoreLine Aquatic Park), this tiny peninsula jutting into Rainbow Harbor is a popular place for skateboarding, viewing the Queen Mary and Rainbow Harbor, and hosting picnics.

Nearby, check out the Long Beach Navy Memorial, which pays tribute to the city's naval history. Beginning in 1908, when President Theodore Roosevelt stationed 16 ships of the Great White Fleet in its port, Long Beach served as a naval town for over 100 years until the closing of the shipyard in 1997. The Memorial includes a flag mast from the Long Beach Naval Hospital, an anchor from a ship in the Great White Fleet, and a replica of the compass rose from the Naval Station Administration Building.

16 of 26

Tour Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos

The exterior of the adobe house at Rancho Los Alamitos historic house museum, gardens, and park, in Long Beach

Monacat / Wikimedia Commons 

6400 E Bixby Hill Rd, Long Beach, CA 90815, USA
Phone +1 562-431-3541

Rancho Los Alamitos is located near California State University and is the last remaining corner of a Spanish land grant that was given in 1784. Today, it serves as a living history museum that includes six agricultural buildings, a working blacksmith shop, an adobe ranch, an exhibit center, a gift shop, and several impressive gardens.

Nearby, Rancho Los Cerritos, built in 1844, is one of the last remaining two-story adobe structures still in existence in Southern California and is now a museum. In the summertime, the ranch hosts free outdoor community concerts.

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17 of 26

Enjoy Live Entertainment at a Performing Arts Center

Carpenter Performing Arts Center

Carpenter Performing Arts Center / Wikimedia Commons

There is no shortage of great live performances in this town. Housed within the Long Beach Convention Center, the Long Beach Performing Arts Center encompasses the Terrace Theater—which hosts traveling Broadway musicals, concerts, and major children's productions—and the Center Theatre, home to the award-winning International City Theatre, which hosts both plays and musicals.

The Carpenter Performing Arts Center, located at California State University Long Beach, is where you'll find Musical Theatre West and its splendid in-house musical theater company. Nearby, the Long Beach Playhouse is a community theater where local residents shine on stage with high-quality performances presented throughout the year on the main stage or in one of its intimate studio theaters.

18 of 26

Browse for Crafts in the East Village Arts District

East Village Long Beach Sign

 East Village Long Beach

East Village, Long Beach, CA, USA

The East Village Arts District is an area made up of shops, galleries, and cafes in Downtown Long Beach. On the second Saturday of each month, the streets are closed to traffic for an Art Walk highlighting multiple art vendors, gallery openings, and live musical entertainment.

19 of 26

Get Some Retail Therapy at the Pike Outlets

Long Beach Convention Center

Tehsigo Eternamente (J Mondragon) / Wikimedia Commons

95 S Pine Ave, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 877-225-5337

The Pike Outlets are a major shopping, dining, and entertainment complex located across from the Long Beach Convention Center. In addition to known-brand-name outlet stores and restaurants, it's home to a movie theater, giant Ferris wheel, and a Long Beach outpost of the Laugh Factory comedy club. The Cyclone Racer Bridge you'll spot here pays homage to the site's former roller coaster and amusement park, connecting the Pike with the rest of Rainbow Harbor.

20 of 26

Cruise Around Town by Water Taxi

Long Beach Transit

Long Beach Transit

130 E 1st St, Long Beach, CA 90802, USA
Phone +1 562-591-2301

Long Beach Transit provides seasonal transportation between waterfront attractions via Aqualink water taxis, providing a fun way to get from the Aquarium of the Pacific or Shoreline Village to the Queen Mary, Belmont Pier, or the Alamitos Bay Marina. Utilizing public transit is also an inexpensive way to cruise around, even if you don't plan on getting off the boat—it is a 40-minute ride in each direction, after all.

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21 of 26

Catch an Exhibit at the Historical Society of Long Beach

Inside an exhibit of the Historical Society of Long Beach

Historical Society of Long Beach

4260 Atlantic Ave, Long Beach, CA 90807-2802, USA
Phone +1 562-424-2220

If you're interested in the history of the city by the sea, the Historical Society of Long Beach operates a public gallery in Bixby Knolls, a neighborhood located about five miles north of downtown Long Beach. In addition to rotating exhibits from the historical archives and special themed displays that draw from community artifacts, you'll find a great selection of books about Long Beach as well as historic photos and postcards for sale.

If you happen to be visiting around Halloween, check out the historical cemetery tour, where living history actors tell the fascinating stories of some of the real people interred in Sunnyside Cemetery and Long Beach Municipal Cemetery.

22 of 26

Do a Day Trip to Catalina Island

Catalina Island View

Betsy Malloy Photography

Santa Catalina Island, California 90704, USA

Although you will have to leave Long Beach, a day trip or weekend jaunt to Catalina Island is a popular excursion from the area. Catalina Express runs ferry service from Long Beach (as well as other ports like San Pedro and Dana Point) which takes about an hour one-way. Once you get to Catalina Island, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy, including hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail, visiting the botanical gardens, and going on a thrilling undersea expedition in a semi-submersible boat.

23 of 26

Book a Flying Lesson or Air Tour

Long Beach Airport

 Atomic Taco / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

3333 E Spring St Suite 222, Long Beach, CA 90806, USA
Phone +1 866-600-9595

Whether you're serious about learning to fly an airplane or just want to give it a whirl, Pacific Air Flight School is a great place to take a small plane or helicopter flying lesson. If you'd rather sit back and enjoy the ride, several helicopter tour companies in the area offer tours departing from the Long Beach Airport, including a few that fly over Hollywood.

24 of 26

Hike Around El Dorado Park Nature Center

El Dorado Park Nature Center, Long Beach, California

 Jennifer Arrow / Flickr

7550 E Spring St, Long Beach, CA 90815-1617, USA
Phone +1 562-570-1745

El Dorado Park Nature Center is a wildlife habitat full of biking and hiking trails, and fishing ponds, as well as opportunities to use paddle boats, test your skills in an archery field, and take a train ride aboard the El Dorado Express.

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25 of 26

Hunt for Treasures at the Long Beach Antique Market

Long Beach Antique Market

Kayte Deioma

4901 E Conant St, Long Beach, CA 90808, USA
Phone +1 323-655-5703

The Long Beach Antique Market is a monthly outdoor flea market that plays host to more than 800 antiques and collectibles vendors from around the country. You can check it out on the third Sunday of the month, while a bonus market takes place whenever there's a fifth Sunday in a month.

26 of 26

Appreciate Architecture at the Bembridge House

The Bembridge House

Los Angeles / Wikimedia Commons

953 N Pk Cir, Long Beach, CA 90813, USA
Phone +1 562-493-7019

The Bembridge House is a historic Victorian home in Drake Park. The house was built in 1906 and is operated by Long Beach Heritage, which conducts tours about once a week. The house is significant for the architectural integrity of both the exterior and interior, which includes a great deal of opulent detail.

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The 26 Best Things to Do in Long Beach, California