As a major port along the west coast of California, Long Beach provides numerous attractions and activities for the entire family. Located just 24 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, this beach town is ideal for family vacations, day trips -- or is even a good place to call home.
You don't have to go far to find water in Long Beach. Marine Park (no website; Appian Way below 2nd St.; 562-570-3100) is set along the marina and offers picnic areas, volleyball courts, a play area and plenty of beach. It's often called "Mother's Beach" because of the relatively calm waters and lifeguard supervision during peak periods. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine (longbeach.gov) operates three swimming pools in Long Beach, which offer open swim sessions as well as numerous aquatics classes. Also, at the Leeway Sailing & Aquatics Center (no website; 437 E. Ocean Blvd; 562-570-1719), your family can take sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and canoeing classes throughout the year. At the Pete Archer Rowing Center (no website; 5750 Boathouse Lane; 562-438-3552) families can take classes, participate in programs and rent crafts.
Nature and Wildlife
The City of Long Beach (longbeach.gov) operates the El Dorado Nature Center. This secluded 105-acre center is a sanctuary for animals and plant life -- and gives visitors the opportunity to escape the bustle of the city. Trails that wind through the lakes, streams and forest are excellent for a family hiking. The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden (csulb.edu/~jgarden) is another option for a nature walk. On the campus of California State University, this beautiful garden features a Japanese-style fish pond, walking bridges and carefully manicured vegetation. Families can feed the colorful koi fish or attend special events like art workshops and exhibits. Your family can enjoy the extensive animal collection at the Aquarium of the Pacific (aquariumofpacific.org), featuring sea creatures and birds. The aquarium also offers a video that explains the relation between the ocean and human life as well as several art exhibits.
The Queen Mary (queenmary.com) is an iconic attraction in Southern California. Once a cruise liner for celebrities in the 30's, a warship in the 40's and back to a cruise liner until it's final voyage into Long Beach in 1967, the boat is open for visitors to tour -- or even stay overnight. The tour takes you through the history of the ship via exhibits and videos. The port of Long Beach is a launching point for the Catalina Express (catalinaexpress.com). This cruise will take your family out to nearby Catalina Island where you can enjoy such activities as swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, biking, shopping, guided sightseeing tours or renting golf carts to explore the city on their own.
Family Fun Centers
The Power House (powerhousegames.com) in Long Beach offers more than 80 video arcade games, a laser tag arena and a shrunken bowling alley perfect for younger kids. Some of the games have redemption value for fun prizes. Yankee Doodles (yankeedoodleslb.com) is a Long Beach sports entertainment venue with ping-pong, billiards, shuffle board, foosball, a video arcade and air hockey. The family will likely enjoy the fun atmosphere complete with large screen televisions and a bar and grill.