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Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/bradley pisney

The 13 best things to do in Long Beach

Fill your time in the oceanfront city with these 13 things to do in Long Beach, from museums to waterfront attractions

Michael Juliano
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Michael Juliano
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While the oceanfront city may attract more visitors for its harbors and marinas than its beaches, there are plenty of things to do in Long Beach both on and off the water. Hop on the Metro Blue Line and explore downtown or take a drive across Naples’ scenic canals. For some Angelenos, Long Beach is just a starting point for a Catalina weekend getaway. But there are so many more things to do in Long Beach itself thanks to attractions like the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific and more below. 

RECOMMENDED: See our complete guide to Long Beach

13 things to do in Long Beach

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Dedicated as much to education as entertainment, this recently expanded aquarium is the best way to get in touch with California’s sea life without getting wet. Highlights include playful sea otters, penguins and sea lions, and a touchable shark lagoon. The Pacific Visions wing added on a series of interactive, eco-minded info stations as well as a unique two-screen theater. Admission is a little on the pricey side, but you heard us say that there are sea otters, right?

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It’s easy to forget that one of L.A.’s best weekend getaways is less than an hour boat ride away. Long Beach serves as one of three major launch points for ferries to Catalina Island. The Catalina Express departs for Avalon about every two hours. If you’re thinking about visiting the more adventurous Two Harbors, you’ll need to depart from the renovated terminal in San Pedro.

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  • Attractions
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The Long Beach waterfront was once home to a massive amusement park; the only reminders today are a Ferris wheel in front of the Laugh Factory and a pedestrian pathway that resembles a roller coaster. The Pike name still lives on in a downtown outlet mall, but most of the waterfront activity can now be found in the redeveloped Rainbow Harbor. Anchored by the Aquarium of the Pacific and the marina-adjacent restaurants at Shoreline Village, the harbor is a convenient spot to start a whale watching trip or take a boat ride. If you’re looking for a taste of the old Pike, the casino-like Looff’s Lite-A-Line maintains a small shrine of keepsakes a few miles away.

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This 1936 grand cruise ship hasn’t sailed since the 1960s; these days, it multitasks as a historic tourist attraction, several eating and drinking spots (the bar is a wonderful Art Deco glory) and, of course, a hotel. If you just want a glimpse of the stately vessel, you can do so pretty easily from the other side of the harbor. But if you want brunch or to take a ghost tour, then welcome aboard.

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Slip away from the everyday grind at this 105-acre plant and animal sanctuary. Start at the visitor center and you’ll find two miles of dirt trails and a quarter-mile paved path that wind around two lakes, a stream and forested areas. The Nature Center is part of the larger El Dorado Regional Park; its western half is dedicated to sports fields and a golf course, while the eastern half features fishing lakes, trails, playgrounds and an archery range.

Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Terry Lucas

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Located on land that once housed a productive silent film studio, everything about this museum is a forward-thinking enterprise, from its modern and contemporary-driven collection to its building. The core of the permanent collection is in the Long Gallery, with work by one artist from every Latin American country. Swing by on Sundays for free admission.

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Like the Westside’s Venice Canals, this Long Beach neighborhood borrowed a bit of Italian inspiration for its three islands and narrow waterways. It’s decidedly more Southern Californian than Neapolitan, but Naples is worth a visit to take a stroll along—or a gondola ride through—its canals. Make sure to visit during the holidays for the annual Christmas boat parade.

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Rancho Los Alamitos manages to contain nearly the entire evolution of Southern California in one piece of property. Originally a sacred Tongva village, the land later became a ranch under both Spanish and Mexican rule; the original building and its gardens, designed by the Olmstead Brothers, among others, remain open to the public as a museum. Though the grounds and barn area are open to self-guided tours, you’ll need to be led through the house by a docent.

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For a generally pooch-friendly paradise, Los Angeles is pretty lousy when it comes to dog beaches. In fact, this four-acre waterfront spot is the only legal off-leash dog beach in L.A. County. The park is named after the area’s late local canine celebrity, Rosie the English bulldog. You can easily spot the dog-friendly area by the colorful “Dogs at Play” silhouette.

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  • Museums
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The Long Beach Museum of Art keeps its locals entertained with a cultured roster of temporary exhibits. The extensive video library is now in the hands of the Getty, but the museum’s ceramic and sculpture-filled permanent collection still includes some notable Californian pieces. Make sure to stop by Claire’s, the museum’s oceanfront patio, for a bite to eat.

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This coastal, light rail accessible complex is the area’s go-to spot for industry showcases and fan cons, including the Long Beach Comic and Horror Con. Next door, the Long Beach Arena, with its wraparound Wyland mural exterior, has hosted a variety of major concerts and sporting events, including the volleyball matches at the 1984 Olympics. The neighboring Rainbow Lagoon Park is a popular spot for summer festivals and fairs.

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