The Best of Long Beach

Article excerpt

The city offers many enjoyable to spend your time away from conference Nikki Swartz

If you only have a few days to see Long Beach, don't miss the oceanfront city's biggest and best-known attractions. Just hop on the Passport, Long Beach's free shuttle bus that picks sightseers up throughout downtown.

At more than 1,000 feet long, the Queen Mary (www.queenmary.com) is quite a sight. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the floating ship remains one of the most famous in history. She made 1,001 transatlantic trips between 1934 and 1964, ferrying soldiers, statesmen, celebrities, and royals, and it was here that Winston Churchill signed the D-Day invasion papers. Over the years, employees, guests, and visiting psychics have reported unexplainable events and paranormal activity aboard the ship. The Queen Mary features 365 hotel staterooms, award-winning restaurants, a wedding chapel, 16 art deco reception salons, and a great view of Long Beach.

On the other side of the Queensway Bay, the renowned Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (www.aquariumofpacific.org) houses more than 550 species from three Pacific Rim regions. see a full-scale model of a blue whale. Explore the Southern California and Baja Gallery areas, whose inhabitants include seals, sea lions, and jellyfish. View diving birds, sea otters, and giant spider crabs. The Tropical Pacific area features dazzling coral reefs recreations, angelfish, puffer sharks, and sea dragons, which are bred here. Also popular is Shark Lagoon, home to 150 sharks. Visitors can touch - if they dare.

For a dollar, the Village Tour D'art bus line will take you to unique neighborhoods, museums, and sites. Climb onboard at stops, a minute's walk from most downtown hotels, and hop on and off as often as you like. Long Beach's history- and diversity-rich neighborhoods offer a unique perspective of the city. The funky East Village Arts District boasts myriad art galleries, antique shops, cafés, and ethnic restaurants. Architecture buffs can set their sights on St. Anthony's Church and the Lafayette Building, both state historical landmarks. Don't miss the vintage chic and retro shops that dot 4th Street. Just north is the Museum of Latin American Art (www.molaa.com), the only museum in the western United States dedicated to the work of contemporary Latin artists. Long Beach's cultural gem, the Long Beach Museum of Art (www.lbma.org), which recently received a multimillion dollar expansion, showcases 5,000 paintings and drawings with emphasis in early 20th-century European art and California Modernism. The museum is free on the first Friday of each month. Just west of East Village, Victorian, Craftsman, and restored Art Deco structures are showcased in the North Pine District. Trendy Pine Avenue features fine-dining, shopping, and diverse entertainment that celebrates world culture and ethnicity.

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor (www.shop-thepike.com), an open-air entertainment, shopping, and dining destination located on the downtown Long Beach waterfront features a 14-screen stadium theater complex, chain restaurants, and fine retail stores. Another popular tourist stop is Shoreline Village, a replica of an early California seaport, at downtown's Queensway Bay. Pick up souvenirs at the many charming stores, then board a harbor cruise or have lunch at one of the renowned restaurants. Here you can rent a small sailing vessel to explore posh Alamitos Bay or to venture out into the Pacific. If you prefer, relax with an authentically clad gondolier, who will navigate you smoothly though the placid canals surrounding Naples Island. …

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