Some may think of Long Beach,California, as simply a place to pass through between Los Angeles and Orange County, but this diverse town offers plenty for visitors of all ages to see and do. From its burgeoning downtown area, south to its beautiful Naples neighborhood, Long Beach is the perfect destination for travelers who love being near the ocean but don't love the high prices found in other seaside resort areas.
Must see in Long Beach
The historic Queen Mary ocean liner is Long Beach's most famous landmark. Next is the Aquarium of the Pacific, which has a collection of more than 11,000 marine animals. In April each year, Long Beach is home to the Toyota Grand Prix. Visitors can watch race cars speed around city streets (be sure to bring ear plugs).
Where to stay in Long Beach
The Queen Mary Hotel is a fun place to stay for families with young children. Two-bedroom family staterooms are available, and best of all, no one will get seasick.
Downtown Long Beach is the place to stay for visitors who want to be close to the restaurants and nightlife along Pine Avenue.
Hotel deals can be found at chain motels north of downtown. And when the rates go up in April for the Grand Prix, less expensive lodging can be found in neighboring towns like San Pedro or Carson.
Best and worst time to go to Long Beach
The best time to visit Long Beach is in April, when the Toyota Grand Prix is held (just be sure to book a hotel room several months in advance), and during September, when tourists have returned home but the weather is still warm and sunny. The worst time to go, at least weather wise, is during June, when low clouds make for gloomy days.
Where to Get Lost in Long Beach
There are dozens of shops and restaurants along 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, a charming neighborhood near the southern city limits. For visitors traveling with their pets, Rosie's Dog Beach is pooch friendly, and many shops in the neighborhood provide water and treats for four-legged customers.
The Best Deal in Long Beach
The AquaBus water taxi offers a boat ride across the Long Beach Harbor, stopping at five popular spots, for only around $1.
Transportation in Long Beach
It's easy to get to Long Beach from downtown Los Angeles via the Metro Blue Line. The Passport bus provides free rides to most points of interest near the downtown Long Beach area.
Getting in from Long Beach
If possible, take an airline that offers flights to Long Beach Airport. This small airport is much less crowded than LAX, about 23 miles to the north.
Local tip for visitors to Long Beach
Antique lovers should pay a visit to "Retro Row" along East 4th Street between Walnut Avenue and Junipero Avenue, where dozens of mom-and-pop shops sell vintage and kitschy merchandise.
Author's bio: Laura Goldman is a freelance writer, native Angeleno and alumna of California State University, Long Beach. Follow her on Twitter and visit her blog, i Still Love Dogs.