Just south of Los Angeles and west of Disneyland, you won’t want to overlook Long Beach as a must-visit destination to spend time as a family. From whale watching to renting bikes to splashing on the beaches, there are a lot of things to do in this Southern California town.
On our recent visit to Long Beach, we stayed on-board the historic Queen Mary, which took passengers between Southampton, England and New York for many years (the ship even served as a war ship during World War II). In 1965, the Queen Mary was retired and made its way to Long Beach in 1967 to be transformed into a floating hotel.
The rooms on the Queen Mary have been freshened up since its last voyage in the 1960s, but much of the original paneling, built-in storage and fixtures in the staterooms and suites has been retained to preserve the integrity of the famed cruise ship. The bathrooms in our suite, in particular, had a call button for the “stewardess” in the tub and water fixtures for fresh and salt water (no longer operational).
The Queen Mary has several restaurants on-board and fabulous views of downtown Long Beach from across the water. The Queen Mary is also docked adjacent to the Long Beach Cruise Terminal, so keep your eyes peeled for Mexico-bound Carnival cruise ships. Inside, you’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring the corridors, boutiques, even the spa.
If you’re thinking about exploring Long Beach, take a look at my list of 10 things to do in Long Beach with kids. Have fun!
1. Go on a Whale Watching Tour. Harbor Breeze Cruises offers twice-daily cruises from Rainbow Harbor in search of whales and dolphins. Blue whales can typically be seen May through November, while gray whales migrate through Long Beach from December through April.
2. Go for a Bike Ride at El Dorado Park. You can rent all kinds of bikes from Wheel Fun Rentals at El Dorado Park, including kids bikes, cruiser bikes and surrey bikes built for two or four people. You’ll find over four miles of trails at El Dorado Park, as well as picnic areas, playgrounds and a nature center.
3. Explore a Traditional Japanese Garden. Head to California State University, Long Beach, to spend an hour or two at the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden. Feed the koi fish (you can buy food on-site for a quarter), relax by the waterfall or explore the tea house at this free garden.
4. Run Around at Rosie’s Dog Beach. Kids will love watching the dogs splash and play in the waves at Rosie’s Dog Beach. You’ll see all kinds of furry friends chasing after tennis balls and catching Frisbees at this off-leash dog beach. Kids will have fun building sand castles and riding boogie boards.
5. Take a Boat Cruise to Catalina Island. Head to the Long Beach Port for a one-hour boat cruise to nearby Catalina Island with Catalina Express. Boats depart multiple times daily. Rent a golf cart to explore the island on your own or sign up for a sightseeing tour with Santa Catalina Island Company.
6. Explore Sea Life at the Aquarium of the Pacific. With more than 11,000 animals, including jellyfish, penguins and sea otters, there’s plenty to see at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour with a marine biologist or go to a 3D movie.
7. Wander Around Shoreline Village. There’s plenty to do at Shoreline Village, including boat cruises, bike rentals, segway tours and carousel rides. At Pelican Pier Pavilion, look for more than 70 arcade and midway-style games. You’ll also find plenty of restaurants, pizzerias and ice cream shops.
8. Take a Tour Aboard The Queen Mary. Even if you don’t stay overnight on the Queen Mary, you can still enjoy a number of historical and ghost tours aboard this famed ship. Meantime, kids will love The Shipyard where they’ll find a LEGO replica of the Queen Mary, as well as LEGO bricks for building their own creations.
9. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Rainbow Harbor. Take in fabulous views of downtown Long Beach, as well as the beaches, from atop the Ferris wheel at Rainbow Harbor. At just $4 per person, it’s a bargain. It’s also a nice way to spend time in Long Beach before or after dinner at nearby Shoreline Village.
10. Take a Gondola Ride Around Naples Island. Cruise along the waterways and canals of Naples Island with Gondola Getaway. In the evenings, look for dinner cruises with pizza, salad and garlic bread. In December, Gondola Getaway offers holiday lights cruises that the kids will love.
Have you taken your kids to Long Beach? If you have a few more things to do in Long Beach with kids, let me know in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Long Beach. However, I received no compensation for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own.