Long Beach Survival Guide

Getting to Long Beach

The obvious way to get here is a flight into Los Angeles Airport (or LAX to us way-cool Angelenos). That's not a bad option, but if you can fly into Long Beach, do it. Much smaller airport, closer to town, with infinitely fewer hassles. Jet Blue flies into Long Beach from east-coast airports, super cheap and very good. American, Alaska Airlines, and America West have several flights a day as well.

Getting from Los Angeles Airport ("LAX") to Long Beach

Car Rental:

The car rental lots for the Los Angeles Airport are off-site. Shuttle vans stop at the pedestrian island outside the terminals. Look for the signs above the island to find the stops for the shuttles.

Metro Rail:

  1. When you come out of baggage claim, look up at the triangular signs above the pedestrian island. Look for a blue one saying "LAX Shuttle." Wait under the sign for the large blue shuttle bus (it  runs every 20 minutes). You want route G, labeled "Metro Green Line Aviation Station." Hop on. Itís free.
  2. The bus takes you to Aviation Station, about a 10-minute ride. You will need to get a "tap card" from the vending machine ($1.00, I think). Fund it with an additional $7.00. That should be enough to get you to Long Beach and to return to LAX. 
  3. Take the train in the direction marked "I105/I605" or maybe "Norwalk." These are intentionally cryptic to confuse the tourists. We donít use the terms "east" and "west" in LA. Thatís too simple. 
  4. At Imperial-Wilmington station (also called Rosa Parks station, further to confuse out-of-towners), transfer to the Blue Line train, south to Long Beach. The Blue Line station is right below the Green Line station. (Youíll see what I mean.) Be sure to tap your card on the reader before you enter the station. (You'll see what I mean.)
  5. This train line terminates at the transit mall in Long Beach. This is a short walk from downtown hotels. See the map below to find your hotel.

Taxis and Vans:

A taxi will probably cost $70-$80 from LAX to downtown Long Beach, plus whatever the driver can steal from you. 

Shared-ride vans cost $40-$50. Look for the sign above the pedestrian island. An attendant at the van stop will ask where you want to go and will call a van for you. 

Uber has been fighting to get permission to pick up passengers at LAX, with predictable resistance from the taxi and van companies. By time you read this, they may have succeeded; check with them. In any case, they have always been able to drop off passengers at LAX, so you can use them at least for your return trip.  

To get to the Long Beach Airport Hotels: The simplest way, although perhaps not the fastest, is to take the Metro Rail to the transit mall, then take the Route 111 bus north. For the Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America, and Residence Inn, get off at the Lakewood and Willow Street intersection; for the Marriott, get off at Spring St and Lakewood. Map

Getting from Long Beach Airport to Downtown Long Beach

As of 2011, there is a lot of new construction at the LB Airport, including changes to the access roads. The location of the bus stops and access to them may change without warning, so don't be too surprised if the information below is not perfectly accurate. 

From the airport, take bus Route 111 south. The stop is on the far side of the parking structure from the terminal building. When you get your baggage, cross the street, walk around the parking structure on the left side, and you'll see the stop. Be sure to get the southbound bus; the bus stop is on a one-way street, so both directions use the same stop. The bus goes all the way to the transit mall in Long Beach, which is a short walk from downtown hotels. Use the map below to find your hotel.

Note that the bus schedule is sparse at night, so if you arrive late, you probably will have to take a taxi. 

Taxis from the Long Beach airport to downtown Long Beach charge a flat-rate fee of $23 (as of mid 2015). They charge similarly reasonable flat rates to certain other common destinations such as Anaheim, LAX, and downtown Los Angeles. The taxi stand is to the left of the parking structure, across the street from the terminal building.

To get to the Long Beach Airport Hotels: Both the Marriott and Holiday Inn advertise free shuttle service. (You will have to call from the airport.) You can walk to the Marriott (1.0 mile/1.6 km); click here for a map. The Holiday Inn, Extended Stay, and Residence Inn (1.6 mile/2.5 km), are within walking distance, but to get there, you must walk through a tunnel on Lakewood Boulevard and negotiate a short stretch of Lakewood Boulevard that has no sidewalk. The east side of the street is best; cross at Spring Street or before. The walk is not unsafe, but, all in all, it might be better to take a taxi or a shuttle. 

Other Airports

Two other airports in the Los Angeles area are Orange County Airport (also called John Wayne Airport) and Ontario Airport. Orange County/John Wayne is a good airport, in spite of its stupid name, and is about as far from Long Beach as LAX. It is somewhat easier to negotiate than LAX; I like to use it. The only reasonable ways to get from OC/JW to Long Beach are by a rental car, an airport shuttle van, or, of course, a taxi (which will be pretty expensive). I know little about Ontario Airport, but my impression is of a small, local airport not unlike Long Beach. It's quite some distance from Long Beach, so I doubt that it is a reasonable option.

Where to Stay in Long Beach

As I usually suggest, find a hotel on the web. Some options I have used:

Hotels.com 

Budget Hotels

Expedia

Orbitz

Of course, for IEEE members, there is also the IEEE travel service, with their not-particularly-good prices and exorbitant fees. 

Any of the downtown hotels should be OK. Be careful, though: Long Beach gets a little creepy north of the downtown area. Stay in any of the large hotels along Ocean Blvd, or in some of the smaller ones within a couple blocks of Ocean. North of this, it's OK during the day, but I wouldn't want to come home late at night to a hotel at LB Blvd. and Anaheim Blvd (at least not unarmed). East of the immediate downtown area is also fine; say, east of the 2500 block of Pacific Coast Highway, the farther the better. To the west it stays creepy for quite some distance, in part because of the Los Angeles harbor area. 

For example, there is a Holiday Inn at 11th and Atlantic, which might be a tempting place to stay. This is not a good neighborhood, however. It's OK during the day, but if you plan to use this hotel, rent a car or take a taxi if you must return after dark. Same story for the Best Western at Long Beach Blvd and Pacific Coast Highway, which is otherwise a nice, new hotel. 

The big hotels on Ocean are the Hilton, Renaissance, and Westin. There are also a Vagabond Inn, Travelodge, Courtyard, and Rodeway in the downtown area close to the convention center. The West Coast Long Beach hotel and Queen Mary are on the opposite side of the bay from the city. These are practical, if you don't mind about a mile's walk to the downtown area; you might also be able to take the water taxi, although it doesn't run very often. You can cross Queensway Bridge on foot (nice view of the city from it!); there is even a bike path. The Queen Mary's rates are not outrageous. 

Two hotels, the Airport Marriott and Airport Holiday Inn, are good hotels, a bit cheaper than the downtown ones. They have good access to the airport and reasonable access, by bus, to the downtown area. A nice-looking Residence Inn is on Willow St. a block or so west of the Holiday Inn. An Extended Stay America hotel is next door to it. Click here for a map. 

Problem is, there aren't a lot of hotels in Long Beach. If you can't find an acceptable room in a downtown hotel, it's probably best to stay elsewhere in the LA area, rent a car, and drive into town. Parking in downtown Long Beach is not particularly difficult. It's not inexpensive, but still cheaper than most other large cities. Don't plan on taking the Metro Rail Blue Line very far late at night. It goes through some creepy areas and doesn't run very often after rush hour. 

Getting Your Bearings 

The map at right should get you started. Click on the map to download a more detailed one. 

Long Beach Boulevard is the main north-south street; Ocean Boulevard is the east-west one. They intersect in front of the Performing Arts Center, and just behind this is the Convention Center. The Hyatt Regency is behind the Convention Center, but attached to it. On the opposite side of Shoreline Drive from the hotel is the harbor, and to the west is the Pike. The convention center is along Pine Avenue south of Ocean; Pine Avenue north of Ocean is where the action is.  

The transit mall is on First St. between Long Beach Blvd. and Pine Ave. 

Most of the larger hotels are along Ocean.

Getting Around Long Beach

Long Beach has a wonderful bus called the Passport. It has four routes, A, C, D, and one called the Pine Avenue Link. Stops with route information are located all over town. It's free of charge in the downtown area; west of Alamitos Ave., the fare is only $0.90. Exact change (or a willingness to overpay) is required. Click here for Passport info.

Long Beach also has a bus line. Click here for general Long-Beach Transit info.

Finally, donít forget Metro Rail, the light rail line, which can take you all over the LA area. The Blue Line is the one that goes from Long Beach to downtown LA.

There supposedly is a water taxi called the Aqualink or Aquabus, which operates during the summer. Iíve never seen it operating, but I suppose it does, occasionally. The loading dock is in the harbor area. See the Passport web page for routes, which, I understand, are a little illogical.

Places to Eat 

Long Beach has some really nice brewery restaurants, and other places with lots of really good beer. You even can get something to eat in them. There are also a lot of restaurants without good beer, but I can't imagine why anyone might want to go to them. 

There are five main areas for all you party types: The Pike, Pine Avenue, The East Village, Shoreline Village, and Second Street in Belmont Shore.

The Pike is the area around the convention center. You wonít have any trouble finding it; itís right across the street. If youíre wondering about the name:it comes from the old amusement park that was on that site in the 1920s, and was mostly destroyed by the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. The new one has restaurants, movie theaters, and a few retail stores. I like The Auld Dubliner for their beer and atmosphere, but the food isn't great. 

There are several new restaurants near the harbor, across Shoreline Drive from the main part of the Pike: Gladstone's (seafood), PF Chang (Chinese, duh!), Chili's (Tex-Mex), Outback (cow), and a Japanese restaurant with an improbable name like Tokyo Wako. Also a Bubba Gump shrimp place near the Aquarium. More popping up every week. 

Pine Avenue is the main restaurant and entertainment district in downtown Long Beach. It is a short walk from the convention center, or you can take the Pine Avenue Link. My favorite place on Pine is George's Greek Deli, between 1st and 2nd Sts. King's Fish House and Sevilla are good, too. The streaks at the Argentine Grill are the best I've found in the US. I also like Rock Bottom Brewery for the beer, but the food is variable. There are lots of high-end restaurants along Pine. 

By the way, Pine Avenue has free wireless internet access available from 1st St. to 4th St. The Long Beach Airport also has free wireless internet access. Eat your heart out, LAX! 

The East Village is between Ocean Blvd and Fourth St. for the three or four blocks east of Long Beach Blvd. There are a number of pleasant, folksy restaurants there. Our favorite is Utopia, at First St. and Linden Ave.

Shoreline Village is on the east side of the harbor. It has been around for quite some time. It hosts a couple of good restaurants, more bad ones, and some tourist-oriented stores. You either love this kind of thing or hate it. The only really good store, in my opinion, is the one that sells salt water taffy in bulk. Your wife may see things differently.

Parkerís Lighthouse (seafood) is the best restaurant in Shoreline Village; you will need reservations. The Yard House is good for beer (>200 varieties on tap), but I've had problems with the food.

Second Street in Belmont Shore has more of a seaside-resort feel. I like it. Unfortunately, a lot of the older restaurants and independent coffee shops are being supplanted by fast food and Starbucks. BJís is great for pizza and good beer; a branch of George's Greek Deli can also be found there. Supermex is inexpensive and has very good, basic, Mexican food. Two good barbecue restaurants are the Naples Rib Joint, about a mile east of Alamitos Bay, and Lucille's, in the heart of the Second St. area. Lucille's is OK, but NRJ is better by far. The Belmont Brewing Co., next to the Belmont Pier, just west of the Second St. area, is a microbrewery restaurant. It's also quite good, and the outdoor seating by the beach is extremely nice. Second St. has several friendly bars and lots of good ethnic restaurants, too. My favorite is the Magic Lamp, which offers extraordinarily good Lebanese food. 

The Passport bus, route A, will take you to all these places from downtown for $0.90. You also can take either the Passport or the water taxi, if you can find it, to the Queen Mary. The QM has a restaurant I have never tried, reportedly first class food, definitely first-class prices.

Other Things to See and Do

Go to The Beach

While you're visiting Long Beach, your family, spouse, partner, lover, or mistress-pretending-to-be-your-secretary probably will want to spend some time at the beach. There are several options. The obvious one is to go to the beach east of the marina behind the Convention Center, maybe half a mile away. This is quite a, well, long beach, stretching all the way to Alamitos Bay, east of Belmont Shore. The ocean in this area is fine for kids, because a breakwater about a mile offshore reduces the surf to virtually nothing. 

A second option is Alamitos Bay. The bay is peaceful, not too deep, warmer, and altogether more pleasant. This is a favorite area for families with small children, because it's calm and uncrowded, making it easy to keep an eye on the kids. The beach is at the east end of the Second Street area. Take the Passport bus, route A, and get off just before the first bridge. The beach area is to the right of that bridge.

A third area, at the Marine Stadium, is also very quiet, pleasant, and also good for kids. (Locally it's called Mothers' Beach.) Get off the passport just before the second bridge, cross Second St. and work your way off to the left of the bridge. (You must find your way between the houses and trees; it looks impenetrable from the bus stop, but the route through the thicket will become obvious when you get there.) There is a pleasant park adjacent to the beach, ideal for picnics. It even has kayak rentals. 

Go to the Aquarium

The Long Beach Aquarium is about a half mile east of the convention center, between the Pike and the shore. To get there, from the downtown area, walk east along Shoreline Drive and make a left just before the parking structure. You'll see it from Shoreline Drive. The aquarium has an extremely nice collection. There is also an outdoor touch tank for the kids, and the Lorakeet Forest, an aviary. The regular admission cost is high, unfortunately; $28.95 for adults. Click here for the aquarium website. 

See the Long Beach Art Museum

Long Beach has a small art museum, perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The permanent collection is not huge or special, but they have frequent special exhibits that often are. Even if you don't visit the museum, it's pleasant to sit in the cafe and look out over the ocean while sipping your coffee. 

Another good museum is the Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) at 628 Alamitos Avenue. Again, it has a small permanent collection, but the visiting shows are usually more special. A few years ago, for example, it hosted the Diego Rivera show, beating out the LA Art Museum for it. 

Click here for the LB Museum website and here for the MoLAA website. 

Go Whale Watching

California Gray Whales migrate south in November and December, then return north in January through about March. Several places in the marina, near the aquarium, offer whale-watching tours. If you are in Long Beach at the right time of year, this is a wonderful thing to do. You might see other fascinating marine life, as well. For example, I once saw a school of several thousand dolphins. 

Take a Harbor Tour

Similarly, you can get a boat tour of the Los Angeles Harbor from many of the same places that offer whale-watching tours. Sounds boring, I know, but it's actually fascinating. Trust me.

Rent a Bike and Tool Along the Shore

Bike and pedal-car rentals are available from the snack stand at the east end of the marina. You can also get them from the Bikestation, at First St. and the Promenade, which parallels Pine Ave. one block to the east. 

Take a Cruise to Catalina

Santa Catalina island, technically one of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands, is about 25 miles offshore. On clear days, it can be seen easily. The ships drop you off at the main town on the island, Avalon, which is a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. You can arrange tours of the island, see its native buffalo, and visit the Wrigley Mansion (yes, the folks who made the chewing gum). Fishing and diving are also popular there, but you'll have to ask someone else how to arrange such things. The cruises leave from the Catalina Cruise Terminal, which is on Golden Shore, just West of the aquarium. The easiest way to get there is to go behind the aquarium, then under the bridge. 

Web Sites

Long Beach Visitors' Bureau

City of Long Beach

LongBeach.com

Long Beach Airport

LB at GoCalifornia


This page is revised occasionally. Check back from time to time for updates. 
Last modified 9 November, 2015