The ocean line The Queen Mary lies docked at the Port of Long Beach in Southern California on a clear day.

The Queen Mary harks back to the era of luxurious ocean travel. Photo from Pixabay.

Hosting one of the world’s busiest port facilities, the Long Beach area is also a great place to explore Southern California’s maritime culture, a vibrant downtown scene, shopping and hip restaurants. Here are five things not to miss on your next trip to Long Beach.

Long Beach is home to more than Cal State Long Beach, our university’s biggest collegiate sports rival. The community is also the site of one of the busiest ports in the world, handling much of the merchandise arriving from throughout the Pacific Rim. It can also be your gateway to a fun day or weekend.

Here are five things to put on your itinerary:

  1. Downtown Long Beach

The city’s compact and pedestrian-friendly downtown, including the harbor-front Promenade, is home to restaurants of every kind, shopping, nightlife and an arts district on Second Street. The center of action is Pine Avenue, a happening and hip place on weekends and evenings. While in downtown, check out the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau at 301 E. Ocean Boulevard, Suite 1900, a great place to stop for information and directions. The district is easily accessible from Pacific Coast Highway (just take a left – south – onto Long Beach Boulevard) or the I-710 (exit on Ocean Boulevard).

  1. Belmont Shore

Your gateway to fun in the sun, Belmont Shore features authentic Venetian gondolas, kayaking, water sports, a dog beach, bike paths and miles of pedestrian-friendly streets. Enjoy great food (Italian and other world cuisines) and no shortage of curio and boutique shops. The district is accessible from Pacific Coast Highway by turning onto East 2nd Street.

  1. The Queen Mary

For many people around the world, this is the symbol of Long Beach. It is a bit expensive, but a visit is well-worth the cost of more than $30 for most tickets. The 1930s retired cruise ship is open for tours, dining, a spa and even overnight stays. For a brief introduction to the ship, take the one-hour Glory Days Tour, which is part of the First-Class Passport that also includes a 4-D theatre screening, audio tour, ghost tour, admission to the Ship Model Gallery and a new exhibition on the art of World War II hero Winston Churchill. After being closed for renovation, the Diana: Legacy of a Princess exhibit, featuring the accessories, clothing, photographs and memorabilia of Princess Diana and the British royal family, will reopen on Feb. 1. The ship is located at the very end of the I-710, with signs pointing the way.

Silhouette of two children looking at jellyfish at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.

Pacific Ocean sea life, such as these jellyfish, delight visitors to the Aquarium of the Pacific. Cal State Fullerton students are eligible for discounted admission tickets, available at the Titan Student Union. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

  1. Aquarium of the Pacific

Take a journey through the Pacific Ocean without leaving Southern California by exploring the animal and plant habitats at Aquarium of the Pacific, located within walking distance of downtown and the Queen Mary. Through February, enjoy the exhibits Horses and Dragons, which features seahorses and their relatives, and Vanishing Animals, which looks at the growing threat of extinction and what humans can do to combat this trend. Also enjoy the aquarium’s two new penguin chicks and marvel at mudskippers – fish that walk on land. Cal State Fullerton students can get discounted tickets.

  1. San Pedro historic sites

Across the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro may be older and less hip, but it offers a wealth of low-cost attractions for the history buff. Stop by the USS Iowa, a restored World War II-era U.S. battleship; climb up to the top of the 19th-century Point Fermin Lighthouse for incredible ocean views; and witness the scenery at the Korean Bell of Friendship, which commemorates the bond between the U.S. and South Korea.

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