Photo via Flickr.
When it comes to mini-getaways, Angelenos usually look to tried-and-true hotspots such as Malibu, Palm Springs, and Ojai for a weekend reprieve from the traffic and the smog. But for a new change of pace with a more local flavor, look no further than Long Beach, Los Angeles’ beach city neighbor to the south, home of Snoop Dogg, The Queen Mary, and Warren G’s “Regulate.” Diners, dive bars, vintage shopping, and bike-friendly streets are all native to the 562, an area still fairly untouched by hipster buzz. Here’s what to check out once you make that trek down the 710 (or the Blue Line).
George’s 50’s Diner – A classic 50’s diner located in the Bixby Knolls district. It’s a little dingy, like Downtown Vegas dingy, and frequented by an older crowd, but that’s how you know it’s authentic and not just a knock-off diner from the 80’s. There are plenty of cool diner motifs for your eyes to feast on, and the eponymous George has been running the kitchen since 1996!
Starling Diner – If you’re looking for more modern breakfast-brunch fare, head on over to Starling Diner on 3rd and Belmont for their signature stuffed french toast, breakfast polenta, and eggs benjamin. Libations here are no joke: the drink menu boasts a variety of fruit-flavored mimosas, and the Bloody Mary’s come with crab claws!!!
Little Cambodia (Anaheim St. between Atlantic and Junipero Ave.) – Many Cambodians fled to Long Beach in the late 70’s as refugees from the Khmer Rouge, so as it stands, the LBC is host to the largest ethnic enclave of Cambodians outside of Southeast Asia. Check out eateries along Anaheim St. like Siem Reap for a taste of Khmer cuisine.
Lola’s – Located right in the thick of Retro Row on 4th St., the bright and homey Lola’s brings authentic family recipes to both fellow natives and recent transplants to the city. Come for the addictive, complimentary cilantro salsa (aptly nicknamed green crack), the carnitas, mole dishes, and the restaurant’s new line of artisanal cocktails, featuring organic drinks named after iconic relics from ‘90s LBC.
Long Beach is the holy land of the dive, but here are a few sudsy spots to start:
Murphy’s Pub – Located in Belmont Shore, Murphy’s boasts a nice balcony view and a selection of 70 beers from all over the world. Here you’ll find the classic fixings of a dive bar: old stools, booths, a jukebox, and that one maddening game where you’re supposed to hook a ring hanging from the ceiling. I can’t really figure that one out.
Alex’s Bar – A ~spooky~ punk rock bar with all-encompassing red walls, crushed red velvet curtains, creepy paintings, and plenty of tchotchkes. Kinda like Cha Cha Lounge, complete with pool table and photo booth, meets the Red Room from Twin Peaks. When there isn’t a live show, Alex’s also features karaoke and trivia night.
The Stache – Formerly known as Cheapshots, The Stache is a small, five-table mustache-themed venue specializing in organic cocktails, like their signature Moscow Mule crafted with homemade ginger beer. It’s a local favorite, perfect for a little pregame before making your rounds down 4th St.
Fingerprints – Long Beach’s go-to record-book-movies-random-cool-stuff store carries special edition DVDs, collectibles, art, books in the back, and lots and lots of vinyl. They also make cool mystery grab bags for CDs and vinyl, selected by the staff. Attached to Fingerprints is Berlin Bistro, a cafe and eatery specializing in farm-to-table fare, gluten-free baked goods, and coffee sourced from local favorite, Portfolio Coffee.
Retro Row (4th St. between Cherry and Juniper) – Over 20 unique vintage, thrift, and contemporary shops make up the quarter-mile stretch that is Retro Row. Here you’ll find discount community thrift (Assistance League Thrift), curated vintage shops that are almost more museum than retail space (Meow), and fancy mid-century modern furniture (Xcape, you so fine).
Architecture – Long Beach has undergone many developments throughout its history, which is reflected in its hodgepodge of architectural influences. It was once a hub for movie stars during the golden age of film, so you’ll see lots of craftsman-style bungalows near Carroll Park. After the 1933 earthquake, much of the city was rebuilt in the trending style of the time, art deco. There are over 100 historic landmarks littered across the city to check out— including a building shaped like a giant coffee pot (??).
Photo by Brandon Shigeta.
Pow! Wow! Murals – Pow! Wow! Hawaii throws one of the biggest street art festivals in Honolulu every winter, and earlier this year, they imported the now-global phenomenon to Long Beach, where over 14 larger-than-life murals from the likes of James Jean, Hueman, and Fafi currently live as stand-alone pieces. If you’re looking to check them all out, be sure to consult this handy-dandy map.
Bike – Long Beach boasts one of the most bike-friendly infrastructures in the country, which explains why cycling is on the rise in the area. Designated traffic lights just for cyclists, 80 miles of bike lanes, and a 24-hour bike parking station are just a few small developments that have made a huge impact on the city’s progressive bike culture. Explore nearly 40 miles of bike paths along the LA and San Gabriel rivers, or simply go for a ride along the pier.
Belmont Shore Kayaks – Because sitting in a boat and propelling yourself across a body of water with a stick-paddle makes you feel outdoorsy. You can choose to paddle through wetlands to observe nature, or through the canals to see more of the city. The Belmont Shore Kayaks are kewler than the kayak rentals in Marina del Rey because you can rent them for only $10/hr, and you can bring dogs on board. Pretty sweet.
***Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on Oct. 19, 2015.