This article originally appeared on Travelocity.com.
Long Beach is that quintessential Southern California beach town with miles of sandy shores, beautiful sunny days, and oceanfront hotels. Yet it also has something different from other seaside towns — a hip urban center; a diverse, multicultural population; international flavors; and fun for kids of all ages. Long Beach is an ideal year-round vacation destination. However you define your family, incredible experiences are bound to be had in Long Beach.
1. Visit The R.M.S. Queen Mary
Back when she made her maiden voyage in 1936, the RMS Queen Mary was the world’s largest, fastest, and most elegant ocean liner. She carried royalty, movie stars, and the rich and famous across the Atlantic. The Queen Mary even served a stint as a troop transport during World War II. Her last voyage was from England to Long Beach in 1967.
Today, The Queen Mary is permanently moored here, where you can take a tour and relive her glory days. Enjoy a guided tour to learn her stories and perhaps a tale of a ghost or two as you wander through the ship’s lower decks.
Sip a drink in the bar where celebrities once sat. Stroll the promenade and let the kids view the ship models. Also, be sure to check out the LEGO® model of The Queen Mary.
Finally, enjoy an elegant dinner in Sir Winston’s, with some of the best sunset views over Long Beach. Did you know you can book a stay on The Queen Mary, listed as one of the Historic Hotels of America? The rooms, updated with modern amenities, still have the feel of yesteryear.
There are special events happening throughout the year, including scream experiences around Halloween and the annual Chill in December.
2. Get Close to Fish at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Long Beach is home to the Aquarium of the Pacific — the fourth most visited aquarium in the U.S. Explore jellies, fish and mammals of the Pacific Ocean regions, giggle at the antics of otters and penguins, and touch sharks and rays at Shark Lagoon.
However, Aquarium of the Pacific is more than a fun tourist destination. It is a world-class educational and research facility. You can get a look at the facilities with a tour of the aquarium. Go behind the scenes and peer into the giant tanks. See baby jellies and seahorses. Even feed the fish and rays. Other VIP experiences and animal encounters are also available.
3. Eat Amazing Food in Long Beach
Long Beach is a foodie delight. There are more than 120 restaurants within the 8-block downtown area alone, many of them along Pine Avenue’s Restaurant Row. Here are some of my favorites around Long Beach.
I recommend starting with a family breakfast at The Breakfast Bar. This family-owned eatery serves up simply great food for breakfast and lunch. My favorites are the Eggs Noni with an incredible spiced hollandaise; Breakie Sammie with sausage and a delicious roasted garlic and herb aioli; and amazing lemon cake pancakes with zesty citrus frosting that are pretty much life changing.
After a busy morning, head to Parkers’ Lighthouse for lunch. Get there early and snag a seat on the deck. With those ocean breezes blowing in, it’s close to paradise. You simply must get the garlic cheese bread. This is not your grandmother’s garlic cheese bread. It’s ooey-gooey deliciousness you want to bathe in. Also try the crab cake sandwich. Filled with jumbo lump crab, it’s my idea of a beach lunch.
Also, check out Lola’s Mexican Cuisine on 4th Street in Retro Row if you want authentic Mexican flavors. They serve up some tasty tacos, enchiladas and burritos. There are tasty vegan options and kid-friendly plates as well. If you sit outside at Lola’s, you can watch the locals bustling past — and the crowds are completely different at lunch than at dinner. It’s a fun, funky vibe here on Retro Row!