Gleaming with local pride and an endless array of urban and waterfront experiences, all year-round Long Beach, known fondly as the “Dreamland of Southern California” is an eclectic hub for food, culture, and community that can only be discovered when visitors look beyond just its sandy beaches and cruise port, diving deep into the local shops, eateries and traditions that make this city so adored by its residents. With so much to do in the city, visitors will merely scratch the surface with just a weekend here, but for those looking to immerse themselves into Long Beach culture and experience the LBC through the eyes of its locals, we’ve planned your weekend:
Stroll Through The Streets of Bixby Knolls on First Fridays.
A quaint residential neighborhood between downtown and North Long Beach, Bixby Knolls is one of the city’s hidden gems, especially when it comes to culture. Filled with a variety of restaurants serving diverse cuisines, charming boutiques, and cultural centers like the Rancho Los Cerritos, the Richard Goad Theater, and the Long Beach Historical Society Museum, the family-friendly neighborhood is a local treasure that offers much to culture-lovers, both residents and visitors alike. On the first Friday of every month, the neighborhood plays host to a popular art walk in which local businesses stay open late as the city comes together to enjoy live music, local art, restaurant and bar deals and strolling through the streets with friends and family.
Dare to try Flaming Hot Mac N Cheetos at the Attic.
Your favorite elementary school lunch items just got married in a delightfully delicious way — flaming hot Cheetos, meet Mac and Cheese. The Attic, a local eatery praised for its innovative twists on comfort fare favorites, serves up their handmade spiraled pasta with six different types of cheeses, topped with crushed up, flaming hot Cheetos, caramelized onions, scallions and bits of jalapeno all in a cast iron-skillet that can barely contain the overflow of cheesy goodness. The birthplace of Flaming Hot Cheetos, the Attic plays homage to the snack’s Southern California roots by incorporating it into their selection of comfort foods with a SoCal twist.
Indulge in a wine and chocolate pairing at Romeo’s Chocolates.
Play with your palette and indulge in a guided chocolate and wine pairing which explores the art of chocolate from its history, sustainability and cultural and neurological effects. Led by Long Beach local, and master-chocolatier Romeo, this wine and chocolate pairing takes handcrafted chocolates and carefully pairs them with hand-selected wines for a sensational experience designed to stimulate your sense of smell, taste and touch. In this wine and chocolate pairing, visitors will enjoy three courses of decadence: a three-piece palate starter tasting of world-sourced milk, semi-sweet, and dark chocolate for the first course, a three-piece tasting of hand-crafted chocolate bonbon flights accompanied by a thoughtfully-paired wine flight to complement the chocolate featuring regions from Napa, Sonoma, Australia, and more, finishing the experience with course three: a mignardise course chocolate truffle of your choice to take home!
Coffee and a bite at Wide Eyes Open Palms.
Since its early days as a local farmer’s market stand to the café’s breakout success as one of the city’s most treasured local community hang-out spots, Wide Eyes Open Palms has operated with the mission to make its business a safe and welcoming space for all who come through its doors. The café’s concept is simple – provide healthy, fresh food and coffee made with local ingredients to the Long Beach community through a model of sustainability and community engagement. While the café was originally a pop up, its success with delicious treats likes apricot scones and peach jam and ricotta toast, has brought the eatery to become what it is today, a charming café loved by locals and visitors alike.
The barista-chef duo behind Wide Eyes, Open Palms, Angie Evans and Kat McIver have proudly declared their coffee shop as a gathering space for feminists and the LGBTQ community, with rainbow colored pride-flags, feminism books and “The Queerest Coffee in Town” shirts for sale, Angie and Kat have created a community around delicious coffee, fresh and ethically produced foods, and a message that all who step through their doors are welcome, a message that has given them an outpour of support from the local community.
Stretch your legs and soak up the sun at Yoga on the Bluff.
If free, beachside yoga under the palm trees sounds like your Saturday morning dream – you’re in luck! Every day (yes, every day) from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. and again at Mondays – Fridays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., visitors can stroll by Bluff Park, and catch masses of yoga-enthusiasts in their element, with free, guided yoga sessions in the park put on by Yogalution Movement, a community based organization committed to providing health and wellness initiatives to Long Beach, on a donation basis. Attend one of these yoga classes to start off a stress-free day in the LBC while taking in some of Southern California’s sunshine in the city with the most “nice days” in the country.
Enjoy your favorite cheat meal dishes for lunch at Steelcraft.
With a variety of indulgent dishes that range from waffles to pizza to barbeque, Steelcraft, Long Beach’s outdoor food hall, was made for cheat days. Its variety of local vendors like Waffle Love and Desano Pizza are all tucked inside a secluded back-yard type of setting, making Steelcraft the perfect place to grab a beer, enjoy the sunshine and treat yourself to all of your favorite guilty pleasure dishes. Steelcraft also hosts fun events like beer & yoga, live music nights and game-day watch parties. Check out their events calendar, here, to see what’s happening during your visit.
Snag a cool find thrift shopping on Retro Row.
Nicknamed “Retro Row” from the many vintage stores and thrift shops concentrated into just a few blocks, 4th street, or Retro Row, is the heart of creativity in the LBC. While Long Beach has an assortment of shopping found in its many neighborhoods – those looking for quirky, one-of-a-kind finds can look no further than Retro Row. From vintage jewelry to funky furniture and popular records, Retro Row, which stretches from Cherry to Junipero is home to over 40 independent retailers, coffee shops, restaurants and bars, as well as the restored 1920’s Art Theatre, which hosts an assortment of films, live concerts, comedy shows and community events. Flaunted by the New York Times as the “soul of Long Beach”, if you look closely enough, you may catch a Hollywood set designer on the hunt for costumes and props, as the high-quality vintage items here have been known to catch the eye of the entertainment industry.
Local transportation, but make it Long Beach. In lieu of public buses, driving and scooter-sharing, get around the Long Beach way by taking the Aqua Bus and Aqua Link, Long Beach’s official water taxis, which are undoubtedly among the most unique ways to travel through the city. The fare costs $5, and is well-worth it to save costs on parking – plus you get to enjoy a stellar view of the Alamitos Bay.
The seasonal ferry service goes to many popular Long Beach destinations including the Aquarium of the Pacific, Shoreline Village, The Queen Mary, Belmont Pier and the Alamitos Bay Marina, though we encourage visitors to take the AquaBus to the Hotel Maya – a chic, seaside hotel which is the perfect place to lounge by the pool, have an Instagram photoshoot, or enjoy cocktails and a bite at their Latin, So-Cal fusion restaurant, Fuego.
Slurp up some Cambodian Noodle Soup at the Noodle Shack.
While it may be a surprise to visitors, locals know what a huge influence Cambodian culture has played on the city of Long Beach. The city is home to the largest concentration of Cambodians outside of any city in Cambodia, which can be seen in Long Beach’s Cambodia Town, a 1.2 mile stretch of Khmer-owned retailers, businesses, restaurants and temples. For visitors, a true cultural experience can be found trying out the many tastes of Cambodia through the food of the locals living there – the perfect eatery to do so? The Phnom Penh Noodle Shack (or the Noodle Shack for short), visitors with a pension for foreign foods with relish the hearty servings of homestyle Cambodian noodle dishes, meats and veggies which have been well-loved by even the toughest of food critics.
Stroll through the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA).
Telling the stories of the community and fostering inclusivity has always been an integral part of Long Beach’s history and the city makes it a mission to do so through institutions like the Museum of Latin American Art, or MOLAA, the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American and Latino art. Located in the East Village Arts District of Long Beach, The Museum of Latin American Art pursues a mission to “expand knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art” with features including a 15,000 sq. ft. sculpture garden and an expanded permanent collection, rotating exhibitions, educational programs, and unique cultural events. The artists featured in MOLAA come from all over Latin America with prominent featured writers, sculptors, and painters hailing from Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Brazil and beyond. Stroll through the galleries and be transported through Latin American history, and better yet – get a guided tour to take it all in.
Enjoy a sunset picnic in El Dorado Park.
As an urban waterfront, it’s hard to picture Long Beach as a city with large open green spaces – until you visit El Dorado Park. The park is the city’s largest greenspace, and it includes a 100-acre nature center, golf course, outdoor archery range, baseball/ softball field, basketball court, community center, countless walking trails, playground, skate park, soccer fields, and volleyball court – not to mention its many barbeque and picnic areas — making the park one of the best places to spend a full day in, but if you only have an afternoon, we recommend grilling out with friends, soaking in the sun and enjoying a sunset picnic in the park.
With an unparalleled Southern California vibe that’s met with diversity, culture and the vitality of a bustling city, there’s no surprise why Long Beach is so adored by its locals and visitors. For those looking to soak in the sun, taste the eats and experience the city, like the locals do – the possibilities are endless.
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