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Long Beach, California is an eclectic waterfront urban destination 22 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, offering exciting experiences for the entire family and 345 days of sunshine every year. What more could you ask for? We’ve partnered with Susan Lanier-Graham of Wander With Wonder, who discovered a dynamic mix of attractions in this Southern California escape.

Long Beach is that quintessential Southern California beach town with miles of sandy shores, beautiful sunny days, and oceanfront hotels. Yet it also has something different from other seaside towns — a hip urban center; a diverse, multicultural population; international flavors; and fun for kids of all ages. Long Beach is an ideal year-round vacation destination. However you define your family, incredible experiences are bound to be had in Long Beach.

1. Visit The R.M.S. Queen Mary

Back when she made her maiden voyage in 1936, the RMS Queen Mary was the world’s largest, fastest, and most elegant ocean liner. She carried royalty, movie stars, and the rich and famous across the Atlantic. The Queen Mary even served a stint as a troop transport during World War II. Her last voyage was from England to Long Beach in 1967.

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RMS Queen Mary. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Today, The Queen Mary is permanently moored here, where you can take a tour and relive her glory days. Enjoy a guided tour to learn her stories and perhaps a tale of a ghost or two as you wander through the ship’s lower decks.

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Deck A on the RMS Queen Mary. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Sip a drink in the bar where celebrities once sat. Stroll the promenade and let the kids view the ship models. Also, be sure to check out the LEGO® model of The Queen Mary.

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LEGO model of The Queen Mary. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Finally, enjoy an elegant dinner in Sir Winston’s, with some of the best sunset views over Long Beach. Did you know you can book a stay on The Queen Mary, listed as one of the Historic Hotels of America? The rooms, updated with modern amenities, still have the feel of yesteryear.

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Sunset over Long Beach. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

There are special events happening throughout the year, including scream experiences around Halloween and the annual Chill in December.

2. Get Close to Fish at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Long Beach is home to the Aquarium of the Pacific — the fourth most visited aquarium in the U.S. Explore jellies, fish and mammals of the Pacific Ocean regions, giggle at the antics of otters and penguins, and touch sharks and rays at Shark Lagoon.

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Jellies in Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

However, Aquarium of the Pacific is more than a fun tourist destination. It is a world-class educational and research facility. You can get a look at the facilities with a tour of the aquarium. Go behind the scenes and peer into the giant tanks. See baby jellies and seahorses. Even feed the fish and rays. Other VIP experiences and animal encounters are also available.

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Behind the scenes at Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

3. Eat Amazing Food in Long Beach

Long Beach is a foodie delight. There are more than 120 restaurants within the 8-block downtown area alone, many of them along Pine Avenue’s Restaurant Row. Here are some of my favorites around Long Beach.

I recommend starting with a family breakfast at The Breakfast Bar. This family-owned eatery serves up simply great food for breakfast and lunch. My favorites are the Eggs Noni with an incredible spiced hollandaise; Breakie Sammie with sausage and a delicious roasted garlic and herb aioli; and amazing lemon cake pancakes with zesty citrus frosting that are pretty much life changing.

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Breakfast at Breakfast Bar. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

After a busy morning, head to Parkers’ Lighthouse for lunch. Get there early and snag a seat on the deck. With those ocean breezes blowing in, it’s close to paradise. You simply must get the garlic cheese bread. This is not your grandmother’s garlic cheese bread. It’s ooey-gooey deliciousness you want to bathe in. Also try the crab cake sandwich. Filled with jumbo lump crab, it’s my idea of a beach lunch.

Also, check out Lola’s Mexican Cuisine on 4th Street in Retro Row if you want authentic Mexican flavors. They serve up some tasty tacos, enchiladas and burritos. There are tasty vegan options and kid-friendly plates as well. If you sit outside at Lola’s, you can watch the locals bustling past — and the crowds are completely different at lunch than at dinner. It’s a fun, funky vibe here on Retro Row!

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Lola’s Mexican Cuisine along Retro Row. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

My best suggestion for Happy Hour is to head across the harbor — there’s even a water taxi — to Fuego’s at Hotel Maya. You can sit waterside, by the firepits, order a sangria and the chef’s ceviche. The ceviche sampler is the way to go. Although all three are stunning, I loved the Hojas de Seabass with a little bit of Serrano and citrus habañero broth combined with pineapple and mango.

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Ceviche trio at Fuego at Hotel Maya. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Hotel Maya is also a great place to stay during your visit to Long Beach. The rooms are large and most offer harbor views. While the evenings were spectacular, I must say I really enjoyed watching early morning activity from my room. I loved seeing the harbor wake up and people head out on their sail boats.

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View from Hotel Maya. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

4. Bike or Walk to Explore Long Beach

Long Beach has been named one of the most walkable cities in the country. There is a 5.5-mile beach path, ideal for biking, walking and strollers. This makes it easy to explore the diverse neighborhoods that make up Long Beach. Head to Bikestation at the First Street Transit Mall for bike rentals.

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The Promenade in Long Beach. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Downtown is home to the aquarium, the harbor, and Pine Avenue. A fun place to amble along is at Shoreline Village, which is where Parkers’ Lighthouse is located. There’s also a carousel at Shoreline Village, which is popular with the little ones, as well as a place to rent bikes and other pedal-powered cycles. You can catch the Rocket Boat there for a fun and fast excursion out on the Pacific. It’s also a great spot to catch the sunset.

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Parkers’ Lighthouse and Shoreline Village. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

5. Book a Gondola Getaway Cruise

One of my favorite things to do in Long Beach is to head to the neighborhood of Naples Island and explore it from the water. You can rent a Duffy Boat and drive through on your own, but a much more fun excursion is to book a Gondola Getaway.

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View from Gondola Getaway cruise. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

You climb aboard the gondola — sizes vary depending on how many in your group — and you glide through the canals past the beautiful homes. Your gondolier will tell you stories of the area’s history and even serenade you. Bring along a picnic with your favorite beverage. Nothing beats wine and cheese on the gondola as the sunset glistens on the water. Holiday cruises are my favorite because the houses are insanely bedecked with lights. Sunset cruises are the most romantic.

6. Check out the Long Beach Art Scene

Long Beach is a city with diverse culture, so it seems only fitting to have a diverse arts scene. You can check out the arts in many ways. I love to explore the East Village Arts District. It is filled with avant-garde shops and galleries.

One of my favorite stops in Long Beach is the Museum of Latin American Art, founded in 1996 by Dr. Robert Gumbiner, a local physician who collected Latin American art. There is always a changing exhibit, but the permanent collection includes more than 1,600 works of art.

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Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

I enjoy the variety of art you can see at MOLAA. One of my favorite areas is the work by Luis Tapia, who focuses on US-Mexican relations and the border towns.

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Luis Tapia Exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Checking out street art is one of my favorite things when I travel and it is everywhere in Long Beach. Each year, Long Beach hosts Pow! Wow!, a gathering of contemporary artists who engage with the local community to create street art — often in places that might seem otherwise bare. The side of an exposed building next to a parking lot. A fence around a construction zone. A wall next to a park. As you drive through Long Beach, you can check out some amazing murals. Of course, the street art that is here now may be different next year, so it is an ever-changing urban landscape.

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Street Art by DULK in Long Beach. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

7. Go Shopping in Long Beach

If you like to go shopping, Long Beach is the place for you. Whether you prefer upscale or funky boutiques, you can find it here. Downtown, you’ll stumble upon The Pike Outlets across the street from the Aquarium. Those are filled with some of today’s hottest shops, along with bars and restaurants. The eight blocks radiating along the Downtown corridor feature a number of local shops and boutiques.

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Downtown Long Beach. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Head to Retro Row and the funky shops along 4th Street where you can find everything from vintage clothing to home furnishings. You can recreate the set of Mad Men, pop into a record store or even pick up games from childhood.

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Shopping in Retro Row. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

There is also plenty of great shopping back at Shoreline Village, and I loved the boutiques in the East Village Arts District and inside MOLAA as well. With so much to see and do in Long Beach, you’ll be planning your next vacation before you leave. There are so many sensational things to do in Long Beach, it’s hard to fit everything into just one trip.

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View of Long Beach from across the harbor. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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