Tips for family travel in Long Beach, California
Isn’t it amazing how often we forget to explore the places right in our own backyard? Long Beach is a short 2-hour drive from my home in Southern California and yet this was my first time visiting! I was impressed. Whether you are visiting with the family or looking for a weekend getaway with your special someone, Long Beach has lots to explore.
When you’re traveling with the family, you want to spend your time doing, not driving. That’s why the Long Beach Westin is a great choice. It’s easy to get to from the freeway, provides great views of the harbor and is within walking distance of lots of great eats and activities. We opted for two adjoining rooms which helped give my family of five plenty of space — and meant that my husband and I didn’t have to go to sleep at 8 p.m., either! The central location made walking to a yummy breakfast at The Breakfast Bar or delicious deli sandwiches at Modica’s Deli easy.
Where to EAT
We found the 2nd Street/Belmont Shores area on a whim and wish we would have saved more time to be able to enjoy the many shops, restaurants and street musicians. Thanks to a quick Yelp search, we settled on Super Mex, an affordable Mexican food joint that looks questionable from the front, but has a festive back patio, excellent food and a family-friendly vibe.
Whatever style of restaurant (casual or fancy), location (indoor or outside dinning) or type of food (Mexican, Italian, Middle Eastern, Japanese, etc.) your family wants, you’ll find a place on 2nd Street. We also saw tons of great boutiques, book shops and local stores to explore and interesting musicians on every corner.
Where to DATE
If you’re looking to plan a special night out with a special someone, you can enjoy amazing five-star dining at the Sir Winston aboard the Queen Mary. The old-world decor makes you feel like you are cruising across the Atlantic, enjoying classics like French Onion soup, a table-side Caesar salad and Beef Wellington.
It’s not a great place for toddlers or babies, but the food, service and views are impeccable. Since it was chosen as one of OpenTable’s Top 100 Most Romantic Restaurants in America for 2015, Sir Winston’s is the perfect dining spot for a romantic dinner for two.
Where to PLAY
I’d heard about the Aquarium of the Pacific for years and had even considered making the day trip down from Ventura for it in the past. It would have been worth the drive. This aquarium is the perfect size to explore for a day in Long Beach. It’s located in a great area called the Pier at Rainbow Harbor which has a combination of shops — the outlets were under major remodel when we were there, but should be awesome — restaurants and activities like the aquarium, a Ferris wheel, and harbor boat cruises.
The aquarium itself offers fun for the whole family. In addition to the special jelly fish exhibit, there are interactive exhibits, tons of tanks, informative movies and expert-led shows and animal feedings. There were also lots of opportunities for kids to touch aquatic life including rays, hammerhead sharks and jelly fish.
If you’re traveling to Long Beach kid-less, kick off your romantic evening with a private gondola ride through the Naples Island canals by The Gondola Getaway. The boats are cozily decked out with pillows and blankets, and you can bring your own bottle of wine and snacks to enjoy on your cruise. Gondola Getaway will provide complimentary cups, ice-filled buckets and music. Dress warmly if you opt for a sunset ride, since the winds can come up in the late afternoon — or snuggle close to your date. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with one of the company’s singing gondoliers to truly transport you to the canals of Venice.
Where to DAY TRIP
If you’re spending a few days in Long Beach, you’ll want to save at least one day to head out to sea and explore Catalina Island. The hour-long boat ride offers smooth seas, indoor or deck-side seating and gorgeous views of the Pacific. Once you’re out to Catalina, grab some lunch at Mi Casita Mexican restaurant — head upstairs for great views — stroll the oceanfront shops and rent a golf cart from one of the many rental companies to tour the island on your own. Tip: rent it before you go at the Catalina Express terminal in Long Beach — the companies do occasionally run out of available carts. We rented a cart for about an hour, which gives you plenty of time to drive around and explore this island getaway. Be sure to save time for dipping your toes in the ocean waters and a scoop of ice cream from Big Olaf’s.
Have you been to Long Beach before? What are you favorite finds for families or couples?
SSM was not paid for this post. Our travel expenses were covered by the Long Beach Visitors Bureau. Opinions expressed are our own.
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