The city of Long Beach in California has come a very long way since the early 1990s, when, in the words of current Mayor...

Long Beach is also fairly pet-friendly. It has several pet-friendly hotels and in Rosie’s Dog Beach boasts the only off-leash beach for dogs in Los Angeles County. The beach offers more than three acres of shoreline in which dogs can play and go splashing in the water. Dogs are also allowed to accompany their owners on the outside patios of some of the city’s restaurants.

The transformation of Long Beach has created many vibrant neighborhoods through the city. Several are out on its eastern shore. Belmont Shore – a mile down Ocean Boulevard from the downtown area – is known for a 15-block-long strip of shops and outdoor-dining restaurants on Second Street.


Long Beach has a pet-friendly beach where dogs are allowed off the leash to play on the sand and splash in the ocean

Long Beach has a pet-friendly beach where dogs are allowed off the leash to play on the sand and splash in the ocean

 

Still on the shore, immediately east of Belmont Shore, is the Alamitos Bay neighborhood, situated on a narrow peninsula which encloses Alamitos Bay and ends at the mouth of the San Gabriel River. This marks the boundary between Long Beach in Los Angeles County and Seal Beach, a few hundred yards away to the southeast in Orange County. Alamitos Bay has a well-filled marina and lots of shorefront seafood restaurants.

Behind the Alamitos Bay neighborhood, in the bay proper, is Naples Island, connected by three bridges to the mainland. Two of the bridges – at the northwest and northeast areas of the island – carry the busy Second Street thoroughfare, which is dotted with restaurants and other businesses. When traveling along Second Street, you might not actually realize you are suddenly an island – I didn’t, even though I like looking out of the windows of any vehicle in which I’m being transported.

Naples Island is best known for its expensive homes and for its canals, which boast gondolas crewed by Venetian-style gondoliers. (Whether the gondoliers are genuinely Venetian is open to question, though they may well have been trained in Venice by the real thing.) The canals can also be navigated by pedalos, which you can rent on the spot.

Gondolas, pedalos and other boats ply canals at the waterfront community of Naples Island, a Long Beach neighborhood in Alamitos Bay at the southeastern edge of the city

Gondolas, pedalos and other boats ply canals at the waterfront community of Naples Island, a Long Beach neighborhood in Alamitos Bay at the southeastern edge of the city

 

Many visitors to Long Beach – particularly those who visit the city’s eastern, beach neighborhoods – notice a series of islands out in the calm sea between the shore and the long man-made breakwater. At first glance some of these islands look as though they are desert isles, complete with palm trees. Others look as though they have high-rise buildings on them, while some have colored lights and waterfalls.

In fact these islands are carefully disguised offshore oil derricks, erected many years ago. A condition imposed by the city on the oil company (the THUMS Company) in allowing their construction was that the derricks must be pleasing to the eye and that the noise of their operation did not annoy local residents. Hence the expert camouflage job – and according to the city, these oil islands are the only such decorated structures in the U.S.

Growing in popularity with visitors as an emerging Long Beach neighborhood is the Broadway Corridor, which extends from just east of the downtown area to Belmont Shore farther east along the coast. This growing business area has plenty of shops, specialty stores, cafés and restaurants.

Running east of downtown Long Beach to its Belmont Shore neighborhood, the city's emerging Broadway Corridor area has plenty of cafes, shops and restaurants for visitors to explore

Running east of downtown Long Beach to its Belmont Shore neighborhood, the city’s emerging Broadway Corridor area has plenty of cafes, shops and restaurants for visitors to explore

 

A well-regarded Long Beach district is the East Village, located just northeast of the downtown area. The East Village is known for music and entertainment venues and for its Arts District, an area containing galleries, restaurants and shops, many in restored historic buildings. The East Village Arts District also boasts the restored 1924 Art Theatre, an Art Deco building on Fourth Street.

The stretch of Fourth Street between Cherry and Junipero avenues is known locally as ‘Retro Row’ and ‘Funky Fourth Street’, because it is home to Southern California’s most avant-garde collection of vintage-clothing boutiques, as well as antique stores and other shops selling books, furniture and ornamental items from years past.

Another Long Beach neighborhood worth visiting is Bixby Knolls, an inland neighborhood several miles north of downtown. This area has many restaurants and an eclectic variety of cuisines, as well as the Rancho Los Cerritos park – a small remnant of one of the two original, huge “ranchos” which brought European settlers to the area in the mid-19th century – and a theater, as well as the Long Beach Historical Society Museum.

This spectacular sunset photograph captures the beach district of Belmont Shore at the eastern end of the city of Long Beach. There are thousands of boats around the city's waterfront

This spectacular sunset photograph captures the beach district of Belmont Shore at the eastern end of the city of Long Beach. There are thousands of boats around the city’s waterfront

 

In addition to biking, driving or walking, Long Beach residents and visitors alike can easily get around many of the city’s top tourism neighborhoods by hopping on one of its ‘Passport’ shuttle buses.

These shuttle buses are free in the downtown area and make stops at major attractions such as the Queen Mary and the Aquarium of the Pacific, as well as at various of the city’s major hotels. One of the shuttle routes takes riders out through Belmont Shore as far as Naples Island and just beyond; a low fare is charged on this run.

The Passport shuttles operate frequently on three different routes, all of which intersect at the downtown Transit Mall on First Street. The Transit Mall is also the terminus of the Los Angeles Metro’s Blue Line and connects downtown Long Beach with Union Station in the center of Los Angeles. At Union Station, a big Metro connecting hub, other lines connect the Blue Line with other areas of the Los Angeles conurbation such as Hollywood, Pasadena and El Segundo.

The Aqualink ferry connects downtown Long Beach by water transport with Alamitos Bay and Naples Island out at the eastern edge of the city

The Aqualink ferry connects downtown Long Beach by water transport with Alamitos Bay and Naples Island out at the eastern edge of the city

 

To the casual visitor, the shoreline areas of Long Beach feel well-designed and busily attractive. Water taxis and ferries bustle throughout the harbor and sail boats, speedboats and cabin cruisers seem to be moored everywhere you look in Shoreline Village, Rainbow Harbor and across the bridge near the Queen Mary. In the summer, fast catamaran ferries rush visitors to and from Santa Catalina Island 30 miles or so out in the ocean.

East and southeast of the downtown harbor area, the city’s five-and-a-half-mile stretch of beach – the original ‘Long Beach’ – unrolls in a vast swathe of beckoning yellow sand. You get a tremendous view of the entire shoreline from the upper levels of the Queen Mary.

It makes you realize Long Beach has a lot going for it. As a community, Long Beach has worked hard over the past two decades to make the most of its assets and in this second decade of the 21st century it looks like the work is paying off nicely. As an impressed visitor, I say long may this success continue.

The large plaza outside the Terrace Theatre – which is part of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center complex – is often decorated with beautiful colored lights and water fountains, especially during the festive season. Behind the plaza is The Breakers apartment building, originally built as the first Hilton Hotel on the U.S. West Coast

The large plaza outside the Terrace Theater – which is part of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center complex – is often decorated with beautiful colored lights and water fountains, especially during the festive season. Behind the plaza is The Breakers apartment building, originally built as the first Hilton Hotel on the U.S. West Coast

 

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