Replete with stretches of soft sand, Southern California’s Long Beach has a thriving arts and food scene and a rich history tied to maritime travel. With three days there, you’ll also have the chance to explore nearby spots like Huntington Beach and Catalina Island. Here are some ideas for your stay.
Day 1: Beach Time
No trip to Southern California would be complete without time soaking in the sun, relaxing on the sandy beaches, and cooling off in the waves. While Long Beach has its own beaches, some travelers drive about 30 minutes to Huntington Beach for a surf excursion. (Although Long Beach has a storied surfing history, breakwater structures blocking big waves were eventually constructed to protect ships docked at the port.) With almost 9 miles (15 kilometers) of beach, Huntington is a great place for swimming, surfing, and other water sports, and the pier and adjacent boardwalk attract cyclists and joggers as well. Alternatively, stay in town for a kitesurfing lesson on Belmont Shore—thanks to the breakwater, beginning kite surfers don’t have to worry about major waves.
Day 2: Sea Adventures
Long Beach offers a handful of interesting cultural experiences. Visit museums such as the Long Beach Museum of Art, Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Adobe, and Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum—and tour the Queen Mary ship. Once considered the most luxurious liner in the world, today it’s a floating hotel and museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you’re there in the evening, dine or have a drink at one of the onboard restaurants or bars. Alternatively, head to the Aquarium of the Pacific to see Magellanic penguins, sea otters, and a tropical reef habitat with schools of colorful fish and other sea life.
Day 3: Island-Hopping
Make your way to Naples Island, a Long Beach neighborhood featuring canals lined with million-dollar homes—tour the area by kayak or gondola. Alternatively, get on a ferry (or helicopter) to Catalina Island, popular with day-trippers. Back on Long Beach, stroll the paved paths at the El Dorado Nature Center, spotting turtles, birds, and lizards among towering trees and lush flora. Or, unwind in a traditional teahouse at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. And if you’re in town on the first Friday of the month, check out the evening arts walk and family-friendly activities in Bixby Knolls.