Coney Island of the West
March 26, 2009
Filed under Destinations
Long before Hollywood and longer still before Disneyland, Long Beach in Southern California boasted bushel loads of famous people, places and activities, which its better-known counterparts wouldn’t claim until decades later. It was here along this beautiful stretch of seaside that silent-era stars such as W. C. Fields and Buster Keaton could be seen sauntering on the boardwalk. And the wild and wonderful amusement park known as The Pike attracted thousands of adventurers year-round to frolic in the 345 days of sunshine.
Long Beach found its wings in the Roaring Twenties when oil was discovered in the region and the building boom began. Today, the town of approximately 500,000 is the fifth largest metropolis in the Golden State, featuring one of the largest ports in the country. From its port, vacationers can climb aboard a harbor cruise, a catamaran to Catalina and even a cruise ship to Mexico and beyond. Many of the most colorful attractions of the city can be found along or close to the water.
During World War II, Adolph Hitler was so perturbed by the huge number of troops being carried across the Atlantic Ocean in the Queen Mary ocean-liner that he offered the Iron Cross and the equivalent of $250,000 to the U-boat captain who sank her! Today, tourists can tour this magnificent ship, have a drink in the stunningly elegant Observation Bar and even spend the evening among the ship’s famous art-deco designs by booking a room in the Hotel Queen Mary. Visitors should make time for a stroll through the Queen Mary Seawalk and its 19th-century replicated British village with quaint shops and eating establishments.
Another days-of-yore district in the area deserves some attention. Nearby Shoreline Village, which cloaks shops and a marina in the garb of a century-old fishing hamlet, provides a delightful afternoon for walkers. Around the corner, visitors will experience the seaside communities of Belmont Shore and Naples. Fifteen blocks of shopping, dining and entertainment stretch along Second Street in Belmont Shore, while miles of canals, some featuring Italian Gondola rides, beckon. Of course a visit to the harbor/port area of Long Beach would not be complete without several hours spent at the modern Aquarium of the Pacific. Located at the downtown waterfront Rainbow Harbor, the outstanding facility features three major permanent galleries that lead visitors “through” the Pacific Ocean.
And for those who haven’t gained their water legs yet, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the International City Theatre Company and the Long Beach Opera Company should keep their attention for a few days.
This lovely seaside town that began as part of a 1784 Spanish Land Grant, today holds numerous World Records, including the World’s Largest Mural (Planet Ocean by Wyland); the mural is 10 stories tall and covers the entire square-foot surface of the Long Beach Arena. Other world records include World’s Largest Selection of Beer on Tap; World’s Longest Breakwater; and the World’s Largest Selection of Hats, found at the Village Hat Shop in Shoreline Village.
Long Beach is 22 miles south of Los Angeles and 90 miles north of San Diego. Check your Trailer Life RV Parks, Campgrounds & Services Directory for camping in the area, and see the park review below.
For more information, go to www.visitlongbeach.com.