12 Things To Do With Family in Long Beach, California

Last Updated on February 19, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Long Beach is a vibrant coastal city in Los Angeles County, offering visitors plenty of fun activities for the whole family. From beaches and parks to museums and attractions, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

This article will highlight 12 of the top things to do with family while visiting Long Beach, California. Whether you’re local or coming from out of town, this guide will help you plan an exciting and memorable trip.

Explore the Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific is one of the top attractions in Long Beach for families. This world-class aquarium features over 12,000 animals representing more than 500 different species in exhibits ranging from the tropical coral reefs to the chilly northern Pacific. It’s an interactive and educational experience where you can touch sharks and rays in the shark lagoon, watch sea otters play, and be amazed by the graceful sea dragons.

Kids will love the Lorikeet Forest aviary where colorful lorikeet birds will land on your hand to feed. And don’t miss the jellyfish exhibits and the giant Pacific octopus. With various daily shows, feedings, and encounters, you’ll easily spend half a day or more discovering all this aquarium has to offer.

Walk or Bike the Beach Path

One of the best free activities is walking, jogging, biking or skating along the paved bike and pedestrian pathway that runs along the beaches in Long Beach. You can start near the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier and head east towards the lighthouse.

The views of the ocean, the beaches, and all the people out enjoying the water and sand make for an entertaining and active family outing. Rent bikes, skates, or scooters and leisurely make your way down the path at your own pace, stopping whenever you want to dip your toes in the water or build sandcastles. Pack a lunch and make it a full day at the beach while getting some exercise.

Tour the Queen Mary

The Queen Mary is a historic British ocean liner that is permanently docked in Long Beach and operates as a hotel and attraction. Your family can tour this impressive ship, checking out the staterooms, dining salons, bridge, and engine rooms. Make your way through tight corridors and steep steps to see how passengers crossed the Atlantic back in the ship’s heyday.

The creepiness of this aging vessel lends itself to ghost stories and paranormal occurrences, so take one of the haunted tours they offer after dark if you really want to get scared. Whether you tour in the day or night, a visit to the legendary Queen Mary is one of the most unique things to do in the Long Beach area.

See Sea Life at the SEA Lab Aquarium

For a more intimate and hands-on experience with sea creatures, visit the SEA Lab Aquarium located on the Long Beach waterfront right next to the Aquarium of the Pacific. This smaller aquarium is focused solely on the local marine animals found along the Southern California coastline. Here your family can touch sharks, rays, sea stars, sea cucumbers and urchins in the touch pools.

Or observe endangered California desert pupfish, Moray eels, giant black sea bass, leopard sharks and more in the tanks and exhibits representing regional habitats. The SEA Lab is perfect for younger kids and is a fun supplemental aquarium experience to enhance your understanding and appreciation of regional sea life.

Take in the Views from the Long Beach Lighthouse

For sweeping views of the Long Beach harbor, head to the Long Beach Lighthouse. Situated right on the water adjacent to Shoreline Village and the Aquarium of the Pacific, this lighthouse stands at 40 feet tall and was created purely as a scenic attraction rather than a functioning navigational aid.

You can’t go inside the lighthouse, but you can check out the falcon sculpture at the top and engraved bricks around the perimeter. Nearby signage also provides information and diagrams identifying the various ports, terminals, and landmarks visible from the lighthouse. Stop by for some photos and take in views of one of the world’s largest and busiest shipping ports.

Go for a Gondola Ride

If you’re looking for a unique way to experience the canals and waterways around Naples Island and Belmont Shore, go for a relaxing gondola ride. Gondola Getaway has been offering tours of Long Beach canals since 1981, making them the first Gondola company in the United States.

Your family will embark on a 40 to 50 minute narrated tour gliding through narrow canals while your gondolier sings traditional Italian songs. Cruise past some waterfront homes, through Marine Stadium and the rowing course from the 1932 Olympics, and under bridges as you learn about the history and lifestyle of living on the canals. It’s a perfectly chilled-out activity the whole family will enjoy.

Bike, Skate or Scooter the Shoreline Path

For another memorable yet affordable family activity, rent wheels from one of the many bike, skate and scooter rental shops along the shoreline path and glide your way along the waterfront. Choose self-powered or electric bikes, rollerblades, skateboards or scooters and journey at your own pace taking in the ocean breezes and views of surfers and sailors out on the water.

Make stops at beaches and parks along the way to dip your toes in the sand or take a break at a snack stand or restaurant. Whether you make it a relaxing, leisurely outing or turn it into an adventure sport excursion, actively navigating The Shoreline path is an iconic SoCal experience with kids.

Stroll Through Shoreline Village

Right next to the Aquarium of the Pacific you’ll find Shoreline Village, a quaint waterfront area with shops, restaurants, fountains and views across the harbor. Kids will enjoy checking out the various toy stores and candy shops while adults can browse through the boutiques and gift shops. Stop to listen to live music or let the kids run around the fountains.

Take a ride on the colorful Shoreline Village Carousel or the tiny Shoreliner train. Try your hand at one of carnival midway games set up alongside the water. With plenty of dining options from causal to upscale, Shoreline Village lets your family conveniently relax and refuel around the shops and attractions during your Long Beach stay.

Learn Ocean Science at the Aquarium of the Pacific

In addition to the amazing animal exhibits, the Aquarium of the Pacific also provides families with opportunities to learn about science and stewardship of the Pacific Ocean. Be sure to explore the active learning center called “Ocean Science” where kids can get hands-on with experiments, touch specimens and ask questions of educators.

Here you can hold sea stars and urchins, examine plankton and shells up close under microscopes, touch a cloud sponge, learn how tide pools work with dynamic models, and view small local sharks and rays up close. “Ocean Science” helps kids learn principles of animal classification, anatomy and physiology, geologic processes, physical oceanography and more while having fun. It’s both fun and educational!

Enjoy Pelican Island Views

Situated just across the marina inlet from Shoreline Village sits Pelican Island, a protected natural area in the bay and a prime spot to view brown pelicans. The small strip of land with its rock jetties and sandy shores serves as habitat for the California brown pelican, along with dozens of other bird species like seagulls, terns, and cormorants.

For up close views of pelicans gliding, diving and resting just offshore, head to the paved walking path surrounding Pelican Island. Signs along the trail provide interesting facts about pelican behaviors as you watch them plunge for fish or perch in groups on exposed rocks and pilings. Benches dot the path to take a scenic break and simply gaze out over the bustling boating harbor while the pelicans provide natural entertainment.

See a Show at the Performing Arts Center

For first-class musicals, plays, classical music performances and more, make an evening at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. There are three historic and elegant venues that make up the Performing Arts Center – the Long Beach Terrace Theater, Center Theater and Beverly O’Neill Theater.

Between them they host all types of concerts, comedy acts, children’s shows, musical theater productions and documentaries throughout the year at affordable prices. Check out their calendar of events online to see what might interest your family, from kid-focused performances to cultural music and dance productions. Exposing kids to the arts at a young age plants the seeds for ongoing inspiration and creativity.

Go Whale Watching

From January through March each year the annual gray whale migration sends thousands of whales swimming past the coastline of Long Beach on their way from Alaska to Mexico. Go out on a whale watching tour for unforgettable family fun trying to spot spouts, flukes and splashes out on the ocean. The peak of whale activity is mid-January into February which aligns with winter break for the kids.

Whale watching cruises through companies like Harbor Breeze depart throughout the day from Rainbow Harbor, providing non-stop chances to see these magnificent mammals in action. Bundle up for hours out on the water hoping to glimpse migrating gray whales passing by offshore.

Conclusion

With its six miles of pristine beaches, two harbor areas and a lively downtown scene, Long Beach offers many entertaining attractions and activities for families beyond the usual theme parks. From museums and tours showcasing the city’s unique nautical heritage to outdoor recreation along the bustling shoreline, this coastal city provides plenty of options for active kids and parents alike.

Use this guide featuring a dozen family-friendly things to do to help plan your upcoming trip, whether you’re local to Los Angeles or coming in from out of town. With so many exciting choices from whale watching and aquarium visits to gondola rides and bike tours, Long Beach makes for an unforgettable family vacation filled with awe-inspiring nature, rich history and good old sunny California fun.

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