West Coast Carnival Cruises almost all leave from Long Beach, and the city itself has plenty to offer. If you’re planning a cruise out of Long Beach, it’s worth your while to think about seeing some of the city’s attractions while you’re there.
Depending on your trip schedule, you may have extra time before or after your cruise to explore Long Beach. If so, you’re in luck: Long Beach is famous for its food, arts, culture, and pristine beaches. There are plenty of things for tourists to see and do in Long Beach. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Downtown Long Beach Walking Food Tour
What better way to explore a city than by walking through downtown, sampling the best food local restaurants have to offer? Best enjoyed if you arrive in Long Beach a day before your cruise leaves, this three hour progressive tasting menu offers you the chance to try seven of the most famous restaurants in Long Beach. Tours begin at 11am, and begin at George’s Greek Cafe, just over 5 miles down the road from the cruise terminal.
2. Visit the Aquarium of the Pacific
Sitting right next to the Port of Long Beach, where the cruise terminal is located, the Aquarium of the Pacific is a can’t-miss attraction for families and nature lovers alike. With 12,000 animals from over 500 species, this is one of the best aquariums in the world. The exhibits are focused on the wildlife of the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to check out the Shark Lagoon, where you can pet the sharks.
3. Take a Sailing Lesson
Sunglow Sailing Charters offers three hour sailing lessons for up to four people at a time. The three hour course is an introductory class, perfect for people who have never sailed before and want to know if it’s something they would enjoy. They also offer power boating lessons, so no matter which kind of boat you prefer, they’ve got you covered. Their dock is right in front of downtown Long Beach, in close proximity to the cruise terminal.
4. The Queen Mary
No list of Long Beach Activities is complete without the Queen Mary. This majestic former cruise ship is permanently docked in Long Beach, right next to the cruise port. It now serves as a floating museum, hotel, and the site of several excellent restaurants.
Whether you need to kill a couple of hours before your cruise leaves of you want a unique place to spend a night, the Queen Mary has something to offer you.
5. Walk the Waterfront
Not all activities have to cost money. An easy and relaxing way to spend your time before your cruise leaves is to take a stroll along the Long Beach Waterfront. There are well-maintained garden areas, benches where you can sit and simply enjoy the view, and immaculate public restrooms. This may be the most relaxing thing you can do while you’re waiting for your cruise to leave.
6. Naples Island
This little island in the middle of Long Beach’s waterfront is made by canals that offer water access to many of the homes on the island. You can walk, kayak, or paddle around the canals, and Naples Island itself, in addition to having beautiful gardens, parks, and homes, is full of great shops and restaurants.
7. El Dorado Nature Center
105 acres of green space right in the heart of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country. It has two miles of dirt trails and a quarter mile of paved trail, two lakes and a stream. There are several educational displays and even an art gallery for you and your family to enjoy. This is one of Long Beach’s hidden gems.
8. Shoreline Village
This boardwalk along the Long Beach Waterfront has something for everyone. For kids, there’s a carousel with games and a fun zone. For adults, there are souvenir shops, quirky local stores, and great restaurants.
Live entertainment is a common feature, and the view of the sunsets over the harbor is breathtaking. This is a great way to spend a few hours before or after your cruise.
9. Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
On the campus of California State University-Long Beach, this garden is a beautiful spot to spend a quiet morning or afternoon before or after your cruise, to either clear your mind before boarding ship or decompress afterwards. You can feed the koi in the koi pond or relax in the Tea House. The garden is full of educational exhibits and cultural events, as well.
10. Whale Watching
Harbor Breeze Cruises offers whale watching cruises year-round cruises leave every morning and every evening. Humpback whales, orcas, gray whales, minke whales, bottlenose dolphins, and more can all be seen from their ships. Their Long Beach dock is right across the water from the cruise terminal. There’s no better way to come face to face with some of our planets largest creatures than one of these cruises.
11. Toyota Grand Prix
You have to be here at the right time for it, but if you are, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is something you really shouldn’t miss. The longest running major street race in North America is held here every year, and it draws huge crowds. Part of the circuit usually passes by the Aquarium of the Pacific, so you don’t have to stray far from the cruise terminal to catch the race. You do need to buy tickets, though.
12. Bluff Park
This twelve-acre park sits right on the beach, a few miles down the road from the cruise terminal. The walking/jogging paths have beautiful views of the Pacific, and the statue of the Lone Sailor is a moving memorial.
You’re about to spend several days aboard a ship, and spending some time stretching your legs before you board is probably a good idea.
13. Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum
Just a short, 15-20 minute drive from the cruise terminal, this unique art museum celebrates the arts of the Pacific islands, especially Micronesia. The exhibits rotate, but past exhibits have focused on the islanders clothing and the rich symbolism of their tattoos.
They offer craft-making sessions during each tour to keep children entertained as well. This is great way to learn about several ancient cultures that are often quite obscure.
14. Rancho Los Alamitos
“The Ranch of the Little Cottonwoods” is a surprising attraction for Long Beach, but this historic ranch and working farm is a City Landmark. Between the native people who once called it home and the settlers who followed, the ranch has a nearly 1500 year history behind it.
The barns still houses horses, sheep, goats, ducks and rabbits, and the gardens still grow mainly native plants that flourish in the local climate. The adobe house dates back to the early 1800’s making it one of the oldest structures not just in Long Beach, but the whole Los Angeles area.
15. Long Beach Antique Market
This is really only a post-cruise activity unless you don’t plan to buy anything. And, since it’s only on the third Sunday of each month, the timing of your cruise will determine if you can go.
If you can, though, the Long Beach Antique Market is well worth your time. It’s essentially a giant flea market where you can find some truly incredible goods for unbeatable prices. Be ready, though: the real bargain hunters have been known to show up at the gates at 5:30 am.
16. The Pike
The Pike Outlets is a huge retail area. It sits next to the aquarium, so it’s nice and close to the cruise terminal, too. While the shopping is great, it’s also home to seventeen restaurants and a movie theater, so it’s a great all-around entertainment spot. It’s also home to the Long Beach Ferris Wheel, which gives it a sort of carnival-type atmosphere. All in all, it’s a great spot for families to grab a bite to eat and have some fun.
17. Walter pyramid
The Walter pyramid is home to Long Beach State University’s athletics programs, specifically the men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. This is a true pyramid, measuring 105 meters per side. It’s also believed to be the largest space-frame structure in North America. Whether you want to catch game or you’re just an architecture lover, this is a great place to visit.
18. East Village Arts District
Instead of buying generic souvenirs at the massive shops along the waterfront, head over to the East Village. It’s full of small, locally owned restaurants and shops featuring the work of local artists. A lot of that art is for sale in the shops and galleries here. What better souvenir from your trip than a piece of local art from an artist no one back home will have heard of?
19. Mother’s Beach
This is the perfect spot for families with small children. Located on Naples Island, this beach has very shallow water and gentle waves, because rather than being on the ocean, it’s on one of the canals that wind through the Naples neighborhood.
It also has a lifeguard on duty. There’s a large grassy area for picnics and trees provide plenty of shade. On the weekends, Mom’s Beach House Cafe serves breakfast and lunch.
20. Bixby Park
This park has a playground, mobile skatepark, bbq pits, and athletics fields. It’s farmers market is a local favorite, and if you want to spend a quiet, relaxing day recovering from your cruise before heading home, pick up some fresh ingredients from the market and grill them while your kids enjoy the playground.
21. Take surfing lessons
Long Beach is a popular surfing spot, and the city is packed with surf shops. Almost all of them offer some sort of surfing lessons. If you have the time, there’s no better place to learn. The conditions are nearly perfect all year long, and local instructors are experts with a lifetime of experience. If surfing isn’t your thing, try standup paddle boarding.
22. Go Golfing
The El Dorado Park Golf Course is one of the best golf courses in California. Home to the Long Beach Open, this course is a local favorite. You can play a full round or just hit the driving range. If you aren’t a golfer, they have instructional course, too. Just be sure to book in advance, it’s a popular place and it tend to fill up fast.
23. Long Beach Museum of Art
This museum is known for being somewhat different from more traditional art museums. In addition to unique exhibits, it also often features local artists rather than more famous pieces. While that may rub some people the wrong way, it also makes the LBMA a truly one-of-a-kind experience. The on-site restaurant, Claire’s, offers delicious food alongside beautiful views of the Queen Mary and Catalina Island.
24. Pine Avenue
By day, Pine Avenue offers trendy shopping and world-class dining in historic buildings. When the sun goes down, the nightlife takes over and the street is truly electric. Depending on the time of day, there’s something for everyone. Daytime is pretty family-friendly, but after dark it really is adults-only.
25. Helicopter Tours
One of the best ways to see Long Beach, the harbor, or any part of the rest of the Los Angeles area is by helicopter. Anthelion Helicopters is located in Long Beach, but their tours cover a huge area. They offer different packages that include a one giant loop around the LA area, a tour that focuses on the beaches, another that heads inland, and one that takes off at night so you can see the city lights from the air. They also offer helicopter flying lessons.
26. Catalina Express
Catalina Island is a popular destination for travelers in Long Beach, and there’s no better way to get there than by boat. Catalina Express is one of the largest services offering rides out to Catalina Island. It’s a one hour trip and they have boats departing thirty times a day, so booking with them is very easy and convenient.
27. Catalina Island
Boat rides are fun, but the whole point of the Catalina Express is to get you to Catalina Island. Once you’re there you can relax on the beach, unwind at the spa, or go in the opposite direction and get your adrenaline pumping on a zipline. Catalina also offers world-class dining and, it you have extra time, there are plenty of great hotels on the Island.
28. Dinner Cruise
If you just can’t wait for the cruise to begin, or you aren’t ready for it to be over, try a dinner cruise in the harbor. Hornblower cruises offers dinner, brunch, and cocktail hour cruises around the harbor and Port of Long Beach. Be sure to check their website; in addition to their regular cruises they almost always have some special events coming up.
29. Go Fishing
Pierpoint landing offers fantastic fishing trips with local guides who will take you right to the fish every time. They offer everything from half-day trips to multi-day runs down to Baja California to fish some of the richest fishing grounds in the Pacific. Avid anglers won’t want to miss out on this.
30. Rent a boat
London boat rentals allows you to rent the boat and sail it around the harbor. The boats can’t go faster than five miles per hour, so it’s sort of like driving a gold cart on the water. That’s perfect, because it means you don’t need to be an experienced boater to have a great time.
Conclusion on Things to Do in Long Beach CA
No matter what you like to do, or what your hobbies are, there is something for you in Long Beach. If you need to kill time before boarding your cruise or your flight home, or you’ve deliberately scheduled an extra day or two in town, this list should give you some great ideas for how to entertain yourself and your family while you’re here.
Just remember to only do the things you have time for- it’d be terrible for you to miss your cruise because you were caught up in all the wonderful things that Long Beach has to offer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Long Beach is famous for a lot of things. It’s the home of the Queen Mary, it’s a major port for commercial and tourist ships, and it has beautiful beaches. It’s also famous for its cultural and the local art and food scenes.
Long Beach is very safe. The touristy areas, in particular, are safe for you. It’s in the city’s interest to keep crime rates as low as possible and ensure that tourists in Long Beach have a thoroughly plesant experience.
The Queen Mary is the closest tourist attraction. it’s literally right next door to the terminal, and is within walking distance. After that, the closest attractions are the Aquarium of the Pacific and restaurants, shops and activities near it.
Cruises generally begin boarding at 1 and try to leave before 5pm. The amount of time needed for your activities really depends on what you want to do. If you just want to tour the aquarium or the Queen mary before your board your cruise, a few hour is all you need. For almost anything else, though, you’ll need an extra day in Long Beach before or after your cruise in order to fit the activity in.
Waiting until after your cruise gives you much more flexibility in terms of time, but it may not be possible for everyone. It really depends on the dates for your cruise and how much exploring you want to do. Pick the option that gives you the most time to explore this great city.
Unfortunately, no. None of these activities can be packaged with cruise tickets. The only package deals you can get involve transportation to and from the airport. Some local hotels will offer you free parking for the duration of your cruise if you book a room with them, though.
It varies. You’ll want to do some research ahead of your trip to get an idea of how much you’ll be spending. Long Beach is a part of the LA metro area, and it’s a major tourist spot, so you should expect higher-than-average prices on most things there. It’s not cheap, but it’s almost always worth it.
Yes. While many of them are great for adults too, all of them are family-friendly as well. Since it’s such a big tourist spot, much of Long Beach is very family-friendly.
Some of them, yes. Most require no advance booking but things like helicopter tours, food tours, and sailing lessons typically do. Generally, if it seems like something you need to book, that’s because you do need to book in advance.
Sunseeker tours offers tour packages that will take you to a lot of the best spots in Long Beach, as well as all over Los Angeles. While these are great, the downside is that they take up an entire day, and you don’t necessarily get to do the things that seem most interesting to you. It can be a lot more rewarding to plan your trip yourself.
Sorry, can’t help you with that one. It all depends on what you like to do and how much time you have.