Why You Need To Visit Long Beach Right Now

Make the quick trip to LA's quietly cool sister city.

Long Beach may live in the shadow of its larger sibling to the north, Los Angeles, but this city of a half million residents has enough LGBT street cred of its own: Long Beach boasts one of the largest LGBT Pride events in the country (held each May), and its mayor, Robert Garcia, is openly gay, too.

Plus, there are plenty of fun things to do and see throughout the year to warrant the short trip down the freeway next time you find yourself in Southern California.

Photo by ZoeYCK/Getty Images

Head to the harbor to visit one of the city’s most famous residents, The Queen Mary. Although this luxury liner sailed her last voyage in 1967, there are plenty of onboard activities like ship tours, an exhibit dedicated to Princess Diana and the Royal Family, and a fine-dining restaurant to keep you busy. Starting September 28, the Queen Mary also plays host to its annual Dark Harbor Halloween-themed nights and if that isn’t enough to scare you, stay overnight onboard in one of the ship’s reportedly haunted staterooms.

If otters are your thing then you would be remiss not to check out the Aquarium of the Pacific with its permanent sea otter habitat. (What did you think we meant?) In addition to the aforementioned cute mammals, there are exhibits dedicated to sharks, jellyfish, endangered sea animals, and many other underwater creatures to marvel over.

Photo courtesy of Xcape

Those who seek vintage threads, unique gifts, or great Mid-Century furniture finds should hit up Fourth Street, also known as Retro Row, for stops in its many awesome boutiques like Far Outfit, Meow, or Xcape (photo above).

When hunger strikes, check out one of Long Beach’s dining spots. James Republic, surprisingly housed in a Courtyard Marriott, offers innovate locally sourced, sustainable fare like unctuous crispy pork belly paired with a refreshingly light green papaya salad or the rich oxtail cavatelli with enoki mushrooms and pecorino. For romantic views of The Queen Mary, dine at Parker’s Lighthouse located in Shoreline Village (photo below). The jumbo lump crab cakes alone or worth the trip. Your only complaint might be that its not jumbo enough.

Photo courtesy of Parker's Lighthouse

For a nightcap, head to one of Long Beach’s many gay bars. The Falcon offers house music, drink specials, and regular themed nights. Inexpensive drinks and a friendly atmosphere abound at The Mineshaft. Or, stop by Long Beach staple, The Suite, for Thursday drag shows, rotating Friday night events, and karaoke on Tuesdays.

Photo courtesy of Hyatt Regency Downtown Long Beach

For lodgings, the Hyatt Regency Downtown Long Beach is not only conveniently located to many of the city’s top attractions, but the rooms are well-appointed and spacious.

For more information, check out VisitLongBeach.com.

Bryan van Gorder usually writes about the places he's been or the famous people forced to talk to him.