Why I love Long Beach: Right in between Los Angeles and Orange County, Long Beach is the perfect mix of beachy, artsy, academic and eclectic. I lived there for five years as a college student, and fell in love with the community and districts.
What Long Beach is known for: The Grand Prix; California State University, Long Beach and its giant pyramid; Gay Pride Parade; home of the Queen Mary ship; the city closest to Catalina Island.
Where to sleep: There are tons of places to rest your head in downtown, but Hotel Maya is the coolest newest place, with its fusion of Latin American and Southern California styles. It is on the beach and has an indoor-outdoor design throughout.
Taste a little Harlem in the LBC: Straight out of Harlem, Roscoe’s Chicken N Waffles became a Los Angeles favorite in the ’70s. With several locations, including the one at 730 E. Broadway Ave. in Long Beach, the restaurant is famous for its greens, mac and cheese, hot water corn bread and red beans and rice. The most popular, though, is a huge plate of waffles with, you guessed it, fried chicken.
Best shopping: Belmont Shore, with the hub on Second Street, has something for everyone: Food, coffee, women’s clothing, toy shops and boutiques.
Best coffee: Portfolio Coffeehouse. While there are tons of homey cafes in this eclectic city, Portfolio always had my heart with its stay-as-long-as-you-want vibes, huge mismatched tables perfect for studying, open-mic nights, array of characters and an awesome Irish mocha.
Best place to meet locals: Fourth Street, which is known as “Retro Row,” between Cherry and Junipero. It is one of my favorite places to wander because it has everything a girl could want: An art theater, thrift stores, kitschy collectible shots, vintage shops and a tasty Mexican restaurant.
best breakfast: There is one place that always has me craving super spuds and endless cups of hazelnut coffee: Potholder Cafe, 3700 E. Broadway Ave. It is a funky little diner with big dishes. I love the omelets, but there is nothing like the super spuds, with layers of hash browns, cheese, avocado, sour cream and mushrooms.
What to do during the day: Take a harbor cruise or ride a gondola through the canals in the city’s Naples district.
Dive in: In a town named after its beach, you would think you could dive into the ocean, right? Wrong. Some people take the plunge in Long Beach, but most people don’t. It’s a south-facing beach, which means the water moves little. Instead, hit PCH and head down to fun beaches, like Huntington Beach, Seal Beach or Sunset Beach. Mother’s Beach in Long Beach is fun and swimmable, and you can rent kayaks.
Earth, wind and fire: Get a group together and have fun in the sand with a bonfire at Bolsa Chica State Beach. The pits get taken up quickly, so have someone camp out early in the day and reserve your fire pit.
Night life: Depending on your scene, Long Beach is one town with its fair share of dive bars and classic clubs. Many people like the club scene at Mai Tai Bar while others enjoy something a little less upscale, like the Liquid Lounge.
Don’t leave without seeing: Shoreline Village and the Pike, both shopping and dining areas near downtown Long Beach.
— Lauren Nelson, Lodi Living Editor