Long Beach, California is the 5th largest city in the State and the nation’s second-busiest seaport. Home to the Queen Mary and the country’s largest marina, Long Beach offers a broad mix of commerce and recreation.
Located 22 miles south of Los Angeles, Long Beach stretches along five and a half miles of California coast. The area was first settled by Europeans in 1784 as part of a large land grant given to Spanish soldier Manuel Nieto. The land later was divided into two ranchos, Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos. The ranch houses and gardens, now historical sites, can still be visited today.
Long Beach got its current name during the real estate boom of the 1880s. Originally conceived as a resort community, with the development of the harbor Long Beach soon became a bustling seaport. Much of the city’s activity is now centered along the waterfront. With 3,400 slips, Long Beach Marina is the largest municipally owned marina in the country. Rainbow Harbor is home to several major attractions. The Pike, completed in 2004, is the largest waterfront development in California history. Located on the former site of an amusement park, The Pike features a footbridge built to evoke the old Cyclone Racer roller coaster, as well as a giant Ferris wheel, a 14-screen cinema, and a variety of other entertainment.
Anchoring the Pike are Long Beach Arena and the Aquarium of the Pacific. The Arena is covered by world’s largest mural, a vibrant scene of marine life by the artist Wyland. The Aquarium displays the wonders of the Pacific in over 50 exhibits. Shoreline Village, designed to look like a 19th century fishing village, offers quirky shops and seafood restaurants along its boardwalk. One of two working lighthouses at Rainbow Harbor, Parker’s Lighthouse at the point of Shoreline village is a restaurant focused on seafood but the menu also includes steaks, pasta, chicken, sushi and fresh salads.
The more traditional-looking lighthouse at Rainbow Harbor is not primarily a navigation device. It was built by the Long Beach Lions Club as a symbol of their fundraising for the visually impaired. The structure was dedicated in December of 2000. The Long Beach harbor master’s office is located in the base of the lighthouse. The true harbor light, at the end of the breakwater, is called the robot light because of its boxy, sci-fi appearance.
Across the water is the Queen Mary, a luxury ocean liner turned World War II troop ship. Now available for tours and special events, it is one of Long Beach’s most popular attractions.
Next: Aquarium of the Pacific