Aquarium of the Pacific
Located along Long Beach’s Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium of the Pacific is Southern California’s largest aquarium and a must-do Long Beach activity for all ages. Home to more than 11,000 animal exhibits, the aquarium explores three distinct waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Start in the Southern California/Baja Gallery where you’ll find the 536,000-litre, three-storey-high Honda Blue Cavern that features ocean inhabitants found off the coast of Catalina Island. You’ll also want to visit the Seal and Sea Lion Habitat and the Ray Touch Pool. Highlighting habitats in and around the Bering Strait, the Northern Pacific gallery features a collection of graceful jellies, four playful otters in the Sea Otter Exhibit, and the largest species of octopus in the world, the giant Pacific octopus, which can be more than 20 feet long.
Then head to the warmer waters of the Tropical Pacific Gallery and the largest exhibit in the aquarium—the 350,000 gallon Tropical Reef Habitat, which can be viewed from three locations and holds thousands of colourful fish, coral, sea turtles, and two kinds of sharks. Don’t forget to stop by the seahorse and sea dragon exhibit to see if you can find these camouflaged creatures hiding among the seaweed.
In addition to the three main galleries, the aquarium also features outdoor exhibits, including an interactive Shark Lagoon, the Lorikeet Forest aviary, the penguin habitat, and a horseshoe crab touch lab.
If you’re looking to dive in further, the aquarium offers many educational, exclusive, and behind-the-scenes experiences. You can get up close and personal with animals such as stingrays, sea lions, and penguins, or dive right into an exhibit (certification required). If your kids have dreamed of staying overnight next to a gigantic fish tank, you can do that too.
The latest addition to the aquarium is Pacific Visions, a wing that helps aquarium visitors better understand the challenges the ocean faces and the opportunities it holds. The expansion, sheathed in a striking blue-green biomorphic shell, includes a state-of-the-art interactive theater, a larger exhibit gallery with live animals, and an art gallery.
Sign up for the annual Aquarium of the Pacific 5K in October to run (or walk) past the aquarium and other Long Beach sites on a flat, scenic course. Bonus: All participants get a $5 voucher for admission to the aquarium.
Insider tip: Check out the Aquarium of the Pacific website for upcoming events, hours, ticket prices, and information on discounted tickets.
Spotlight: Long Beach
Just half an hour from Los Angeles, Long Beach is a beachfront gem you’ll want to add to your California itinerary. It offers beautiful beaches and marinas along with a busy dining and shopping scene that perfectly blends big city sophistication with beach town fun.
Tour the Queen Mary, the legendary, permanently docked ocean liner, or relax with a drink in the ship’s Observation Bar—for truly unique accommodations, you can even stay overnight in one of the ship’s staterooms or suites. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific, Southern California’s largest aquarium and home to playful sea otters, Magellanic penguins, and a 350,000-gallon Tropical Reef Habitat, which holds thousands of colourful fish, coral, sea turtles, and sharks.
Looking for some retail therapy instead? Shop designer favourites at Pike Outlets or search for the perfect retro finds at the vintage boutiques along Long Beach’s Fourth Street. Or try your hand at kite surfing on Long Beach’s Belmont Shores, one of the best places in the state for beginners to learn the sport thanks to the protective breakwater that blocks major waves.
Above all, enjoy eating your way through the city’s culinary delights from the classic waterfront Parkers’ Lighthouse in Shoreline Village to the modern SteelCraft, an urban eatery in Bixby Knolls, to the rooftop Sky Room, an Art Deco bar and dining room, 14 stories atop the Breakers Hotel in downtown Long Beach. Whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend, a family reunion destination, or just a getaway with the kids, Long Beach has the food, fun, and sun for your next Southern California trip.
Dining in Long Beach
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, Long Beach offers a diverse selection of dishes to satisfy any palate. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly restaurant that will be good for the kids, a romantic dinner with a view or the perfect spot for brunch, Long Beach offers visitors an array of flavours, venues and price ranges.
With 11 miles of shoreline and more than two dozen waterfront restaurants, there are lots of ways to enjoy upmarket dining with a view in Long Beach. Head down to Shoreline Village for mesquite-wood-barbecued seafood, sushi, steaks and more at Parkers’ Lighthouse, and admire its award-winning, two-storey wine cellar. Or stop on the east bank of Alamitos Bay to enjoy the open kitchen and bayside views of the Boathouse on the Bay. Don’t want to break the bank for an ocean view? Grab breakfast or lunch at Plunge or lobster bisque and a cold brew at Belmont Brewing Company. After a long day of exploring, enjoy a walk down the Pine Avenue Pier and dine at Gladstone’s. Splurge on fine dining aboard the Queen Mary at Sir Winston's, or head 14 storeys above the city to The Sky Room atop the Breakers Hotel for a romantic dinner or a cocktail on the rooftop UP Lounge to catch the sunset.
Families with young children will find plenty of options to keep young visitors happy and, best of all, full. For delicious tortilla chips and salsa, and a range of Mexican favourites, head to Lola’s Mexican Cuisine in the Bixby area or on 4th Street for children's menus and high chairs. Or try brunch on the outdoor patio at Restauration on 4th Street, where there's room for kids to roam. Families will also enjoy child-friendly chains like Famous Dave’s BBQ and Bubba Gump Shrimp, both conveniently located near the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Second Street eats
Eating your way along Second Street is the perfect way to spend a Long Beach day. In between bites, you can browse boutiques, catch some live street corner music, people watch and soak up some Southern California culture. Start with a quick breakfast burrito from Sacho’s Tacos and a cuppa from Polly’s Gourmet Coffee, or enjoy a leisurely brunch of Surf & Turf Benedict or a Ratatouille Omelette at The Attic. At noon, call in at Tavern on 2 for craft beers and a bowl of their famous spicy chicken tortilla soup. Then finish off your Second Street eating extravaganza with homely Italian dishes at La Strada or a seasonally inspired dish from Saint & Second, including creative cocktails such as the Chipotle Pineapple Collins.
With a nod to the city’s shipping industry, try out SteelCraft, an urban outdoor restaurant in the Bixby Knolls area, or sample the innovative vegan eats at Seabirds Kitchen on 4th Street. Constructed out of 12-metre shipping containers, SteelCraft has restaurants offering artisan burgers, pizza, Hawaiian shaved ice, handmade chocolate, Japanese ramen, Steelhead Coffee, Smog City Brewery beers and even gourmet waffles.
Water-based Activities in Long Beach
With more than 11 miles of sandy shorelines and sparkling bays, Long Beach is the perfect place to enjoy time both in and on the water. From stand-up paddleboards to yachts, and harbour cruises to romantic gondola rides, Long Beach offers water-based activities for everyone.
Thanks to a protective breakwater built by the US Navy during the Second World War, Long Beach’s sandy shores are a great choice for families. Protected from major waves and without riptides, shorelines such as Alamitos Beach, Marine Park (aka Mother’s Beach) and Belmont Shore Beach provide plenty of space for sunbathing or sand-castle building and calm waters for families with small children to enjoy the beach without the worry of dangerous seas.
Water sports and tours
Always wanted to learn how to kite surf? The same breakwater that makes the shoreline safe for little ones also makes Long Beach’s Belmont Shores one of the best places for beginners to get the hang of the sport. Try out a 90-minute discovery lesson withSoCal Kitesurfing or jump into a three-hour group lesson with Captain Kirks. Visitors can also rent stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, Aqua bikes, Duffy electric boats, and other watercraft at Rainbow Marina.
If being on the water is more your thing, a guided 45-minute harbour tour from Harbor Breeze Cruises will help you get your bearings and learn about the history and marine life of the Long Beach coast. Or choose one of their three-hour whale-watching tours. Look for grey whales between December and April, the mighty blue whales from June to October, and an endless supply of dolphins, sea lions and other marine life all year. Book online for the best deal. Looking for something even fancier? Charter a yacht through the Harbor Yacht Club or Pacific Sailing for a day or overnight trip to Catalina Island.
Also along the waterfront, sign up for the annual Aquarium of the Pacific 5K in October to run (or walk) past Rainbow Harbor and Queensway Bridge on a flat, scenic course. Bonus: All participants get a $5 voucher for admission to the aquarium.
For a little romance on your visit, take a Venetian gondola ride with Gondola Getaway. The one-hour gondola rides take groups of two to six passengers through the canals of Naples with views of million-dollar homes, luxurious yachts and the bridges that arch over the canals. Pack your own nibbles and wine to enjoy on the boat (they’ll provide glasses and an ice bucket!) or book a Brunch or Pizza Cruise. Larger groups visiting for weddings and other events can hire multiple boats at once or the larger 'Carolina' that holds up to 15 people. If you’re lucky, you might even be serenaded by your gondolier.
Getting around town
The Long Beach waterways are also a great way to get around the city without getting in your car. From Rainbow Harbor, visitors can hop on the Aquabus, a 49-passenger boat that travels between Rainbow Harbor, the Queen Mary, Hotel Maya and the Catalina Landing, or the AquaLink, a 79-passenger high-speed catamaran that travels between Rainbow Harbor, the Queen Mary, Vet’s Pier and Alamitos Bay.
Shopping in Long Beach
Named as one of the Most Walkable Neighbourhoods in America by WalkScore.com, Long Beach is ideal for strolling and shopping. With a variety of distinct shopping areas to explore, everyone from lovers of vintage and bargain hunters to outlet lovers and luxury shoppers can satisfy their itch to shop.
Lovers of all things vintage rejoice! Known as Retro Row, the growing retail area on 4th Street between Walnut and Junipero is a three-block collection of eclectic shops boasting kitschy collectibles, vintage clothes and retro finds. Visit Moxi Roller Skate Shop for lessons and sweet wheels; browse vinyls at Third Eye Records or vintage clothing at Meow; find a souvenir at Songbird Boutique; or just grab a drink at one of the area’s many pubs and coffee shops and enjoy the people-watching.
Thanks to a $65 million update in 2015, Long Beach’s Pike Outlets offer even more shops and restaurants for visitors to enjoy in a pedestrian-friendly setting. Located next to the Convention Center and Aquarium of the Pacific, the Pike Outlets satisfy shoppers with retailers including Restoration Hardware Outlet, H&M, Nike, Gap, Converse and Columbia Sportswear, among others. The outlets are even a great destination for an evening out in Long Beach: start with a wander along the waterfront, grab a pint at the Auld Dubliner Irish Pub and then enjoy a night of stand-up at the Laugh Factory. The outlets also host a range of events throughout the year, including the Urban Hive farmers' market on the fourth Friday of the month.
Second Street and its 15 intersecting side streets make up the charming business district of Belmont Shore. Running parallel to the Pacific Ocean, Second Street offers shoppers a mile and a half of retail therapy opportunities. From well-known retailers such as Banana Republic and The Body Shop to boutique shops specialising in everything from swimming and surfing wear and accessories to the latest European clothing and jewellery designs, Second Street is a shopper’s paradise.