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3 Days in Long Beach for First Timers

Organisiert von Elisa Parhadan Angeleno travel writer with a penchant for LA exploration.

Long Beach is a Southern Californian coastal city with a long maritime history, an interesting turn of the century architecture, and many fun family attractions—and it's the city my family immigrated to when they left Australia in 1926. Within reach of Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach's centrally located oceanfront setting has earned it the nickname, the Urban Waterfront Playground.

The busy port and cruise line center has a lively waterfront area where you’ll find the Aquarium of the Pacific, Queen Mary, trendy shops and eateries, and opportunities for biking, strolling, and surrey rentals. Personally, I love exploring its many beaches and eight distinct neighborhoods, each charming and walkable, which give the city a small town feel.

Fog can roll in unexpectedly, so pack a light jacket or sweatshirt.

If you only have time for one thing, make it the ocean.

Day 1

Yes, it’s a little touristy, but start your day at the Long Beach waterfront. You can watch boats go to and fro, stroll around the Shoreline Village, marvel at the Queen Mary, bike the shoreline, and see marine life at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Spend the afternoon exploring Belmont Shore and Naples, just east of Shoreline Village and downtown. Shop at boutiques, grab a bite to eat at any of the al fresco eateries on Second Street, hop aboard a gondola around the canals of Naples, and take a swan boat ride on Rainbow Lagoon.

Day 2

The leisure and romance of Catalina Island is about an hour’s ferry ride from Long Beach. Jump on the Catalina Express for a day’s island adventure to explore artsy shops, fun eateries, roaming bison, sandy beaches, and wild terrain.

More than half of Catalina Island is part of a nature conservancy. Explore its endemic wildlife (including tiny island foxes) and desert expanse on a tour to parts of the island that most don’t get to see before you head back to the mainland.

Day 3

Southern California’s coast is perfect for a whale watching tour. Not only will you have a chance to view different types of these marine giants, but you may also get to see large pods of cresting dolphins and seals.

Los Angeles and all of its attractions are within reach of Long Beach. For a pretty drive, go through Palos Verdes Peninsula (with a stop at the architecturally notable Wayfarers Chapel) and north to Sunset Boulevard, where you can turn east and drive all the way into downtown LA. Alternatively, take the sky route on a helicopter tour to see the amazing terrain of the city.

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