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20 Fun & Best Things to do in Long Beach, California

20 Fun & Best Things to do in Long Beach, California

From fishing, swimming, and kitesurfing to walking trails, bike paths, and cultural attractions, there are lots of things to do in Long Beach.

This coastal city is a classic Southern California beach town with a modern vibe. Travelers come to Long Beach for family vacations, romantic getaways, and events such as the Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Long Beach Bayou Festival.

Long Beach is also a popular embarkation point to Catalina Island. Along with that California beach vibe of sand, sun, surf, and skate park, Long Beach has a thriving cultural community.

The East Village Arts District, the Long Beach Antique Market, the downtown Long Beach Museum of Art, and other art galleries all fit the bill. Are you in Long Beach CA for sporting events or musical performances at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in downtown Long Beach?

Are you checking out Long Beach State University or on a layover from LAX? Maybe you’re spending a few days before or after a cruise out of the Long Beach Cruise Terminal?

Whatever reason brings you to Long Beach, we’ve got you covered with attractions and things to do in Long Beach for the whole crew. 

Where is Long Beach and How to Get There

Located in Los Angeles County, about 30 minutes from the city of Los Angeles, Long Beach sits where the Los Angeles River and the San Gabriel River flow into the Pacific Ocean. Huntington Beach is to the south and Redondo Beach is to the north. 

The nearby Port of Long Beach joins up with the Port of Los Angeles. It’s located on 3,200 acres of land and is a gateway for the U.S. and Asian trade. It’s also a popular cruise port if you’re a cruising enthusiast.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about 17.5 miles from Long Beach. Long Beach Airport (LGB) is 4.5 miles away from the town of Long Beach.

10 Best and Fun Things to do in Long Beach

1. Meet Marine Animals at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Two Yellow Jellyfish

Located in Rainbow Harbor on the Long Beach waterfront, Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific has more than 11,000 marine animals. Have fun checking out sea lions, penguins, leopard sharks, and jellyfish. 

The aquarium is the largest in Southern California. It sits on five acres of waterfront property across from the Long Beach California convention center. There’s an adjoining park. 

An Aquarium of the Pacific tour provides you to explore more marine exhibits that are divided into three diverse sections. There’s the tropical Pacific, the Northern Pacific, and the Southern California/Baja region. Visitors can take whale watching and harbor tours as well as educational seminars. Don’t forget to visit the art gallery, touch tanks, and shark lagoon. 

Shoreline Aquatic Park makes a nice spot to enjoy a picnic after exploring the marine life of Long Beach.

2. Admire Garden Design at Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden
“Long Beach” by sergei.gussev is licensed under CC BY 2.0

If you’re wondering what to do in Long Beach, the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is one of the best Long Beach California attractions. The architecture of traditional Japanese garden design combines with the trees, shrubs, and flowers of Southern California. 

Inspired by the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo, Miller Japanese Garden opened in 1981 and is located on 1.3 acres on the campus of California State University Long Beach.

Along with all the floral attractions, there is a koi pond, art installations, bridges, and pagodas at Miller Japanese Garden. Relax in the tea house or Zen garden while enjoying garden views in this stunning space.

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3. Get Cultural at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center

The Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, located at California State University, features performing arts, concerts, cultural events, stage shows, ballet, and speaking engagements from authors such as Anne Lamott and comedian Paula Poundstone.

Located a quick five minutes from Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, the Carpenter Performing Arts Center was built in 1994 and can seat 1,054.

There’s a permanent exhibit of The Carpenters (the famous brother and sister duo Richard and Karen Carpenter) memorabilia and awards on display for any soft rock fans to ogle.

4. Take a Gondola Ride Around Naples Island

Houses and Dock Boats by the Shore

Inspired by the actual Naples (that being Naples, Italy), Naples Island is a three-island section on Alamitos Bay. Take a gondola getaway ride along the canals, which form a 2.6-mile loop near Seal Beach in Long Beach. The area was designed in the early 1900s and features shops and restaurants along narrow streets and canals. 

You can rent kayaks or just walk along the canals and check out the beautiful boats and homes, which makes this one of the most relaxing things to do in Long Beach today!

5. Explore the Past at Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site

Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site is about 20 minutes from the Queen Mary along the Long Beach waterfront. It’s an ideal destination to explore and add to your tour with Viator; history buffs in your group will want to check out this terrific Long Beach museum.

The  19th Century house, ranch, and museum feature gardens, nature trails, and history exhibits. Themed gardens include a backyard garden, a native California garden, and a 1930s orchard with citrus, loquat, macadamia, and avocado trees. 

Along with tropical flowers, there’s a camellia and rose garden, grape arbors, and several unique trees. Check out black locust, Italian cypress, and ginkgo as well as lemon, lime, and Catalina ironwood trees.

The site hosts historic exhibits and a permanent collection of images and artifacts on the native Tongva people, the history of beauty and cosmetics, 19th Century reading and writing materials, exhibits on 19th Century health and medicine, and sections covering domestic labor of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

See Related: Northern California vs South California

6. Take a Break at El Dorado Nature Center

Trees and Ground Covered with Leaves
El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, CA by Bobby Griffith

The El Dorado Nature Center, which sits on 105 acres in the middle of an urban area, has walking trails, a stream, a lake, and lots of plant and animal life.

This Long Beach green space is located along the San Gabriel River, making El Dorado Nature Center a relaxing and peaceful spot to recharge after a day of exploring Long Beach tourist attractions. 

One cool aspect of El Dorado Nature Center is an island, accessible by a bridge, that holds a visitor center where you can find educational exhibits, a gift shop, and an art gallery.

7. Appreciate Art at the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)

The Museum of Latin and American Art is one of the best places to visit in Long Beach. You can learn about diverse cultures and contemporary Latin American art.

This Long Beach museum was founded in 1996 and features a 15,000-square-foot sculpture and events garden and more than 1,300 pieces of modern and contemporary art by Latin American artists. 

Special exhibit installations at this Long Beach museum include diversity, women in the arts, and other Latin American art styles ranging from classic to modern geometric.

It’s among our top picks for fun things to do in Long Beach for art lovers, as is the nearby Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum, which showcases the art of the Pacific Islands in a Polynesian-inspired building.

8. Discover Art Among Nature at Long Beach Museum of Art

One of the best Long Beach things to do, the Long Beach Museum of Art is just off of Ocean Boulevard and offers photography, paintings, textiles, decorative arts, and other types of media in traveling and permanent collections. The Craftsman-style mansion alone is reason enough to visit.

Enjoy educational programs and unique installations like Patrick Dougherty’s twisty willow branch creations and rotating exhibits by local artists and high school students at this Long Beach museum.

Claire’s Restaurant at Long Beach Museum of Art is an excellent choice to relax after perusing paintings and educational displays. You could also visit nearby Alamitos Beach or Bluff Park for Pacific Ocean views. Check out the 1900s-era houses along Bluff Park.

9. Explore a World of Weird at the Dark Art Emporium

Do your art interests run to the weird and quirky side? If so, you’ll enjoy this Long Beach art gem – and before you ask; no, you won’t be meeting Professor Snape.

Located in downtown Long Beach, the Dark Art Emporium features a twisted and eclectic collection of fine art and diverse objects. Think creepy dolls, human skulls, interesting taxidermy, and other oddities. Rest assured that all exhibits in this spooky gallery are ethically sourced!

If you’re a fan of the Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum concept, these things to do in Long Beach attraction will be right up your alley (though maybe a bit more twisted).

It’s located within the 4th Horseman Craft Beer and Wine Bar, which itself 21+ only. However, junior visitors need not despair, as there’s a separate museum entrance for visitors under 21.

10. Channel Your Inner Child at Knott’s Berry Farm

Ride roller coasters, snuggle with Snoopy, and eat funnel cake and cotton candy till you burst at Knott’s Berry Farm!

Interestingly enough, it started as an actual berry farm in the 1920s. It eventually added restaurants, rides, and a widely popular ghost town. And, yes, they still serve Mrs. Knott’s fried chicken, cooked to the original 100-year-old recipe!.

Part of Cedar Fair Parks, the 160-acre Long Beach amusement park makes an excellent way to spend the day in Long Beach. The whole family can enjoy musical shows, fun games, shops, a water park, and exciting rides at one of Long Beach’s best tourist attractions

Check out the six themed sections of the park, which include Ghost Town, Fiesta Village, The Boardwalk, Wildwater Wilderness, Indian Trails, and Camp Snoopy.

The park hosts annual events such as Knott’s Spooky Farm, Knott’s Scary Farm, Knott’s Merry Farm, Knott’s Boysenberry Farm, and more. The Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel has 320 rooms with a fun Snoopy-themed wing the kids (and Minnesotans) will love. There’s a pool, a fitness center, a tennis court, a gift shop, and a restaurant.

See Related: Best Things to Do in San Diego

11. Run with the Dogs at Rosie’s Dog Beach

Group Playing Beach Volleyball

Looking for things to do in Long Beach California with your favorite four-legged friend? Bring ‘em along! At Rosie’s Dog Beach, dogs can run off-leash to their heart’s content from 6 am to 8 pm daily.

This natural environment is located on four acres at Ocean Blvd between Roycroft and Argonne avenues on the Pacific Ocean. Pencil in Rosie’s Dog Beach onto your Long Beach to-do list if you’re bringing the pooch along.

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12. Enjoy Opera at the Long Beach Opera

If you’re interested in high culture (and have already hit up the splendid galleries we’ve listed), check out this next treat!

The Long Beach Opera was founded in 1979. It features a full roster of performances throughout the year and has hosted operas like Les Enfants Terribles, Don Carlo, and The Diary of Anne Frank. You can find it on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach.

This Long Beach attraction also offers educational programs and music appreciation, as well as discounts for students.  

13. Search for Sculptures at the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum 

The Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum is located on the campus of California State University Long Beach, near Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden.

This Long Beach museum is home to an extensive collection of work by artist and poet Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld. It hosts exhibits by local artists and students as well as international artists. 

The museum also has lots of outdoor space and sculpture installations, and you can enjoy art and education seminars by well-known names in the art world at this Long Beach museum. 

14. Wander the Downtown Long Beach Waterfront

Downtown and Sunset

After a day of exploring Long Beach, wandering downtown along the waterfront is a relaxing way to spend an evening. Of course, you’ll want to check out the wide array of restaurants along Pine Avenue, aptly nicknamed “restaurant row”. 

Restaurants include Rock Bottom Brewery, King’s Fish House, George’s Greek Café, and BO-Beau, to name just a few. Afterward, indulge in nightlife or just enjoy the ‘20s and ‘30s-era buildings decked out in LED lights. 

Shopping among the art galleries, antiques, and vintage clothing stores in the East Village Arts District, which is located between Ocean Boulevard, Alamitos Avenue, and Long Beach Boulevard, is among the most fun things to do in Long Beach for shopaholics.

15. Learn to Waterski at Long Beach Marine Stadium

Marine Walk and Road

Located on Alamitos Bay, the Long Beach Marine Stadium is an official state historic site. It’s also the birthplace of powerboat racing on the West Coast!

The nation’s premier waterskiing facility has hosted the 1932 Olympic rowing competitions as well as the 1968 rowing trials. 

This Long Beach California site is currently the home of races for the Southern California Speedboat Club and the annual Long Beach Sprint Nationals, which sees competition from teams from around the world.

Sitting on 106 acres in Long Beach CA, there’s a boat ramp, a beach, restrooms, green space, and picnic areas. Go waterskiing and rowing, pursue outdoor activities, or just watch others waterskiing and rowing while you enjoy a picnic in the typically pristine weather.

16. Watch for Birds at Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge

People Releasing Birds
“Light-footed clapper rails being release on Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge” by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Established in 1972, Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge is located on 965 acres near the community of Seal Beach. It’s a popular habitat for migrating birds. Watch for great blue heron and endangered species like the California clapper rail and the Belding’s Savannah sparrow. 

Since the refuge is on an active military base, (Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach), public access tours are limited to once a month. If you’re a bird or nature enthusiast, you’ll want to plan this Long Beach activity ahead of time.

See Related: Most Exotic Places to Visit in California

17. Book Waterfront Activities at Shoreline Village

Colorful Houses and Boats by the Shore

For family-friendly shopping, fine dining, and other things to do in Long Beach, Shoreline Village is the place to go. This almost Cape Cod-like area overlooks the scenic Rainbow Harbor in Long Beach.

Take a stroll along the Long Beach waterfront, go parasailing, or enjoy a glass of wine, live music, and the sunset from Parkers Lighthouse restaurant (which also has views of the Queen Mary vintage World War II ocean liner, one of the grandest ocean liners ever built). 

Other Shoreline Village restaurants include Tequila Jack’s, Shenanigan’s Irish Pub & Grill, Gilan Pizza and Grill, and Queensview Steakhouse as well as fun snacks and sweet treats like Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Twisters and Coffee, The Funnel House, and Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt on the Boardwalk.

The youngsters in your group will enjoy Pelican Pier Pavilion, which has a carousel and an arcade.

There are also sailing and powerboat rentals, Harbor Breeze cruises, fishing charters, whale watching tours, sailing lessons, and bicycle rentals. For Long Beach activities, Shoreline Village has it all along the Long Beach waterfront.

18. Take a Day Trip to Catalina Island

Island and Ocean View

Cruises to Catalina Island, which is part of California’s Channel Islands, leave from the Port of Long Beach. Located about 22 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Catalina Island is approximately 22 miles long and about eight miles across at the widest point. 

Enjoy the Mediterranean ambiance of the town of Avalon, go hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching. We simply enjoy the dramatic coastal views. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to get there by boat, but feels a world away, which makes this one of our favorite things to do in Long Beach. 

Catalina Island has hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations if you’d like to make a couple of days of it. 

See Related: The Island of the Dolls: What to See & Do

19. Shop for Vintage Clothing on Retro at Retro Row

Woman Carrying Paper Bags

Shop for vintage clothing, gifts, and accessories on Retro Row. Find it on 4th Street between Jupinero Street and Walnut Street. This Long Beach shopping destination offers a diverse collection of boutiques, gift shops, and vintage apparel stores. 

Check out Relics if you’re into analog photography. Go to Third Eye Records for vintage vinyl. Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop is the place to learn how to skate, have your skates repaired, or buy a new pair. For vintage and sustainable clothing, pay a visit to Far Outfit

There are several cafés and pubs to relax after a day of shopping. Dining options include artisan bakeries, wine bars, Peruvian food, cheese shops, organic juice bars, and specialty coffee and tea.

20. Surf the Waves and Cast a Line at Bolsa Chica State Beach

Girls Playing Volleyball on the Beach

While this activity is actually a drive away from Long Beach, it’s a must-visit for people that love a SoCal beachy vibe.

This next attraction is just under 30 minutes away in nearby Huntington Beach and is so revered for its surf and long sandy beach, that I’d kick myself for skipping it! 

If you’re a true beach bum who likes to visit several different beaches, Bolsa Chica State Beach is a quick day trip from Long Beach.

Bolsa Chica is popular for surfing, fishing, sunbathing, and birdwatching. There are lifeguards, which is always a plus if you have little ones in your group.

The tidal inlet channel is a popular spot for anglers hoping to catch perch, croaker, cabezon, and other types of fish.

Where to Stay in Long Beach

Wondering where to stay in Long Beach that’s near tourist attractions and Long Beach’s best activities?

From a luxury hotel with resort-style amenities in the downtown area to boutique and extended-stay hotels, Long Beach, California offers accommodations for every budget and travel style in Southern California.

The Cove Hotel – Ascend Hotel Collection

Cove Hotel Long Beach California 1

The Cove Hotel – Ascend Hotel Collection is in a convenient location near the Port of Long Beach, the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, and ferry service to and from Catalina Island. It has a pool and a restaurant.

Beachrunners Inn

Beachrunners Inn Long Beach California

Beachrunners Inn bed and breakfast is located near Junipero Beach, Belmont Shore Beach, and Bluff Park. It has five guest rooms, lovely gardens and outdoor space, and a full English breakfast. It was built in 1913 and features Craftsman architecture. It’s within convenient access to the Long Beach Museum of Art.

The Hyatt Regency Long Beach

Hyatt Regency Long Beach California

The Hyatt Regency Long Beach has a pool, two restaurants, a lounge, a fitness center, a gift shop, and marina views.

This Long Beach hotel is pet-friendly and within walking distance to the Long Beach Convention Center, Shoreline Village, and other activities in Long Beach Ca. There’s even a pedestrian bridge leading to Shoreline Village.

Greenleaf Hotel Long Beach Convention Center

Greenleaf Hotel Long Beach California

The 1920s-era Greenleaf Hotel Long Beach Convention Center offers city and water views in a historic boutique hotel setting.

Located in downtown Long Beach, it’s convenient to the convention center, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Queen Mary, and Shoreline Village. Junipero Beach and Long Beach City Beach are nearby. Sadly, no pets are allowed.

The Belmont Shore Inn

Belmont Shore Inn Long Beach California

The Belmont Shore Inn offers convenience and modern accommodations along Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach. Amenities include rainfall showerheads and pillowtop beds for a restful night after exploring Long Beach’s attractions and activities. Business services such as copying and faxing are also available, as well as a 24-hour front desk. 

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