The city of Long Beach, California is definitely one of those underrated spots, visitors in LA can enjoy and explore. For families seeking a destination to stay in close to LAX ,the city’s airport and port of Long Beach the city is nothing short of a treasure trove! Read why you should explore Long Beach with kids.
Exploring Long Beach with Kids
Travelers seeking to enjoy a relaxed weekend getaway outside of the busy Los Angeles area should consider visiting the city of Long Beach. The city features affordable hotels alongside great restaurants and beach proximity. Also, visitors are sure to find the proximity to LAX, Orange County beaches, and Catalina for more day trip options appealing. For families wishing to explore Long Beach with kids, here are some of the highlights we recommend.
Where to Stay in Long Beach with Kids
Courtyard Long Beach Downtown at 3841 N. Lakewood Boulevard is located within walking distance of attractions, shopping venues, and modern restaurants. It is also relatively close to the Queen Mary and the aquarium. The rooms boast either two queen sized beds or a king with a pull out sofa. Families will appreciate the fact it is on a relatively quiet street. The hotel offers complimentary wifi for guests as well as an onsite gym and pool/hot tub. Rooms start at $160 per night. For an additional charge, guests can upgrade to a balcony room with a view. Parking is $22 on site.
Those looking for a unique experience can book a room on the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary, previously an ocean liner, was converted to a hotel after it docked in Long Beach in 1967. No two rooms are alike, but they do offer family staterooms with two bedrooms for privacy. Visitors can enjoy tours, events, and exhibits while staying on board. Other amenities offered include the fitness center, spa, wifi, room service, and pet-friendly rooms. Word of caution for allergy sufferers – some of the rooms are a little musty. Make sure to pack antihistamines. Self-parking is $22 a night with valet parking offered for an additional cost.
Where to Dine in Long Beach with Kids
Cafe Sevilla, just steps from the Convention Center, is an excellent place for both food and entertainment. Along with excellent authentic Spanish cuisine, visitors can catch shows with flamenco dancing and music. They offer two flamenco dinner shows, “The Art of Flamenco” on Sunday nights and “From Gypsy to to Belly Dancing” on Saturday nights. Both come with three-course meals. Their menu items include spicy octopus, ahi tuna, short rib, tapas, and “Pride of Spain,” which uses Spanish Iberian Pigs. While it’s not cheap, patrons may occasionally find discount deals on Groupon.
Those who choose to stay at the Marriott get easy access to James Republic on 500 E 1st Street. The venue bases its model on a core principle of providing organic, locally sourced and sustainable foods to consumers. As a result, the restaurant features vegetarian items, meats from naturally raised livestock and locally caught seafood. Their menu changes daily to accommodate local market supply. Typical items include Cured Salmon Benedict, Summer Ramen, Sunflower Seed and Mushroom Salad, Grilled Cauliflower Steak, Oysters, Dungeness Crab Beignets, and their famous grass-fed burgers.
The Queen Mary features a sumptuous Sunday Champagne Brunch. This food venue is a favorite brunch to reserve for Mother’s Day, especially since they can accommodate large groups. Visitors are welcomed at the entrance by a maitre d’. The buffet in the center is circular to avoid lines, and the featured dishes represent various countries. These include Italian Wedding Soup, Chile Tacos, and Shanghai Chicken Salad. When we went, we enjoyed their seafood section with crab claws, oysters, and a salmon serpentine based on the original 1930s recipe. They also offer desserts such as cupcakes, macaroons, and Crepe Suzettes. Finally, they offer a separate kids’ buffet with the usual staples like chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.
What to Do In Long Beach with Kids
Catalina Island is the perfect place for wandering about outdoors. There’s something here to enjoy for those of all physical capacities. Take the Catalina Express ferry and see dolphins on the way. Activities on the island include the Glass Bottom Boat with a narration about the different native fish types, the 50-minute driving tour of the isle with a personal guide, and the Catalina “casino” cultural center with a movie theater and museum. The island also has plenty of dining, such as Bluewater Avalon Seafood with their English Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl.
The California Aquarium of the Pacific
The California Aquarium of the Pacific is perfect for any lovers of the sea. This museum hosts a variety of marine exhibits. Examples of regions from Southern California to the Tropical Pacific are showcased, with over 11,000 different species. One can see sharks, penguins, sea lions, and more.
Families love walking through the underwater tunnels surrounded by swimming sea life. The Aquarium caters to families with autism in many ways. They offer discounts for people with disability and caregivers get in for free. Also, the Aquarium often hosts evening events for families with autism, closing the Aquarium to the rest of the public to mitigate crowds
The Queen Mary
We’ve discussed the Queen Mary quite a bit in this article, and it is no wonder. This 1930’s cruise ship is one of the crown jewels of Long Beach. This beautiful ship is a well-preserved example of 1930’s grandeur.
Other than what we’ve already mentioned, the Queen Mary offers many different tours and packages. The general Queen Mary “passport,” costing about $30 for adults. This package includes a ticket to board the ship, a theater screening with 4-D effects, an audio tour, access to several exhibits (including the model ship gallery and new Winston Churchill art collection) and a choice of either the Glory Days Historic Tour or Haunted Encounters. They also offer other “passports,” including a SolCal residents package and a Royal Passport, and they offer some deals which include the aquarium.
In case you have extra time
A little-known secret of Long Beach is Belmont Shore’s Gondola Getaway. Those who want the experience of a Venetian Gondola can get it here through the Long Beach canals around Belmont Shore. The gondoliers are trained in authentic Italian gondola rowing and even go to Italy to learn directly from the source. Furthermore, families with large groups can book the Brunch of a Boat or Pizza Cruise and enjoy eating delightful Italian foods or pizza from Domenico’s Ristorante as they ride a romantic gondola. One can either reserve a four-person gondola or a more expensive “Carolina” gondola which seats up to fourteen guests.
As a final, small note, another interesting part of Long Beach is a statue of the Virgin Mary. One can find this statue on the promenade by the beach, and people regularly bring flowers to leave with her.
Autism Travel Tips
- Not all areas on the Queen Mary are readily available by those with mobility issues.
- The Queen Mary show features 4-D effects, including winds and scents. This fact might be a problem for smell or touch sensitive visitors.
- Most of the activities on Catalina Island are outdoors. Visitors should take a light jacket, and keep in mind that the only cars allowed on the island are rented golf carts.
- Visitors to Catalina Island should book tours in advance.
- Travelers should book their Queen Mary brunch early in the day so they can take a tour after the meal.
- The Queen Mary brunch offers gluten and casein free options for those who call and request these ahead of time.
- For those booking the Queen Mary brunch with noise sensitivities should seek a table away from the music and dancing.