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Top 10 Things for your Family to do in Long Beach

Long Beach, one of the southernmost cities in Los Angeles county, has long been used as the industrial hub and official port for Los Angeles. But all this official duty and cargo doesn’t mean the city isn’t also central hub for family fun! Explore the top 10 things for families to do in Long Beach.

10. Walk back in time at Rancho Los Alamitos

rancho los alamitos: a step back in time in Long Beach, CA

Photo by: Flickr/tdlucas6000

Rancho Los Alamitos, home to some of the region’s oldest history including the Tongva Indians who populated the region from 500-1780, 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 and 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. Tour the Russian Submarine Scorpion

Tour the Russian Submarine in Long Beach, CA

Photo by: Flickr/Bobn’Renee

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.

8. Gondola Ride through Naples Island

Explore Long Beach, CA with your family

Photo by Flickr/aboutmytrip.com

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. Touring the slips, bay, and beautiful homes and buildings that line this section of water is a treat for families; I recommend taking a gondola tour that evokes a European vibe and charm all of its own. Finish your cruise with dinner at one of the numerous Naples area restaurants, or take the Aqua link shuttle boat from Naples all the way to Shoreline Village.

7. Explore Shoreline Village

Shoreline Village Long Beach: one of the top things for your family to do in Long Beach

Photo by: Trekaroo/mcfam

One of the area’s most concentrated hubs of souvenir selections, Shoreline Village is an adorably cute collection of pier-side shops and restaurants: a must-stop for touristy-inclined families. 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; you’ll be glad you did. If the kids are good for the family photo shoot, surprise them by heading inside the Pelican Pier Pavilion, home to a fun, old fashioned arcade and beautiful carousel ride.

6. Museum of Latin American Art/Long Beach Museum of Art

Getting cultured in Long Beach, CA

Photo by: Flickr/Eric Chan

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

Surprising outdoor fun in Long Beach: El Dorado Regional Park

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/northwalker

Located to the far north of Long Beach, El Dorado Regional Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland and the perfect place to head to explore 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. Rainbow Harbor and Harbor Cruises

harbor tour of Long Beach, CA

Photo by: Trekaroo/mcfam

Boat-loving kiddos will love taking a stroll through Rainbow Harbor, located next to the Aquarium of the Pacific (see below). 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 & dolphin watching tours offered daily. 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. 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, offering kids a fun ride on a Ferris wheel and carousel.
Kid-friendly boat tour options include: the land-to-sea Rubber Duck Tour | Harbor Breeze Cruises
Tip: Don’t miss a visit to the tall ship, the American Pride, built in 1941, offering educational and public tours and cruises.

3. Hit the Beach 

Long Beach beaches: things for your family to do in Long Beach

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons/jessicacu

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). The added bonus is that this amazing park features a grassy play area, rock climbing structures, swings, and water splash pad. Nearby, Bayshore Park’s beach boasts kayak and paddle board rentals, as well as an easy walk to restaurants on 2nd street. The 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. Aquarium of the Pacific

Top things for your family to do in Long Beach: long beach aquarium of the pacific

Photo by: Trekaroo/ilovemybeautybaby

With a variety of sea animal species showcased at the museum, including tropical reef fish, jellies, sea lions, sharks, and more, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is a great place for kids of all ages to explore. From new interactive experiences where you can discover what goes on behind the scenes to getting up close and personal with penguins, kids get a chance to touch numerous animals in a variety of tanks. Although the shark feeding station, live shows, and map-based scavenger hunts are huge hits, kids usually can’t stop talking about how they touched moon jellies! The Aquarium also has an outdoor boat-themed playground to give kiddos space to play.

1. The Queen Mary

Best things for your family to do in Long Beach: The Queen Mary

Photo by: Bigstock/jiawangkun

Exploring the iconic, massive ship The Queen Mary offers unique experiences for a variety of family types. History buffs won’t want to miss two exceptional tours, both with special activities for even the littlest history buffs: “The Glory Days Historical Tour” and “Her Finest Hour: A WWII Tour” that covers the ship’s involvement in the war. Short on time? Consider a self-guided tour that takes you through the history of the ship while descending and ascending its various decks, recreated and preserved historic rooms, and even a trip down into the engine room! Adventurous families shouldn’t miss the haunted tours and shows while the littles will love making their own LEGO ships with a massive LEGO model as inspiration. 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.
Tip: Seasonal events are regularly offered at the Queen Mary including CHILL, the magical holiday experience where 2 million pounds of clear and colored ice create life-size sculptures.

Long Beach’s Must Eats

lolas mexican cuisine
Photo Courtesy of Lola’s Mexican Cuisine
The dining scene in Long Beach is as varied and diverse as one would expect to find in the melting pot that is Southern California. From fine-dining fare to taco shacks, there is truly something for everyone. Our family fell in love with the Dia de los Muertas theme and simply ah.maze.ing. Mexican food offerings at Lola’s Mexican Cuisine. The Attic (housed in an overhauled 1920s Craftsman bungalow) and Restauration both offer a hip ambiance with local farm-to-table food offerings in a relaxed atmosphere (and you won’t soon forget the Mac & Cheetos at The Attic!). Looking for scenic dining? Consider taking in a meal at Parker’s Lighthouse on the end of the pier at Shoreline Village; reservations are recommended during peak seasons.

Where to stay in Long Beach

Hyatt Regency Long Beach

Poolside at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach. Photo by Katie Bodell

While literally hundreds of hotels are within a short mileage distance from Long Beach, traffic into and out of the city (and all LA and Orange County destinations) can make what seems a short distance into a very long drive. I recommend that families stay within the city limits and near the heart of the action in the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, located adjacent to the Convention Center, Shoreline Village, Rainbow Harbor, the Aquarium, and even access to Catalina Island. Hotel Maya, a Doubletree by Hilton hotel, is a best bet for a luxury getaway with easy access to the city’s waterfront. Don’t forget The Queen Mary itself as a unique accommodation option that your family won’t be able to replicate in most other cities across the globe!

Day Trips

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

bigstock-Catalina-Island-1140153

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.” Adventurous families will love the numerous excursion options and the foodie scene is starting to make a name for itself. Tip: Avoid weekends and “port days” if you can, the town is very busy when the cruise ships are docked for the day.

Explore detailed family-friendly options in Catalina.

San Pedro
iowa_kid
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
disneyland hats
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.

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