Long Beach does in fact have a long beach, but it is not as actively used as other beaches in southern California due to its position as one of the largest working ports in the world and its off-shore and in-ground oil industry. Long Beach, population 500,000, has evolved to become more industrial than beach-based, with beaches further south now holding vacation popularity, but it supports a vibrant arts community, dozens of music festivals, and sports activities, including the annual 3-day Long Beach Grand Prix IndyCar race.
Its proximity to downtown Los Angeles has been pivotal in the life of Long Beach, but also has resulted in some serious pollution issues; local government and citizens are tackling these matters actively. Caused largely by idling ships in port, truck traffic, oil refineries in the area and runoff from the Los Angeles River, the pollution is a factor for people looking for the beach/swimming vacation or lifestyle. Things are improving thanks to all the efforts being made through ecological initiatives like the RiverLink Project and The Long Beach Greenbelt. Dogs have their day in Long Beach, playing in the sand at the Dog Beach Zone.
This is the permanent home of the 1936 Art Deco ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary, now serving as a hotel and maritime museum. There are lots of things to do in this bustling city. For nature lovers, there are two marine reserves, Bluff Park (an awe-inspiring collection of coastal bluffs), and Shoreline Park. The Aquarium of the Pacific is home to 11,000 animals from 500 species, and boasts a lagoon where visitors can pet sharks and stingrays. Or take a romantic gondola ride; few places outside of Italy offer them!
Part of the culture and city savvy of Long Beach is the local campus of California State University, the presence of the Boeing aircraft manufacturing company and Verizon. These big business and educational entities make Long Beach diverse and important. Ask Ferris Bueller… The film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was filmed in Long Beach, posing as Chicago.
Former and current residents of Long Beach include tennis great, Billie Jean King, and actors Sally Kellerman, Bo Derek and Cameron Diaz. Musicians Nat King Cole and Spike Jones were from Long Beach. The community greatly supports the arts, and is known far and wide for its street art and murals; the Guinness Book of Records states that the world’s largest mural, at 116,000 square feet, is here. Art museums abound, some of them in niche areas of interest; arts-inclined visitors will enjoy the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Museum of Latin American Art and the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum. The East Village Arts District galleries and shops host “Artwalk”, a tour of visual arts studios.
Home of musical acts The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Snoop Dogg and Avenged Sevenfold, Long Beach is famous for its music festivals. Here is a short list of some of the best: Bob Marley Reggae in February; Cajun music in May; Hawaiian music in June; jazz in August; blues and Brazilian (not together!) in September. The city has its own symphony orchestra, a music conservatory and a theater company that has been running for 75 years on two stages.
Long Beach is an excellent place to visit because of its location. In half an hour or so you can be in downtown L.A., or swimming and surfing at Huntingdon Beach. It’s in the middle of what matters if you want access to the incredible diversity that is California.