If it's not enough to see the Russian Scorpion submarine parked next to English Queen Mary, drive a few miles south to view a real pyramid reaching 192 feet into the sky. Built along the perimeter of California State University Long Beach campus, this modern wonder, which is one of three such buildings in the United States, is located just a mile or two from one of California's most rustic treasures, a rambling single-story adobe structure, Rancho Los Alamitos.
As you visit downtown Long Beach with its deco style architecture, Convention Center, Aquarium and Performing Arts Center, walk around the building to view a mural that made the Guinness Book of World Records for its size. Whaling Wall XXXIII: Planet Ocean, pictured above, was a gift to the City of Long Beach from marine artist, Wyland, who painted a stunning 116,000 square foot testament to the Pacific Ocean on the outer walls of the Long Beach Arena.
Bikinis and business suits mix along a beach that a world trade center overlooks. Standing next to elegant buildings where commerce takes place, is the Pacific Ocean, sparkling like diamonds in the afternoon sun. Beautiful and busy, yet somewhat unknown as a travel destination, we are attracted to Long Beach and never tire of visiting a jewel that offers some new facet on each look. Period architecture, beach expanses, unique communities such as Naples with canals and a gondola you can ride, historic adobes, ethnic restaurants and a Bohemian feel provide an allure and give us lots to explore.
Five and a half miles of coastline, an airport serving national flights, a light rail system to Los Angeles, the largest municipally owned marina with 3,400 slips, buses to all downtown attractions, a world class aquarium, convention center, a professional ice hockey team, annual Grand Prix car race on city streets, high speed boat service to Catalina Island and the Queen Mary Ship are a few of the wonderful amenities and attractions drawing 5.5 million guests to Long Beach annually.
Yet, why does a city twice the size of neighboring Huntington Beach, offering many more attractions and accommodations report only half the visitors of its neighbor to the south in Orange County? Perhaps its the limited beach parking, lack of waves for surfing and industry as a port that lightens the load of day-trippers from surrounding regions. Long Beach offers some sandy beaches and coastline near downtown, Naples, Belmont Shore and Long Beach Peninsula that are enjoyed for their scenic beauty. And by the numbers, while day guests to Long Beach are less, the city does enjoy a healthy convention crowd with rooms booked in larger numbers than most surrounding cities.
Beach access is not always simple to find in this nautical city--visible for a mile or so on Ocean Boulevard, views in downtown Long Beach are obscured by high rise condominiums and complexes stretching along the hills above the beach. Built on or near the sand in neighborhoods with narrow streets barely wide enough for a cars to pass in some places, Naples and Belmont Shore are two beach communities on the south end of Long Beach near the Orange County border. With numerous one-way streets and allies, meeting your friends at the beach or to shop at the popular Belmont Shore 2nd Street often requires finding a parking spot first.
Tucked away in residential neighborhoods that have nothing to sell, little parking and scarce public facilities such as restrooms, are several scenic, quiet and quaint beaches. Not practical for family outings, drive along Ocean Boulevard in Belmont Shore and park in the municipal lots or on streets not far from Belmont Pier where there's plenty of parking and public restrooms. In downtown Long Beach, there are public beaches with large parking lots south of the Convention Center and west of Ocean Boulevard.
Long Beach is one of those places that offers more than the beach as its draw. The downtown region of the city has trendy shops, restaurants, an art district and an awesome skyline that can be viewed atop the elegant Sky Room during a special dinner, or seen from Shoreline Village, while enjoying a great meal at Parker's Lighthouse. California's fifth largest city is filled with beautiful parks, golf, archery, lawn bowling, skateboarding and various sports activities, but we recommend exploring Rainbow Harbor first. Home to the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village shops and dining, and the Water Taxi taking you to the Queen Mary Ship, Russian Scorpion Submarine and the Catamaran traveling to Catalina Island several times daily, this launching point for your vacation offers lots of activities in one easy location. Especially convenient is the Blue Line MetroRail that travels to Staples Center and downtown Los Angeles where it connects with Hollywood and Pasadena, too.
Outranked in population by only four other California cities, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose, you'll notice downtown Long Beach has a "bohemian" feel. High-rise buildings with gargoyles and art deco architecture date back to 1933. That's when a destructive earthquake knocked down many structures, and required building a whole new city out of the ashes of devastation. Take a drive along Ocean Boulevard, the main street in downtown Long Beach to view neatly painted and appointed residential and commercial buildings constructed during that era. Long Beach has an active historical society with lots of photos from that time, books documenting the big earthquake and docents who recall the event as children.
For the foot traveler or wheel enthusiast, Shoreline Pedestrian/Bicycle Path is a 3-mile paved path which includes a 17-foot-wide concrete trail extending from Alamitos Avenue on the west to 54th Place on the east. Construction was initiated by citizens who wanted to link it to an existing 29-mile bike path system. Two six foot lanes are for bicycle traffic and one five foot lane is for pedestrians. Skates, bikes, umbrellas and beach chair rentals are available at Alfredos on the western portion of the trail.