Veronica Hill explores the attractions of Long Beach in this episode of “California Travel Tips.” Located 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, on the border of Orange County, Long Beach makes a great day trip or long weekend. It’s LA’s second largest city — home to the historic Queen Mary, dozens of hip art galleries, and one of California’s best aquariums, Aquarium of the Pacific.
Most Long Beach restaurants and shops are found at Shoreline Village. You can check out Wyland’s famous Planet Ocean mural at Long Beach Sports Arena, or head to The Pike for a spin on the Ferris wheel. The 3-mile Long Beach Bike Path travels along the waterfront from Shoreline Village to Belmont Shore.
Several fun Long Beach events are held throughout the year, including the popular Long Beach Grand Prix (http://www.lbgp.com) in April, and Comic and Horror Con, held twice yearly at Long Beach Convention Center.
One of the city’s signature attractions is the RMS Queen Mary ship, which has been docked here since 1967. Sailing the Atlantic between 1936 and 1967, it was one of the most luxurious ocean liners of its time. Roughly twice the size of Titanic, the Queen Mary weighs over 81,000 tons and stretches more than 1,000 feet. Check out the Upper Deck, which offers great views of Downtown Long Beach, then enjoy a cocktail in the Observation Bar, which was once the First Class Lounge. For a fun evening on ship, enjoy dinner in Sir Winston’s, followed by a ghost tour with paranormal expert Erika Frost.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is another good bet — filled with one of California’s most impressive collections of Pacific Ocean sea life. More than a million gallons of sea water were barged in from Catalina Island to create this underwater sanctuary, which is divided into three major regions. The Southern California/Baja Gallery is home to playful seals, skates and rays, while the Northern Pacific Gallery showcases sub-arctic critters like horned puffins, sea otters and Japanese spider crabs. One of the most impressive galleries is the Tropical Pacific region, where a three-story tall predator tank provides a glimpse of barracudas, giant black sea bass and leopard sharks. In Shark Lagoon, you can pet bamboo, zebra and epaulette sharks in a shallow pool, then feed the birds in Lorikeet Forest.
Dozens of Long Beach cruises and whale watching trips are offered throughout the day, along with daily jaunts to Catalina Island. Around sunset, head south to Naples, where you can enjoy a romantic gondola ride through the canals with Long Beach Gondola Getaway.
Credit: Long Beach Grand Prix footage courtesy of Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. http://gplb.com/
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