The Top 10 Things to do in Long Beach (with kids)

Did you know that Long Beach is the 3rd largest city in Southern California? These days, there are so many things to do in Long Beach, CA. This port town has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years, with hip, revitalized neighborhoods and world-class attractions. 

Don’t know what to do in Long Beach? Here are our picks for the top ten things to do with kids in Long Beach. We cover all the best places to visit, restaurants to try, and hotels that are perfect for families visiting the area.

Things to do in Long Beach with Kids

10Walk back in time at Rancho Los Alamitos

Rancho Los Alamitos
Photo by: Wiki Media Commons/Monacat

Rancho Los Alamitos is home to some of the region’s oldest history. It features manicured grounds and gardens, the adobe Rancho Los Alamitos house, a museum, and a historic barn to explore with your family. The cactus garden and massive fig tree (planted in the 1800s) are kid-favorites, but don’t miss out on the free, docent-led tours offered every 30 minutes.

Throughout the year cultural, holiday, and educational events are featured. They include topics that range from agriculture to Native American, Japanese, and Hispanic culture. Best of all, visiting the museum and grounds is completely free!

Tip: A similar site, Rancho Los Cerritos, is located nearby. 

9. Get Out on the Water

Harbor Cruise Thigns to do in Long Beach with kids
Photo by: Juli Voncannon

Sunny skies, chilly breeze, and beautiful views of Long Beach’s skyline is what you will experience while cruising around Rainbow Harbor.  The peaceful waters of the harbor make it a relaxed voyage, where sea lions are often spotted playing in the harbor or swimming around the boat.

With nearly 100 slips for commercial and recreational vessels (although the major port vessels remain much further off-shore), families can take advantage of numerous harbor cruises and whale watching tours offered daily. You can either choose taking a cruise around the bay and learn how ships unload containers (14,000 in only 3 days!) or go into the open ocean to find whales, which can spotted all year round. A full loop around the arc of this “rainbow” takes families to the Lion Lighthouse, with plentiful grass fields to run around in, past the Shoreline Aquatic Park to build sandcastles on, and past numerous restaurants near the Pine Avenue Pier.

Kid-friendly boat tour options include: the land-to-sea Rubber Duck Tour | Harbor Breeze Cruises

The Pike, now an outlet mall on the site of the original Long Beach amusement park of the same name, is located just across the street from Rainbow Harbor. Besides shopping, kids will enjoy movies or a ride on the Ferris wheel and carousel. During the spring and summer outdoor movies are offered in the evening. 

8. Gondola Ride through Naples Island

Naples gondola ride things to do in Long Beach
Photo by Juli Voncannon

Relax by sunset and have a sail along the canals and waterways of Naples Island in Los Alamitos Bay. Naples Island, a neighborhood on Long Beach’s eastern shore, is a fun spot for chartering a boat tour that doesn’t hit the open ocean. This is a unique experience that has been running for nearly 40 years.

 Touring the slips, bay, and beautiful homes and buildings that line this section of water is a treat for families. The gondola ride is approximately 1 hour, and you’ll be entertained with lively conversations, interesting facts, and even some singing, while enjoying the view of beautiful homes that evoke feelings of Europe. 

You can choose to pair the experience with some amazing Italian food from Domenico’s Italian Restaurant, where their made-from-scratch pizzas and house salad take the stage. Opened in 1954, it was one of the first restaurants to serve pizzas in California.

7. Explore the Colorful and Quaint Shoreline Village

Shoreline Village what to do in Long Beach
Photo by Juli Voncannon

Styled after a quaint Cape Cod fishing village Shoreline Village is filled with unique specialty shops and a variety of restaurants. There is entertainment for the entire family, including an antique carousel and old-fashioned arcade in the Pelican Pier Pavilion. There are shops for pirate enthusiasts, random hippie art, and just about anything you can think of.

Promise the kids a scoop of ice cream or massive serving of funnel cake in exchange for some sweet family pictures taken in front of the Easter egg-colored, old-fashioned buildings. The spectacular views make Shoreline Village the place to relax as you soak in the sundown overlooking the boats in the glistening waters, and palm trees.

6. Discover the Long Beach Art Scene

PowWow Murals Long Beach things to do
Photo by : Juli Voncannon

One of the unexpected things you will find in Long Beach is a collection of giant murals, created as part of the Pow-Wow! Art Festival that happens every year in July. In this event, contemporary graffiti artists and muralists from around the world collaborate to create amazing street art in a week filled with music, events, and of course, live scaffolding painting! You can plan your trip around this event if you are an art enthusiast, or look for the Pow-Wow! Murals from different years, around town.

Also, the Museum of Latin American Art, housed in one of Long Beach’s historic 1920s buildings, is a great family-friendly museum. In addition to featuring numerous art exhibits, kids will love the “Play with Me” exhibit featuring interactive activities and fun for kids 5-12. Regular events throughout the year include family-friendly workshops, dancing, music, and other programs. Get hands on with art of all varieties at the Long Beach Museum of Art. Drop-in programs include family art-making workshops and events with local artists. Friday admission is always free!

5. El Dorado Regional Park

Long Beach El Dorado Park
Photo by: Flickr/LobstersMoo

Located in north Long Beach, El Dorado Regional Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland and the perfect place to enjoy the great SoCal weather. Families will enjoy hiking and bike trails (with convenient bike rental locations on property!), fishing lakes, a nature center with hands-on, rotating exhibits, an archery range (with free lessons!), and plenty of open space.

Young kids will love the playgrounds and the chance to ride along in a pedal boat, while older kids will no doubt enjoy exploring the model sailboat and model aircraft area. Hungry families can grab a snack at the onsite food and beverage area.

4. Enjoy Some Sweet Treats

things to do in long beach ca
Photo by Juli Voncannon

Don’t just eat your chocolate, feel its flavors and intensities that take enjoying chocolate to a whole new level. Trained in Belgium and offering the best combination of responsibly sourced chocolate and wines, Romeo Garcia is an excellent host at Romeo’s Chocolates.Your family can book a Chocolate Making Workshop, where your kids will not only learn about cacao production, but they will create, decorate, and wrap chocolates to bring home.

Of course, the experience is not limited children. Adults can also enjoy 3 courses of chocolate paired with wine. Romeo makes the time feel like a breeze, teaching about chocolate with so much passion, that you just have to sit back, relax, and sink in the ambiance and all the flavors. 

With an amazing array of shops to choose from and a family-friendly environment, Belmont Shore and 2nd Street is a central place for families to spend a nice afternoon walking. Try the different coffees or desserts, from Pietris Bakery, the Greek Bake Shop. Your kids will love the delicious options of gelato, from sherbets like mango or strawberry cheesecake with chocolate, or their gorgeously appetizing desserts. 

3. Have a Beach Day

Things to do with kids in Long Beach CA
Photo by: Juli Voncannon
A trip to Long Beach wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the sand and sea. Mother’s Beach, located on Naples Island, features everything perfect about a kid-friendly beachfront location: beautiful sand, gentle waves thanks to its bayside location, picnic sites, and lifeguard stations (in peak seasons). White sands, peaceful waters, and stunning views will make it a trip to remember.
You can rent kayaks, paddle-boats, paddle-boards, and life-vests for your little ones at nearby Bayshore Park.  The added bonus is that this amazing park features a grassy play area, rock climbing structures, swings, and water splash pad. Belmont Shore Beach and Long Beach City Beach (known to locals as Junipero Beach), both southward facing toward the Pacific, are the city’s “longest” beaches (pun intended) with massive stretches of sand.

Note: Due to the massive harbor structures in the water, Long Beach offers virtually no surf-able coast. If your kids are looking to learn to surf, a trip to adjacent Orange County is a much better bet. 

2. Amazing Visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific

Photo by Trekaroo/Juli Voncannon

Aquarium of the Pacific is hands-down one of the best experiences for families in Long Beach. First off, it has an amazing live-animal exhibit, where you can learn about a variety of aquatic life. Observe the jelly fish in the Tentacles and Ink exhibit and try time to time your visit around feeding time.

Also, you can touch live coral, star fish, sea cucumbers, as well as sharks and sting rays. Play with the sea lions and seals through the see-through tunnels, and learn more about amphibians in the amazing Frogs: Dazzling & Disappearing exhibit. The Aquarium also has an outdoor boat-themed play area to give kiddos space to play.

One of the best and most innovative experiences at the aquarium is the new Pacific Visions’ expansion, where science, art, and architecture join to bring awareness to the future we can make through innovation. Created with an all-accessible mindset, you’ll be able to use all of your senses to learn how as humans can create a better future. 

Note: The Aquarium of the Pacific also hosts whale watching tours. You will need to book a reservation ahead of time. 

1. See the Queen Mary

Queen Mary Long Beach
Photo by Juli Voncannon

Exploring the iconic, massive ship The Queen Mary offers unique experiences for a variety of family types. Do you enjoy history? Then the “Glory Days Historical Tour” and the “Her Finest Hour: a WWII Tour” are the tours for you, as they are packed with information and facts about the fine art of the ship or her involvement in the war.

If you are more of an on-the-go family, consider a self-guided tour, exploring the different decks of the ship and viewing preserved historic rooms. There are haunted tours and magic shows for everyone. Little ones will love making their own LEGO ships with a massive LEGO model (made with 250,000 Legos weighing 600lbs) as inspiration. Don’t forget to look for the white cat! Add in numerous restaurants, a 4D theater, and the chance to spend the night on board, and this is a can’t miss attraction in Long Beach.

Located next door the historic Queen Mary, the Russian Submarine Scorpion offers families the chance to hop inside a real, historic Russian submarine (originally the B-427 which operated until the mid ’90s). The self-guided, narrated tour is perfect for active (and not claustrophobic) families as you must navigate the sub’s narrow passageways, ladders, crawl spaces, and small circular, watertight hatches to explore the vessel. Inside, kids can learn about the various roles on board, practice pushing buttons, and check out the periscope and torpedo room.

Long Beach’s Must Eats

Photo by Trekaroo/Juli Voncannon
Long Beach is known for its diversity, and it shows in the variety of food you can find any taste your palate desires. Our recommendation starts with Parker’s Lighthouse where you will find amazing Mesquite-grilled food. For Breakfast, the Breakfast Bar is a must-visit, it’s family heritage shows in the food they make. For an amazing breakfast bar, try Fuego Restaurant in Hotel Maya. If what you are looking for is a good relaxed lunch with comfort food, Steelcraft is a unique outdoor experience, where there is a common area to eat surrounded of Steel containers transformed into fast-food restaurants. Italian food is a staple of this area of California, your family can try Michael’s Downtown Italian Kitchen, their Prosciutto and Burrata with Pear is to die for!

Where to stay in Long Beach

Photo by Trekaroo/Juli Voncannon

Due to the traffic into and out of the city, and while most hotels are in a short distance from Long Beach, we recommend that families stay near to the heart of the city. The Hyatt Regency Long Beach, located adjacent to the Convention Center, Shoreline Village, Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium, and even access to Catalina Island, is a very good option. If what you are looking for is a luxury getaway, the Hotel Maya, a Doubletree by Hilton hotel, has easy access to the city’s waterfront, and/or you could rent your own bikes or quad bikes from the hotel.  The Queen Mary is a unique accommodation and experience that your family will talk for years to come!

Day Trips From Long Beach

With Southern California as its home, Long Beach offers families a wide array of day trip options. We’ve only scratched the surface here with these trips that families should consider while visiting the region.

Catalina Island

Catalina Island Long Beach
Photo by: Bigstock/damonq9

Located just an hour off the shore of Long Beach, Catalina Island is a fun destination for families seeking a little R&R from the busy and hectic pace on the “mainland.” The Catalina Express departs from Long Beach Harbor and takes cruisers on the 1-hour trip to Avalon, where family fun awaits. Zip lining, snorkeling, and buffalo (yes, buffalo!) watching are some of the islands most popular activities. Tip: Avoid weekends and “port days” if you can, the town can get quite busy when the cruise ships are docked for the day.

Read about all the fun things to do in Catalina with kids.

San Pedro

Located adjacent to Long Beach lies the city of San Pedro, home to a wide variety of hands on historic and marine-life based museums and attractions for families. Must-sees on the water include the Battleship IOWA and the SS Lane Victory, both boasting hands-on historical exhibits that kids love. Parents rave about the educational (and free!) Cabrillo Marine Aquariumthe White Point Nature Center, and Fort McAurthur Marine Mammal Care Center.

Orange County

Photo by: Katie Bodell
Just southeast of the city of Long Beach lies Orange County, home to Disneyland, long stretches of beaches, shopping paradises, culinary scenes, family-friendly museums, and much more. Cities like Huntington Beach are known for their surfing heritage and laid-back charm while Laguna Beach and Dana Point offer a bit more high-class style and plenty of off-shore excursions. Head inland to explore a surprising amount of parks, nature trails, zoos, and family experiences.
Special thanks to the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, CVB, and the Aquarium of the Pacific.

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