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Long Beach, California guide: What to do and where to stay

Planning a trip to Long Beach? Consider this your go-to guide.

Planning a trip to Long Beach? Consider this your go-to guide.

Allan Baxter/Getty Images

Long Beach has long been perceived as the kid sister of Los Angeles. Its sunny beaches, diversity, artist community and exciting events calendar, however, have helped to break that perception, with many finally recognizing the city for the unique and dynamic destination that it is. 

This is a local’s guide to discovering what Long Beach has to offer.  

Long Beach weather

It’s rare to get a bad weather day in Long Beach — the city typically experiences mild temperatures, with warm summers in the 70s and 80s, and most winter days falling comfortably in the high 50s to 60s. 

The ocean ushers in the marine layer in the mornings, perfect for bike riding or jogging the 3-plus mile paved trail from Shoreline Village to Alamitos Bay right on the beach. And locals and visitors alike hit the water for paddleboarding, kitesurfing, Duffy boat rides and other water activities year-round. 

What to do in Long Beach

In the first half of the 20th century, Long Beach was home to a famous beachside amusement area with a lively boardwalk, games and rides like a roller coaster. Those attractions are long gone, but the beaches continue to attract locals and visitors, and the city hosts plenty of other options to keep everyone entertained and enriched.

Speaking of beaches, there are plenty to choose from and each has its own unique vibe. Named after arguably the world’s most beloved wagon-riding bulldog, Rosie’s Dog Beach comprises 3 acres of sandy paradise for four-legged friends and their owners. Canines are allowed off-leash from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and enjoy the sand, water and nearby paved pathway with their owners. 

Just a short walk from Rosie’s, Bay Shore Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the area for its calm waters. The location — known for a college-aged crowd that floods its sands on hot days — is a perfect base from which to rent a paddleboard to explore the surrounding bay.

Mother’s Beach also provides shallow, gentle waters and a playground, but is more popular with families for its great swimming and playing conditions, plus peaceful views of the surrounding neighborhoods. 

On dry land, Long Beach is also home to fascinating institutions of conservation and art. The Aquarium of the Pacific offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Pacific Ocean’s fascinating residents, from ethereal jellyfish to awe-inspiring sharks.

The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is one of the leading institutions of its kind in the country, hosting a range of exhibits throughout the year with work from the likes of Fernando Botero and Frida Kahlo to newer names such as Narsiso Martinez and Eliazar Ortiz. Admission is free on Sundays.

Finally, the Long Beach Museum of Art is not only a historic landmark, but it also hosts some of the buzziest exhibits in the area, from thought-provoking emerging sculptors to street art-focused shows that transform the walls of the museum itself. With popular brunch spot Claire’s at the Museum located on the museum campus, this destination makes for an idyllic day overlooking the water. 

Of course, there’s more to discover in Long Beach’s many eclectic neighborhoods — the city’s burgeoning arts scene has resulted in irresistable local shopping opportunities. Case in point: The East Village Arts District hosts an array of boutiques, eateries and art deco architecture. The neighborhood is home to apparel, lifestyle and home goods shops like 3 Women, 6th & Detroit, Burke Mercantile and BYO Long Beach. It’s also known as a destination for vinyl lovers, with the world-famous Fingerprints Music holding it down for music aficionados since 1992. 

Another can’t-miss neighborhood, Fourth Street/Retro Row is a local’s playground, with restaurants and bars, unique shops and a historic theater all bundled into a colorful, lively atmosphere. Vintage shops abound on this stretch (Old Gold is a standout), but there’s also Pigeon’s Roller Skate Shop, where you’ll be tempted to roll away on some new wheels; Relics for vintage cameras and film; or The Hangout for a mix of books, clothing, home goods and more.

Long Beach hotels

Most of Long Beach’s hotels are concentrated downtown or near the airport, as the city hosts a lot of travelers to the Long Beach Convention Center. That being said, there are some standout accommodations that marry convenient locations, comfortable guest rooms and a truly Long Beach experience.

The Hotel Maya is a Doubletree by Hilton resort with Latin American-inspired design and guest rooms. Located across Queensway Bay on waterfront property, the hotel feels like it’s on its own secluded island with spectacular city and ocean views. The hotel offers jet ski rentals, as well as a pool, floating cabanas and an onsite restaurant, Fuego.

Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, a Marriot Bonvoy property, is centrally located and walking distance to some of downtown’s top attractions including the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village and the Arts District. The Southern California vibes are strong with the sleek pool and indoor-outdoor SIP Bar + Lounge.

The Hyatt Regency Long Beach is a favorite of convention center attendees, but it’s also a great, family-friendly option for tourists seeking views of the ocean, plus a large pool deck with fire pits. The Pike Outlets are steps away, as is Long Beach’s Instagram-famous Rainbow Bridge

The Historic Broadlind Hotel brings the charm of a boutique, European-style property to downtown. Built in 1928, the structure that houses this hotel was once short-term housing for naval officers docked in Long Beach. Today, the building not only hosts renovated guest rooms complete with kitchenettes, but also The Blind Donkey downstairs — a dark and alluring whiskey bar that was once a Prohibition-era speakeasy. 

Long Beach restaurants

Long Beach’s incredible ethnic diversity has resulted in a delicious blend of culinary gems that can be found around town. Home to the largest Cambodian community outside of Southeast Asia, the city is known for Khmer cooking. Some of the best Cambodian comfort food can be found at Phnom Penh Noodle Shack, a small eatery that often has a line out the door at peak lunch hours.  

Adding to the rich dining experiences in the city, Mexican food is a no-brainer. Lola’s Mexican Cuisine has been serving modern takes on chef Luis Navarro’s family recipes since 2007. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the cuetes (bacon-wrapped jalapenos), signature moles or any of the tacos won’t let you down. Oh, and don’t forget the signature green sauce.

In the hip Alamitos Beach neighborhood, Ellie’s is a Southern Italian inspired restaurant serving up handmade pastas that will ruin other pastas for you. Located on an assuming corner with a small outdoor seating area, the restaurant boasts excellent service and an incredible lineup of pasta, veggie dishes and appetizers that make for a perfect “treat yourself” meal. 

Long Beach is a deceptively large city, which means narrowing down a list of restaurants is a difficult task. The Hangar at the Long Beach Exchange, however, makes it easier to sample a variety of bites from multiple restaurants. The food hall features 14 food vendors and retailers, including Amorcito, a taco outpost of the local Amor restaurant group that was recognized with a Michelin Bib Gourmand Award. 

Bars in Long Beach

Long Beach has a thriving craft beer scene of award-winning breweries. Beachwood Brewing is located in the heart of downtown and great for inventive beers and expertly curated guest taps, plus tasty barbecue. 

Travel north and check out Long Beach Beer Lab, whose beers are brewed by a literal microbiologist; Ambitious Ales, which offers a mix of traditional styles and inventive flavors like a coffee blond or ube ale; and Trademark Brewing, which has a huge taproom and beer garden perfect for leisurely sipping some hazies. 

For cocktail lovers, one of the city’s best-kept secrets is Mezcalero, located upstairs from Latin American staple Padre. Mezcalero specializes in its namesake mezcal, offering tasty cocktails on its large rooftop patio.

A bit newer to Long Beach’s bar scene, Rosemallows smashes the ’80s with tropical flavors and decor, and somehow makes it all wonderful. Cocktails feature ingredients like ube, bird’s eye chili, lemongrass and Thai basil; sipping them under a neon pink hibiscus flower can be a transcendent experience. 

It’s a challenge to talk about Long Beach’s bars without mentioning the LGBTQ+ community as a critical part of the city’s nightlife scene. Downtown, you’ll find the Long Beach location of the famous Hamburger Mary’s, which serves up strong drinks, club nights and drag brunches that never disappoint.