Enjoy Long Beach Like A Local
Where does this Long Beach native go over and over?
Sure, there's the Queen Mary and The Pike. Heck, Disneyland is only 20 minutes away. Catalina Island is a beautiful day (or longer) trip, too. There are really fancy restaurants and great dive bars. Coincidentally or consequently, there are also hundreds of AA meetings that are very well attended by a lot of swell people trudging the road to happy destiny (wink, wink).
Anyway, you can find all that other stuff easily enough. If you like to get the feel of living in a place, though (without having to go to a job or anything), here are my recommendations for several fun things to do and a few places where I've had consistently delicious food for years. Have a fine time in the town that was once known as Iowa-by-the-Sea and was home to the largest Iowa picnic in the country, as I recall.
Art for art's sake
The Long Beach Museum of Art
is situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It's worth it for the house and setting alone but there is always a lovely and interesting exhibit as well as a substantial permanent collection. The house was built in the early 1900s and has an interesting history that you can find out all about when you visit. Be sure to check for events that might be taking place when you visit. Also, go to the basement in the newer building. Any time I've been down there, there has been wonderful children's art work and I don't want you to miss that.
About 2 miles from LBMA, you'll find the Museum of Latin American Art.
This local treasure is in the place that was the Hippodrome Skating Rink when I was a kid. MOLAA opened in the 1990s and has at least doubled in size since that time. Their exhibits as well as their permanent collection are always breathtaking. Also, there is a sculpture garden that is stunning. As with LBMA, MOLAA often has great workshops as well as entertainment in their sculpture gardens.
Enjoy that beautiful bike path on the beach!
Of course, I always had a bicycle when I lived in Long Beach but now I need to borrow or rent one. Alfredo's is the way to go. With a few different locations and a few different modes of transportation available, you can ride, skate or boat the afternoon away. Unlike the bike path around Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C., it is impossible to get too far away or get lost on the beach path in Long Beach. Even if you don't rent anything, please take walks on the beach. There's a pedestrian lane on the path if you don't want to walk on the sand.
Besides trying to eat an In 'n Out Burger at least once a day while in California, there are a few places I always look forward to ordering up. At the top of that list is SuperMex. http://supermex.com/index.php
I have been eating here since there was only the original takeout location. Now, with several restaurants all over town, I still crave it 40 years later. The carnitas platter, number 11, is my usual order but I do love their chile rellenos and everything else I've ever tasted, which is about everything on the menu by now. If you're a burrito lover, do yourself this favor. The downtown original location and the 2nd Street Belmont Shore restaurant are my usuals. For big family get togethers, we usually meet at the Candlewood location. This is where my CSULB graduation party was held. The service is always friendly are they are awesome with a crowd. Don't be discouraged by a wait. There's a good reason for that line.
Do you need a steak to really feel like you're on vacation? Well, you could go to a nice, upscale steakhouse and, if you do, I recommend the 555 (downtown). Where I'm more likely to go, though, for about $50 a person less, is Haskell's Prospector. You cannot beat this classic joint. There's a nice little bar and a comfy dining room with an old-school wait staff. Monday night used to be prime rib night and probably still is. There's a top sirloin special every night that will satisfy your red meat craving for about 4 months. Several sides are included with dinner. Don't worry about dressing up. http://www.prospectorlongbeach.com/
A little lighter? fancier? perhaps Mediterranean?
Open Sesame http://www.opensesamegrill.com/ has long been recognized for their exquisite Middle Eastern menu, authentically prepared and beautifully served. On 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, it's part of a long stretch of bars and restaurants. Open Sesame has been so popular over the years that it has taken over the corner spot, as well. Unlike most expansions, this one is up the block. I have enjoyed many leisurely and immensely satisfying dinners, as well as the occasional lunch, with loved ones at this excellent restaurant. Whatever on the menu appeals most to you will be delicious. I promise.
Cafe Piccolo, nestled in a block of businesses on fairly busy Broadway Avenue, serves an upscale Italian menu in a really pretty environment. The covered patio is so pleasant and relaxing, especially near the waterfall, that you'll lose track of time over your pasta. So much do I love the spicy dusted scallops that I rarely, if ever, eat scallops other than here. I always really enjoy bites of what everyone else is having, too. http://cafepiccolo.com/
Of course, you'll want breakfast...
I've fallen in love with and been jilted by many breakfast places over the years but this one is going to last; I just know it. Just west of Open Sesame and within a block of Super Mex, is Babette's Feast (4621 E. 2nd Street) where you can enjoy a European-inspired selection of baked goods, espresso drinks, and full breakfasts. I'll tell you the truth, the service is not great - HOWEVER - the food is always a treat and the location, behind the flower cart on the corner is just so nice. Whether I just want a croissant and a latte or a goat cheese and something omelette, I'm always happy with what's on my plate at this sweet little spot. Also, there always seems to be such a pleasant bunch of people eating in the sunshine. Who wouldn't be happy, really?
Look behind the flower cart for Babette's Feast. You'll find Super Mex and Open Sesame within a couple of blocks of here, too.
Here's the Prospector
A little outdoor, ocean view yoga?
O.k., I've never actually made it to one of these yoga classes but I've seen them a few times and will make a point of going on my next trip. People bring their kids and dogs which, if you love that, is awesome and if you don't, you might want to pass on this option.
Dinner and a movie
The Art Theater is a beautiful Art Deco movie venue that has been restored to its former glory by a small group of locals (including my former dentist and his wife). http://www.arttheatrelongbeach.com/
Showing first run films as well as classics, this is the movie outing you want. Before or after that movie, run across the street to Lola's for Mexican food the likes of which I swear you've never tasted and you will never forget. We spent all summer trying to recreate the cilantro dip. Using their abuela's recipes, these young people have started something fantastic that I hope and trust will last at least until my taste buds are gone. http://www.lolasmexicancuisine.com/index.php
Have a bonfire at the beach!
If the ocean is new to you or something you don't experience often (or even if you see it every day), there is nothing like sitting on the cooling sand with a big fire as night falls. Really. Do this. Get some firewood, go to Bolsa Chica State Beach, which is just a short drive down Pacific Coast Highway, pack your picnic, and make a Pacific Ocean memory. Be sure to plan ahead. Beach parties are pretty darn popular. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=642
A few more things to consider
My list is brief but long enough for our purposes today. Other places I love to visit that you might want to look into for yourself are Olvera Street and Chinatown in Los Angeles. They're right next to each other and you can get there on the metro. While you're there, visit the Homegirl Cafe, part of Homeboy Industries. The mission and atmosphere is enough but, as it happens, the food is fantastic. What?! You've never heard of Homeboy Industries?! Please check it out. After hearing Father Greg Boyle speak a few years ago, I looked forward to visiting on my next trip. I ate there 4 out of 7 days that week, each time with a local friend, each of whom have been eating there regularly ever since. Check this out. You'll want to go, too.