20200708_161943Near Belmont Shore (July 2020)

Home to over 460,000 residents, the city of Long Beach is one of the largest cities in Los Angeles, if not in the entire state of California. This coastal city is located at the very southeast end of Los Angeles County, right at the border with Orange County. Its blend of beachside hospitality and industrial commerce has made it a diverse place to live, with people from various economic backgrounds residing in its 80 squared miles.

The city has historically been working-middle class, given its major seaport, along with its Navy shipyards and oilfields. The 1920’s to 1960’s saw many migrants from the Midwest, arriving as cargo and oil field workers. The 1970’s brought in the first wave of Cambodian immigrants (who were fleeing civil war in their country) who established Cambodia Town, home to about 20,000 residents today. The 1980’s ushered in a growing LGBTQ community, with LGBTQ resource centers inaugurated for a safe and welcoming space for all– Long Beach has also hosted its Pride Parade since 1984, which attracts tens of thousands of people throughout the entire city, even county.

20200708_172801The Queen Mary

Granted, Long Beach has gradually gentrified in the past couple of decades, as upper-middle class families and young, startup professionals have made their way over. Neighborhoods such as Bixby Knolls, Naples, and Belmont Shore have been cleaned up and plenty of trendy restaurants, bars, and shopping have been established to welcome in the new crowd. Cost of living has gone up in Los Angeles overall, but it has especially increased in Long Beach, and unfortunately, it has driven the aforementioned (the working class, immigrants) to the outskirts of Long Beach. Times are changing, that’s to say the least…

Long Beach not only is a place to live, but also a place to visit. People from all over Los Angeles flock over for the afternoon or weekend, to explore its downtown and beaches in good weather. I will say, however, although there are national and international visitors who come to Long Beach, the city tends to be more of a local hangout compared to the touristy beaches of Venice or Santa Monica. All the same, it welcomes all to its shores.

I’ve visited Long Beach a few handful of times when I was younger, usually for a trip to the aquarium or lunch by the port. However, I didn’t realize just how much there was to check out until I was older, and in the past two years, I’ve explored more of the city than I ever did growing up.

What should you see and do in Long Beach? Good question. It really depends on what you want to see and do– do you want to shop and eat? To visit a museum? To go to the beach? All of the above? There’s so much to check out that you’d need days to cover them all. However, for first-timers, here’s what I would recommend:

Shoreline Village

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To be fair, Shoreline Village is kind of a tourist trap with its kitschy souvenir shops and generic American dining options by the port. But it’s a good jumping-off point to Long Beach, as you can grab lunch (while paying for waterfront views) before spending the afternoon either at the Aquarium of the Pacific or the Queen Mary (imagine the Titanic, but it hadn’t sunk!).

Naples Island

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This small and quiet neighborhood is the most-picturesque part of town, with its man-made canals and cute little houses along the water. It’s residential, but you could stroll its multiple canals (and take in the views), or rent paddle boats and amble along the water. There’s also an annual Christmas Boat Parade occurring in December, where you can ride through the canals and see the homes light up in the festive, winter spirit.

Belmont Shore/Historic Downtown

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This combination of two districts is where the food and nightlife are. Dubbed “Restaurant Row,” the Historic Downtown’s Pine Avenue has tons of hip and trendy joints to grab a bite and a drink. The Historic District is also an architect’s dream, with its 1920’s Art Deco style along each block. Belmont Shore also has restaurants and bars, but by the beach. Its location makes for a perfect place to lounge on the sand for the day, before getting food and drinks at the end of the day.

Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA)

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Besides getting cultured in aquatic wildlife at the Aquarium of the Pacific or in ocean-liner history at the Queen Mary, you can also enjoy some time at MOLAA, which is the only contemporary Latin American art museum in the nation. For exhibits on paintings, sculptures, and even digital media, MOLAA has just about any type of art related to Latinx culture. Especially since the entire county of Los Angeles is 48% Hispanic/Latino, it’s very fitting to have a museum dedicated to a community which has practically made the place what it is today.

Signal Hill/San Pedro

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Technically, these aren’t part of Long Beach. Signal Hill is an enclave within Long Beach, but is its own independent city, while San Pedro is about 7 miles/11km west of town. But they often get conflated with Long Beach, and they offer their own little gems to check out.

Signal Hill offers several viewpoints (given it’s a hill city) for sweeping views of Long Beach: Hilltop Park is a personal favorite, as you can see the sprawling city all the way to the port and sea. San Pedro offers the Korean Bell of Friendship, a pavilion that the South Korean government gave to the US in the 1970’s to symbolize their political friendship. Offers ocean views, too!

…and there you have it! Again, these are just a few places I’d recommend to check out in Long Beach, but by no means do they encompass all that there’s to see and do there. Diverse, local, and ever-changing, Long Beach is a massive city within Los Angeles County that has welcomed people from all backgrounds to its shores, all the while remaining humble and grounded in its working-class history.

Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

— Rebecca

38 thoughts on “Lost in LA: Long Beach

  1. Long Beach looks like such a nice city! I think coastal cities and cities that have little canals running through them are always very charming and romantic! Even though the shoreline village might be a bit of a tourist trap, I’m pretty sure the walk along the sea is just beautiful! Thanks for sharing 😊

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  2. What a wonderful, ocean-facing city, Rebecca. The size of the Queen Mary is quite impressive, and while I would very much love to explore all of Long Beach’s attractions, I would be more lured in by the sunny weather and gorgeous blue sky. It’s something we don’t get to see very often in Ireland. Thanks for sharing and have a good day πŸ™‚ Aiva

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  3. I’d obviously heard of Long Beach Rebecca but knew little or nothing about it until reading this post bit it looks an attractive place to visit. Being fond of South Korea I’d love to see the friendship bell and the great views from the hilltop. One day I’ll make it to LA, that’s for sure! Have a great weekend.

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    1. There’s a lot to do and see in Long Beach. I hope you can check it out! The Korean Bell of Friendship is a pretty one and the city which it’s in (San Pedro) has a decent restaurant/brunch scene!

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  4. I’d be happily lost in LA any day. I hadn’t known much about Long Beach before reading your article. I love the picturesque vibe of Naples Island and would love to wile away an afternoon in the Museum of Latin American Art. As all the other British and Irish residents on this comment thread, I am jealous of the weather as well. Good piece, Rebecca.

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    1. Yes, more of my “Lost in LA” posts to come soon! Los Angeles isn’t always warm and with sunshine, but when it is, it’s absolutely glorious! Thanks for stopping by, Leighton. πŸ™‚

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  5. I’m pretty sure my family went here last summer and we went on a gondola ride through the canals. With a name like Long Beach, people probably just think of the ocean (I should know, my hometown has the name “Beach” in it too), but I’m glad you shared all of these other wonderful things to see! I think I’d be most interested by MOLAA if I ever went back.

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    1. Yes, the gondola rides are very popular in Long Beach. I haven’t stayed long enough on its beaches, just because they aren’t as convenient due to the presence of cargo and cruise ships in the distance, but they are pretty. I just visited MOLAA recently, and it helps to go when they’re not in the middle of changing exhibits (unfortunately, I went during that time, and the galleries were limited). So definitely check their website before doing so!

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  6. Water on water,wonderful!your California posts are like watching movies!πŸ™‚What I mean is that I finally get to learn sth about the places that I’ve seen only in the movies

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    1. Yes, exactly! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s definitely water on water, blue on blue (and in the sky)! More of these LA posts coming soon!

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    1. There are dangerous neighborhoods in LA, but as long as you know where they are, you can easily avoid them. Long Beach is generally safe, although during my most-recent visit, I definitely noticed an increase in homeless people (due to the pandemic, sadly). But if you mind your business and walk confidently around town, you should be fine.

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    1. I hope weather warms up in Nova Scotia! It was really hot here in LA this past week, but it appears to be cooling down now. Hope you can come over sometime, especially to check out the Naples Canals!

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    1. Yes, definitely! Considering that the US (especially in California/Los Angeles) has such a predominant Latinx community, it’s not a surprise that a museum is dedicated to it. Hope you can stop by Long Beach someday with a return to California!

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  7. Long Beach is great! I never spend enough time here. I almost never go here since my extended family is more down in Orange County. Newport Beach is my happy spot! I absolutely love Balboa Island. I’ll be writing a blog about it eventually!

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