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Arts and Entertainment

39 Reasons Why We Love Long Beach

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We'll just say it: Long Beach is underrated. It's just far enough away from Los Angeles to feel a little bit more relaxed, cheaper and friendlier. But it's just close enough to be an easy day trip (or to ponder moving there for good). It's rich in arts, culture and music, and there are plenty of unique festivals held there all year long to keep you coming back. It has its own unique vibe. Long Beach seems to welcome people from all walks of life, and it's home to a diverse LGBT scene, rockabilly fans and comic book nerds. As in Los Angeles, it's all about finding your own village. If all you know about the seventh largest city in California is that it's the home of the Queen Mary and huge ports, read on to learn more.

Prospector bar in Long Beach (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
Long Beach also knows how to drink. First things first: Long Beach has a slew of dive bars that rival Los Angeles'. Places like Fern's Cocktails and the Prospector offer a rockabilly vibe and weekly karaoke. The Prospector and Alex's Bar are the best places to see live music in the city. For a straight-up dive, the Red Room is great for close-quartered hipster meetups, while V Room leans towards an older crowd and is the perfect place for quiet drinks and pool during the week. And if you want vegan-friendly Mexican food sent right to your table while you pound beers and watch TV (and who wouldn't?), Reno Room can't be beat. —Billy Gil

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"Loveless" cocktail at Stache Bar, made of hibiscus-infused Jameson, avocado honey syrup, Sola strawberry jam and grapefruit bitters (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
But if fancy-pants craft cocktails are your thing, you're in luck, too. Stache Bar, a hidden gem down the street from Retro Row, will meet you halfway with the dive bar atmosphere and stellar craft cocktails. It's a dimly-lit and cozy spot, perfect for hipsters, but not overrun by them, and almost has a Cheers vibe to it in terms of how friendly the staff is. Besides their huge whiskey selection and craft beers on taps, they're really known for their Moscow Mule that's made with their housemade ginger beer. And yes, they serve that in a copper mug. They've got classics like a Tom Collins or Pimm's Cooler but also unique cocktails like their Jasmine Lemonade made with organic jasmine liqueur or their Mouth Brow made with hibiscus liqueur. The drinks won't break the bank either for being craft cocktails. If you're not talking to the friendly bartenders, feel free to catch a movie on their TVs, play some pool and curate your own tunes on their eclectic jukebox.Stache Bar is located at 941 E 4th St, Long Beach, (562) 606-2529.

It has the perfect fruity beer for happy hour with a gorgeous view. Belmont Brewing Company is a decent enough bar and grill in Belmont Shore but it has two very good things going for it: It’s right on the water, and their home-brewed strawberry ale is killer. It’s not for sugar-averse, as it packs a Fruity Pebbles-level of sweetness, but it also has just the right amount of bite, making it immensely drinkable on a warm day. Buy a pitcher and pair it with some poke and you’ve got the perfect ocean-view happy hour. —Billy Gil

Belmont Brewing Company is located at 25 39th Pl, Long Beach, (562) 433-3891

A biscuitwich at Sweet Dixie Kitchen in Long Beach (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
Long Beach has solid brunch options. Sweet Dixie Kitchen is a cozy breakfast joint and bakery that specializes in Southern food. You can get pies, scones, or freshly-made buttery biscuits. You can choose biscuits of the cheddar herb or jalapeno cheddar variety to make biscuitwitches, filled eggs and chorizo that you can get smothered in spicy sausage gravy. Another place to check out is Breakfast Bar. Don't let the fact that it is located inside of a Travelodge deter you! They have breakfast appetizers, which is a concept we can gladly get behind. Breakfast Dip is a Mexican egg, salsa, sausage and avocado dip that you can scoop up with chip or slather on breakfast sliders with egg, gravy, bacon or sausage. Plus these guys have plenty of vegetarian options, so there's something for everyone. While Starling Diner's brunch menu offers lots of comfort food with a twist (think stuffed french toast with berries and roast beef hash), but what we especially love are their tasty mimosas that come in flavors like peach-mango or pear, and adorned with flowers and lavender. Coffee Cup Cafe is an old-school diner and a staple that’s been in Long Beach 20 years. Slide into a booth or a seat at the counter, and the friendly staff will help you to some french toast or a chile verde omelet.

Drinking goes well with pizza, too. Fortunately, Long Beach has the perfect Thai curry pizza you never knew you needed. Previously, all pizza and Thai food had in common was that they both sounded good whether you were sober, drunk or hungover. The folks at Dean's Pizza must have taken notice of that coincidence. Their Thai curry pizza is to die for, with basil and curry instead of tomato sauce and either chicken or fried tofu. Some may feel that it's a sacrilegious combination, but one taste and you'll become a curry pizza convert. It'll be like the first time you tried Sriracha on pizza—life-changing. —Billy Gil

Dean's Pizza is located at 929 Redondo Ave., Long Beach, (562) 987-3295

It also has some really wonderful traditional pizza. Of course, if normal pizza (but, like, really good normal pizza) is what you’re looking for, Michael’s On Naples has you covered. It’s actually two spots: Michael’s On Naples is a swanky place with a terrific wine selection, rooftop dining and classy live music, while right next door, Michael’s Pizzeria is more down-home but with the same delicious pizza, offering fancy toppings like rapini and manila clams alongside the usual favorites. Don’t know how fancy you want this Tinder date to be? Head to Michael’s and decide when you get there. —Billy Gil

Michael's on Naples is located at 5620 E 2nd St, Long Beach, (562) 439-7080. Michael's Pizzeria is located at 5616 E 2nd St., Long Beach, (562) 987-4000

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Chianina Burger from Working Class Kitchen in Long Beach looks seriously decadent (Photo via Instagram)
It's also got an incredible, decadent burger. Working Class Kitchen has a deli where you can pick up sausages, ribeyes and even rabbit, but most people come for the burgers. If their tender chianina burger wasn’t decadent and delicious enough, you can add foie gras to it for an added kick. The deli might scare off those who don’t enjoy viewing raw meat, but their grilled cheese panini and beet salads get the vegetarian thumbs-up. Pair that with fries, a draft beer and a walk across the street to check out antiques and drought-resistant plants at the Urban Americana, and the corner of Anaheim Street and Coronado gives Retro Row a run for its money. —Billy Gil

Working Class Kitchen is located at 1322 Coronado Ave, Long Beach, (562) 494-0306

Restaurants welcome pets with open arms. One thing that sets Long Beach apart from many cities is its dog-friendliness. Unlike many parts of Los Angeles, apartments here allow pets, and businesses often go out of their way to welcome furry companions. Many restaurants have created open patios where diners can sit with pooches to enjoy a meal and the outdoors. The Attic is a restaurant built into one of the many Craftsman homes that populate Long Beach. Their menu is an eclectic blend of American and international delights like FGT, or fried green tomatoes Benedict, St. Louis style short ribs, market vegetable risotto and a machaca breakfast burrito. But they are known for their Mac 'n Cheetos, which is three-cheese covered macaroni topped with crumbled hot cheetos and green onions, which a choice of add-ons, such as candied cayenne bacon. Not only does Number Nine in Fourth Street's Retro Row offer a new, modern twist on Vietnamese cuisine like pho noodle soup and banh mi sandwiches, the restaurant added a patio for dog-friendly outdoor seating. Bamboo creates a pleasant ambiance in keeping with Number Nine's chic, minimalist aesthetic. Noodles, good beer and your pooch by your side—what more do you need? Lola's Mexican Cuisine just a couple doors down from Number Nine also built a dog-friendly patio. Lola's features gourmet Mexican food at a fair price. Specialties include mole chicken, one of which is made with California golden figs, carnitas and butternut squash enchiladas. Items that set them apart are green cream sauce bring out for free with tortilla chips before your meal and their guacamole, which is fresh and just right. Everything is good, but always better when your dog is next to you. At Last Cafe is a pleasant, cozy restaurant that recently took over their corner at Orange Avenue and Second Street, added some umbrellas and tables, and voila!, a dog-friendly patio was born. At Last features classic comfort food, like mac 'n cheese, meatloaf, BLTs, burgers and brick chicken. It's a laid-back, casual, stress-free environment coupled with quality, satisfying food. —Bethania Palma Markus

Dog Beach in Long Beach (Photo by Bethania Palma Markus/LAist)
It has the only beach in Los Angeles County where dogs can roam free. Doggies can run free in the sand and waves on Rosie's Dog Beach between Roycroft and Granada avenues in Long Beach. Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., you can bring Fluffy or Fido to romp and play, get wet and exhausted running around the beach with other doggie friends, so long as your pet is licensed, trustworthy off-leash and not aggressive. —Bethania Palma Markus

Rosie's Dog Beach is located at 5000 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach

Look how carefree these two are biking in Long Beach! (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
It's the most bike-friendly city in Southern California. Cyclists don't need to fear for their lives in Long Beach, the same way they do in other cities. Last year, Long Beach got a third-place ranking for the most bike-friendly city in the nation based on the low number of bicycle facilities per square mile, according to a report from the advocacy group, Alliance for Biking & Walking. The city has made a big push to make its infrastructure bike-friendly. More than 80 miles of Long Beach streets have marked bicycle lanes and routes, which make up 10 percent of city. There are traffic lights just for cyclists. It's a great place to go on scenic rides, too. There's an extra 40 miles worth of bike paths along the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers. And the city hands out maps of cool bike routes, including a ride past the waterfront homes of Naples and other routes that go through historic neighborhoods and wetlands. Long Beach is also really proactive in educating residents about cycling safety and sharing the road.

Walter Pyramid at Cal State Long Beach (Photo via Facebook)
It's got a vibrant art scene. There's the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Museum of Latin American Art, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum. There's even a whole neighborhood dedicated to the art scene: the East Valley Arts District, located in downtown Long Beach. It's home to little galleries, indie shops, and the city's Art Walk held on the second Saturdays of every month. The monthly Art Walk is a party within itself with art galleries open those nights with live music, food trucks and vendors around. It has the craziest pyramid-style building you’ve seen outside of Vegas. Tucked away at Cal State Long Beach is a stunning and massive cobalt-blue pyramid, dubbed Walter Pyramid, that serves as a sports venue and event space for the campus. This baby can seat 5,000 and sits18-stories high, so you can see it miles away. It has some celebrity status, too: Space Jam and Starship Troopers were filmed here.

Mosaic artwork at Long Beach Airport (Photo courtesy the City of Long Beach)
Even the Long Beach Airport has really cool mosaic artwork. The airport has intricate mosaic tile artwork with designs like ships or birds. The mosaics, which were created in 1941, were uncovered after the airport underwent maintenance and folks discovered this treasure lined on the floor under carpeting. Now, the mosaics are back up for travelers to enjoy.

Walter Pyramid is located at Cal State Long Beach at 1250 N Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, (562) 985-4111

Jellyfish at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach (Photo by Jeff via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
It's got the best aquarium in Los Angeles County. If you ever wanted to take a walk (swim?) on the wild side in Long Beach, then the Aquarium of the Pacific is the perfect place to lose yourself for a full day. The biggest aquarium in the southern half of the state, its wonders include the resident giant sea bass in the 3-story kelp forest tank, playful puffins and sea otters in its Northern Pacific Gallery, and the colorful corals of the Tropical Pacific Gallery. Not everything here is behind glass—you can safely pet sharks in the touch pools or feed the friendly lorikeets sweet nectar in the 3,000 square foot aviary outside. A new jellyfish exhibit should also be a pretty cool thing to visit if you're mind has been altered in form or another—if you catch my drift. Get it? Drift? And if you're interested in seeing some marine life that's too big to be housed in an aquarium tank, their neighbors Harbor Breeze Cruises offer regular cruises to check out dolphins, killer whales, and humpback whales. Visit during the right time of year to make sure you're there for the gray whale migration or blue whale migration. Guides on the cruises include some of the aquarium staff, and you can even purchase discounted ticket packages that include Harbor Breeze Cruise excursions. —Carman Tse

The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way. Harbor Breeze Cruises is located next to the aquarium. Check their website or call (562) 432-4900 for information on cruise schedules.

Skinny House in Long Beach (Photo via DRosenbach/Wikipedia Commons)
There are plenty of neat historical buildings and landmarks to check out. Since Long Beach was built in the 20th century, there's a lot of history when it comes to cool landmarks and historical buildings. In the historic Rose Park neighborhood sits a famous home built in 1932, dubbed "Skinny House." It's so thin that it even has a Guinness Book of World Records award for being the narrowest house in the nation. The three-story house is just a mere nine-feet wide. Tucked away in Bixby Hill is the Rancho Los Alamitos historic ranch and gardens. You can tour the historic 7.5-acre premises that became Rancho Los Alamitos back in 1833. The ranch is still decked out in old furniture, serving as a time capsule to the past. You can check out the barn that have live animals walking around, and roam through the gardens. And did we mention it's free to visit? There are also plenty of cool historic buildings within Long Beach's historic districts where you can check out the architecture of homes built in the early to mid 1900s, from Spanish Colonial Revival to Craftsman and Tudor Revival homes. And then there are all the Art Deco buildings from the Lafayette Hotel to the Long Beach Skating Palace and Acres of Books. For a full list of all the historical landmarks in Long Beach, visit this website.

Long Beach is gay-friendly with rainbow flags hanging up throughout the neighborhoods (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
It has bars for every kind of gay—even lady gays! Long Beach is really gay. The dozen or so LGBT bars and establishments in Long Beach, mostly along the rainbow road that is Broadway, cater to a clientele of varying ages, body types and identities, often all at the same bar, giving it a distinct feel from toned-up WeHo and the otters ‘n’ bears of Silver Lake. The Falcon, the Brit and Mineshaft move sequentially from younger to older in median age, though all are welcome at every bar. This is true of most Long Beach bars in general, where you’ll find gay and straight clientele alike. The Sweetwater Saloon serves mostly female patrons, a blessing in the lesbian-bar desert that is Los Angeles. Off Broadway you'll find Club Ripples in Belmont Shore and Executive Suite off PCH for dancing. And while plenty of bars in Long Beach (not just the gay ones!) have a wonderfully seedy vibe, places farther from the beach like Pistons and The Crest take that notion and really run with it. Whether you’re tired of your same ol’ scene or looking for a place that feels a little more inclusive, Long Beach is your place. —Billy Gil

Long Beach Pride Parade (Photo by Bethania Palma Markus/LAist)
Its Pride Parade rivals the best. Long Beach doesn't have the national reputation West Hollywood or San Francisco’s Castro District do for being gay-friendly but it really should. Exhibit A is the annual Long Beach Pride parade and festival. Every year throughout May, there’s a festive spirit afoot as businesses and homes around the Alamitos Beach neighborhood start displaying rainbow flags in anticipation of the parade. The city puts banners along Ocean Boulevard, and the weekend before Memorial Day the festivities begin. Reflecting the city itself, parade-goers are a diverse, laid-back crowd who line the streets wearing colored beads, waving rainbow flags and waving at government leaders, local businesses and organizations marching along the route on Ocean between Lindero and Alamitos avenues. There's always a blow-out party after the parade with star performances. You have to buy tickets for the show but it's worth it—this year Patti LaBelle headlined. One thing that sets Long Beach Pride apart from other cities' festivals is that the parade route hugs the beach. If you don't want to buy tickets to the celebration, parade-goers can head down to the sand afterward and spend the rest of the day at the beach for free. —Bethania Palma Markus

Harvey Milk Promenade Park (Photo by Bethania Palma Markus/LAist)
It has the only park dedicated to Harvey Milk. As yet one more testament to the fact Long Beach is one of the most unsung gay-friendly communities, the city designated a plaza that includes a historic mosaic at 3rd Street and Promenade as Harvey Milk Promenade Park. Milk was the first openly gay elected official, serving on San Francisco’s board of supervisors until he was assassinated in 1978. According to former mayor Bob Foster, who oversaw the grand opening, it’s the first park in the country to be named honoring the slain, trailblazing leader. As a tribute to Milk, the plaza includes a soapbox. Milk liked to symbolically stand on a soapbox when he spoke to the public. —Bethania Palma Markus

Dong Mai Market in Long Beach (Photo by Bethania Palma Markus)
Its Cambodia Town is home to one of the largest populations of Cambodians outside Southeast Asia. You’ll find Cambodia town in the corridor along Anaheim Street between Junipero and Atlantic avenues. It's home to the lead singer of eclectic band Dengue Fever and countless mom-and-pop food joints everywhere you look. There's authentic pho and banh mi. Or if you're looking for Khmer fare, there are places like Siem Reap or Monorom. Cambodia Town also has some stellar Asian supermarkets, like Dong Maion Anaheim and Orange, where you can get everything from giant jack fruits to fresh produce, meat and seafood. They also sell super cheap but super cute kitchen flare, so you can get china tea cups and oolong tea all under the same roof. Because the corridor is largely populated by small businesses, you may stumble into places you could get lost looking through, like Treasure Hunt thrift store. There you can browse endless glassware, clothing, music and books. Every year, the district hosts a Cambodian New Year celebration in April. The area may look a bit bleak from the outside, but you have to pound a little pavement to find its sweet spots. The effort will pay off, especially if you are hungry. —Bethania Palma Markus

inretrospect's vintage finds (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
It has some very serious vintage shopping. A small stretch on 4th Street between Cherry and Juniper is home to Retro Row, a place where you can a spend a full afternoon getting lost in all of the kitschy and offbeat vintage stores there. They've got shops that cater to your love for all things Mad Men or rockabilly. One of our favorite shops is inretrospect, a massive 4,000-square-foot store that will leave you in child-like state of wonder as you rummage through all of their vintage treasures, including furniture, clothing, vinyl, board games, old Playboy magazines and books. (We just about lost it when we found a doll from 90s TV show Blossom.) Over at the Sneaky Tiki store, you can get plenty of throwback outfits from the '40s and '50s (stuff that would fit in well at Don the Beachcomber) handpicked by the owner so you don't have to rummage through a ton of thrift shops on your own. If you want to do some bargain-hunting for some cool vintage treasures, you can dig through the mountain of men's and women's clothing at La Bomba. You can get a much bigger discount than you would normally find at other vintage stores. Now, if you want to decorate your home with some awesome knickknacks from the '50s to the '70s like old-school TAB glasses, weird tchotchkes and mid-century furniture, Retroda is your place. Xscape or Deja Vu are also great spots to get vintage and sleek mid-century modern and Danish furniture for the serious collectors.

Moxi Roller Skate Shop (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
There's a sweet roller skate shop. Nestled in Retro Row is the kitschy and adorable Moxi Roller Skate Shop. It's a spot where you can get some high-quality roller skates, either for beginners or for those who love to roller derby. The vibrant shop has awesome skates in all different designs and colors, from retro to cool Hello Kitty skates. However, it's the people who run the store that make it really special, as they're passionate about roller derbying, and they can give you lots of wonderful advice on what type of skates to get to fit your needs. They're so into skating that they even offer free lessons on Saturday, and sponsor the coed Beach Cities Roller Derby league.

Moxi Roller Skate Shop is located at 2132 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8488

Rockabilly couple at the Queen Mary (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
Rockabilly and psychobilly culture is alive and well in Long Beach. It's even got its own weekend music festival featuring rockabilly and psychobilly bands from all around the world: Long Beach Psyclone, which will take place Sept. 3 to Sept. 6 this year. Besides all the concerts, they have plenty of activities planned for the fest-goers, like a tour bus ride through Long Beach and a pool party and BBQ. Also, over on 4th Street/Retro Row, you can get your rockabilly vintage clothing and CDs at Liberty on 4th Street. Just down the street is another vintage pinup and rockabilly fave, Sneaky Tiki. Guys can even get a slicked-back pompadour at 1246 Barbershop & Shave Parlour. As for food, you can even mosey on over to seafood joint bar Pike Restaurant & Bar, which is great for fish and chips and a pint of craft beer, with rock vibes. Oh, and former drummer Chris Reece of rockabilly or punk rock (however you look at it) band Social Distortion owns and runs the joint.

Inside Fingerprints record store (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
It has a serious record store (with a great brunch spot next door). Fingerprints is the Amoeba Music of Long Beach. They have a serious collection of CDs, vinyl, books, art and DVDs. Plus, they have live performances in their massive store. You can also chill on their comfy leather couches in their books section. If you get the munchies after sifting through records and books, Berlin Bistro is next door. It's a hip cafe with huge, floor-to-ceiling open-air windows. It's perfect for brunch on the weekends, and a spot where you can grab coffee to go along with their sandwiches, burgers, flatbreads and salads.

Fingerprints and Berlin Bistro is located at 420 E 4th St, Long Beach, (562) 433-4996 and (562) 435-0600, respectively.

Art Theatre (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
It has a lively independent theater for movies and performances. The Art Theatre fits in quite nicely in Retro Row. It's a throwback to the golden age of cinema as it was built in 1924 and still has its art deco design and lit-up marquee. However, it has gone through some remodeling, so the inside of the theater is nice and updated. It's the last single-screen theater standing in Long Beach, and it's more than just an independent movie theater. They're most popularly known for their weekly and raucous Rocky Horror Show shadowcast performances. And every year they host a fundraiser where they screen the Oscars live, and have theater-goers dress up to the nines and walk down their red carpet. It's the type of place where you can catch classics like Blade Runner, Oscar-nominated flicks like The Theory of Everything, and foreign-language indie movies like No. They've had film festivals there before, too. Plus, they have a wine bar (Art du Vin) and coffee shop (the Flea Espresso bar) next door, so you can either stay wired or boozed-up for your film marathons.

Art Theatre is located at 2025 E 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 438-5435

It's got a slightly more chill improv scene. When you think of improv comedy, your mind probably automatically conjures the Groundlings, Second City or the Upright Citizens Brigade, which are all located in Hollywood. But Long Beach has its own hilarious comedy improv troupe, known as Held2gether. The group performs monthly and for free at Hot Java coffee shop on Broadway and Junipero Avenue. They also have a comedy school. Whereas the Groundlings and other schools in Los Angeles are known for churning out Saturday Night Live stars and are geared toward professional actors, Held2gether focuses on what they call "improv for life," meaning any member of the public can learn and benefit from the skills of "yes, and" learned in improv. —Bethania Palma Markus

Cosplayers dressed as a female Predator and Wolverine at Long Beach Comic-Con (Photo by D A Nguyen via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
It's a city for comic book lovers. While San Diego gets all the love for Comic-Con, Long Beach is another sweet spot for comic book lovers. The Long Beach Convention Center is home to two different conventions: Long Beach Comic Con (LBCC) in September and Long Beach Comic Expo (LBCE) next February. LBCC isn't as big as San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), but one of the perks about this one is that it seems to be much more focused on comic books, while SDCC involves all types of media—from TV to film. And you get a chance to chat with the artists and vendors a lot more since things are less chaotic. It can keep you plenty busy, from the panels to the vendors and artists appearances. Over at the LBCE, you can grab some new and vintage comics and pop culture items, check out some panels and demonstrations, and meet your favorite artists. Both events are great for cosplaying, too.

Made in Long Beach (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
And for folks who love local arts and crafts. We're suckers for stores that represent their city and sell locally-sourced crafts. You can get anything here that's hand-crafted like soaps, furniture, clothing, art, chocolates, pickles and olive oil. It's a good spot for buying unique presents for people.

Made in Long Beach is located at 236 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (877) 752-1550

El Dorado Park in Long Beach (Photo by Betty Ashley via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
It's a beautiful place to enjoy nature. You can fully take advantage of the great coastal weather and beautiful outdoors in Long Beach. Over at the massive 388-acre El Dorado East Regional Park, you can stay busy walking through its trails, fishing, rowboating or paddleboating, bike-riding and doing archery. Plus, there's the El Dorado Dog Park, so you don't have have to leave your pooch at home. The only thing is you need to pay a parking fee to get into the park, which ranges from $5-$8, depending on the day. The Jack Dunster Marine Biological Reserve is another gem in Long Beach, where you can check out marshes, shrubs and natural wildlife in the nearly 3 acres of land. Go on an easy hike through the Dominguez Gap Wetlands that runs along the L.A. River in the northern part of Long Beach, a place where there are trails, natural flowers and plants. It's also a neat place for birdwatching.

You can ride a gondola without a trip to Italy. In Long Beach's Naples, you can get your own Venetian gondola ride through the canals complete song out of your red-and-white striped shirt gondola host. It's cheesy but cute—in other words great for a date. Gondola Getaway has been around since 1982 and is the go-to spot for gondola rides there. Costs vary depending on how many people are in your party or if you want to take part in a pizza cruise (which is exactly what that sounds like).

Kayaking in the Naples Canals (Photo by Terrell Woods via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
You can tour the shore on a kayak. Here's a less cheesy way to soak in the beautiful scenery. Kayaks On The Water is the go-to place in Long Beach for kayak rentals. For $9 cash ($10 with credit card), you get an hour-long kayaking session, a life vest, a kayak, and instructional video to watch. You get to paddle through the Naples Island Canals and see beautiful waterfront homes, and you can kayak over to different restaurants along the way. Parking can be a little tough in this area, so plan ahead; you can find parking on the streets or at metered spots. The rental shop's hours change seasonally, so check out their website before you go.

After you work up an appetite on the water, grab some ribs. Naples Rib Company will leave you happy and sated with its succulent ribs, tri-tip and prime rib and side dishes like corn on the cob, mac 'n cheese, BBQ beans and cole slaw. We recommend that you make a reservation because this place can get packed.

Naples Rib Company is located at 5800 E 2nd St., Long Beach, (562) 439-7427

Japanese Garden at Cal State Long Beach (Photo by Bethania Palma Markus/LAist)
There's a tranquil Japanese Garden for relaxing. If you're looking for a quiet place to sit among nature and relax, Cal State Long Beach has its very own peaceful Japanese garden tucked away on its campus. The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden website lists hours when it is open, and the garden is completely free to the public. The garden features a large pond with koi fish, a waterfall, plenty of seating and lots of bamboo and bonsai adding the lush surroundings. It's also got a gardenia bush for that beautiful scent. —Bethania Palma Markus

Portfolio Coffee (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
If you need a pick-me-up, you can go to Long Beach's many unfussy coffee shops. Much like Long Beach itself, coffee shops in this city tend to be low-key and laid back, and they have their own hip twists. The GreenHouse is a naturally-lit, airy, two-story coffee shop with huge windows open to allow the temperate Long Beach sea breeze. It’s quiet and casual with coffee, tea and a light food menu of mostly salads, soups and sandwiches made with organic produce. It’s nestled into the corner of Linden and Broadway in an old brick building that’s literally got everything—it's attached to a Thai restaurant by a hallway that houses a mini art gallery, Revive, a juice stand and the Blind Donkey, a bar. Lord Windsor Roasters is similarly quiet and relaxing. It’s dominated by a low bar that surrounds the baristas, where you can sit in actual chairs instead of perching awkwardly on stools. The lighting is kept low, the décor is sparse and green with lots of plants and the coffee is delicious. Their coffee beans are roasted in-house. You can also buy kombucha from local brewers, Fine Feathers, and chocolate from local chocolatiers, Anandamide. Hot Java is a true homey, neighborhood coffee shop. While located in Alamitos Beach, a predominantly gay community, everyone feels comfortable there. It’s laid back with a special weekend menu that includes yummy, fun stuff like bagels with lox and avocado toast. Their coffee is locally produced, rich and delicious. Whether you're a regular or a new customer, you're sure to feel at home and welcome. True to its name, art lines the walls of Portfolio Coffee House, and there’s a stage for musical performances. While Portfolio has an artsy vibe, it’s large, arched windows and sofa seating provide a comfortable place to read, study, work or have a conversation. It’s got a healthy breakfast and lunch menu and also serves desserts, including gelato. Out front, true to their boho character, they thoughtfully put bags of used coffee grounds for local gardeners to pick up for free. —Bethania Palma Markus

Ice cream cupcakes at Frosted Cupcakery (Photo via Facebook)
You'll need something sweet to go with your coffee, like Long Beach's long list of baked goods from their bakeries. Scratch Baked Goods has a little something for everyone, whether you're into lemon meringue cakes, scones or salted caramel morning buns. If you need a little savory in your life, they also have a ham-and-cheese pretzel croissant, which is a must-try. You might be going through cupcake overload in Los Angeles, but Frosted Cupcakery in Long Beach serves ice cream-filled cupcakes. This is not a drill. And while you're at it, they also have a variety of regular cupcakes that taste as good as they look adorable. You can also get your macaron fix over at DoLy's Delectables and Babette Bakery.The Starling Diner has scones to die for. Not only is Starling Diner nestled in Belmont Heights, one of the most quaint and charming neighborhoods in Long Beach, it also serves up a breakfast to die for. No surprise then that there is usually a wait list to be seated on the weekends. One of their most popular items is freshly-baked scones that they serve up in a basket, along with home-made lemon curd. They sell like hot cakes, no pun intended, so the earlier you get there, the better. Even if they sell out, the Starling has plenty of other mouth-watering offerings, like their chicken apple sausage scramble or breakfast bruschetta. You can enjoy scones or whatever you choose with the classic coffee, but they also have a beer and wine menu. —Bethania Palma Markus

Just some of the yummy flavors at Paradis Ice Cream in Belmont Shore (Photo via Facebook)
Ice cream is a big deal here. Believe it or not, Long Beach is the biggest consumer of ice cream—in the country. A 2013 study from Bundle, a data aggregation company, researched credit card transactions at ice cream and frozen yogurt vendors throughout the country, and found that people in Long Beach were buying more ice cream than any other city in the U.S. Los Angeles didn't even make the top 10, and we've got some good ice cream in town (ahem, Scoops). Long Beach has some gems like Belmont Shore's Paradis, which whips up homemade ice cream with real fruits and no artificial ingredients with flavors like sea salt caramel or Ferrero Rocher. Or if you'd rather get a nice paleta, head on over to Paleteria La Mexicana. They've got a huge selection, from the watermelon or strawberry fruit variety to the more complex flavors like pepino con chile (cucumber with chile) or mango con chile. You can even buy a box of them if you feel so inclined since they run pretty cheap. And something to look forward in the coming months, Afters Ice Cream is planning on opening up shop soon close by to the Cal State Long Beach campus. The ice cream parlor's known for their Milky Bun that's stuffed with delicious ice cream with unique flavors like jasmine milk tea or strawberry cookie crunch.

Steamy Clams Casino at The Social List in Long Beach (Photo by Jean Trinh/LAist)
If you feel like continuing your culinary adventure, they have a great European-inspired tapas place. The Social List is a bright and airy spot on 4th Street/Retro Row, not too far away from Lola's, its popular sister location from the same owners who whip up Mexican food. This is the type of place where you can get sharable items like escargot, scotch eggs, and steamy clams in a bacon-and-white-wine sauce. Their bread, which comes with a lot of items, including their delicious meatballs and tomato sauce dish, is baked in-house. And you can wash that all down with their craft beer and wine that they offer. Despite this restaurant serving up gourmet fare, it won't put a major dent in your pocket. And along with the name of the eatery, which is a play on "socialist," you can find a unifying theme of red stars throughout the restaurant. Make sure to drop by their happy hour that they've dubbed "Social Hour" every Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Social List is located at 2105 E 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 433-5478

Alamitos Beach (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
The neighborhoods in Long Beach each have their own vibe. Alamitos Beach, home of Long Beach Pride, is like an amalgamation of all things Long Beach. It's equal parts a beach town with a gay-friendly neighborhood and is full of kitschy vintage shops.

Retro Row in Long Beach (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
Move a little east and you're over at Belmont Shore, a cute dog-friendly beach town with the only off-leash dog beach in all of Los Angeles County. It's also a great place to grab a brewsky in the neighborhood's brewery and is a hotspot for street festivals all year long.

Right next door is Naples, a slice of Long Beach that pays homage to Italy, where you can get gondola rides in its canals, and grab a good pizza pie.

All aboard the Queen Mary! (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
West of Alamitos Beach is downtown Long Beach. While it may be more popularly known for its touristy spots like Queen Mary and Aquarium of the Pacific, it also has some really unique scenes like its East Village Arts District, home to the monthly art walk.

Pretty sweet LBC life (Photo by Eugene Lee/LAist)
You might actually be able to afford living in a nice beachside community. We're not going to name names, but a lot of coastal communities in Southern California can be stuck-up, conservative or just straight-up unaffordable. One of the perks about living in Long Beach is that you can get relatively cheap rent while living in a laid-back community close to the ocean. According to Rent Jungle, the average rent for a one bedroom in March 2015 was $1,278 and for two bedrooms it's $1,687 per month. Hmmm...forget visiting, we might actually want to move here.

Eds note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly listed an event at the Japanese Garden that has passed. LAist regrets this error.

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