Updated: May 3rd, 2021
When I was a college student at Berkeley, taking road trips to Southern California (my friends and I call it SoCal!) was one of my FAVORITE things to do. Going down south meant I could escape the “cold” Bay Area weather, lounge on beautiful beaches, and eat delicious Asian food. I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until I lived in SoCal for a month myself that I realized how much more there was to it beyond the cities I frequented. Spending a month in Long Beach last summer helped me see SoCal in a new light, and I can’t wait to share 7 fun things to do in Long Beach California with you for you to see why.
1. Kayak in the Naples Canal
First on my list of fun things to do in Long Beach is kayaking in Naples Canal.
I’ve never been to Venice, but I’m pretty sure I experienced the California version of it when I visited the canal. Well, a more toned down version of it at least.
The canal is located on the eastern end of Long Beach, and it’s surrounded by waterfront homes and condos. You can rent a kayak, take a boat onto the canal, or even go jet-skiing on this deceivingly large body of water.
When Alan and I went to Naples Canal, we rented kayaks from KayakRentals.net and spent about an hour and a half on the water. Being on the water was a cool experience in and of itself, but the BEST part was how we were able to dock the boat right in front of a shopping center and grab coffee from Starbucks before making our way back.
While we were stopped on the side, I couldn’t stop staring at the waterfront residents transporting their groceries home by boat. It was the coolest thing I’ve seen!
The small town surrounding the canal gave the experience a special charm, and I would 100% do it again.
2. Shop at 2nd & PCH
Not far from Naples Canal is 2ND & PCH, a retail center with stores like Sephora and Free People, and restaurants like Shake Shack (yum!) The shopping center is vibrant and full of energy. Occasionally, events are hosted there with live music and pop-up shops.
In the past 2ND & PCH has hosted events like the Creative Communal Market, a pop-up market featuring local creators’ work, and Movies and Moonlight which is an outdoor movie night. There’s no better way to enjoy the great weather in Long Beach than watching a movie outside.
3. Enjoy the Waterfront View at Ballast Point Brewing
One thing I seem to always be able to find on the west coast is a good brewery. In fact – I just Googled this – California has 1,000 breweries, more than any other U.S. state!! No wonder I could always find a good one.
Long Beach California is no exception. Ballast Point Brewing Long Beach is located on the waterfront and has an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean. The brewery was founded in San Diego and it produces a gold medal-winning IPA. So yeah, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
The place is popular and can get crowded, so be sure to take advantage of their Yelp waitlist ahead of time.
4. Picnic at Signal Hill Park
Fun fact! Long Beach completely surrounds another city called Signal Hill.
Signal Hill is an up and coming neighborhood in Southern California that has beautiful Spanish-style homes, a few coffee shops sprinkled here and there, and is just a 10 minute drive to the beach. It’s totally worth a visit while you’re in Long Beach.
One fun thing to do in in Signal Hill is to watch the sunset at Signal Hill Park. Like the name implies, the park sits on top of a hill and you can get a breathtaking view of Long Beach from above. Think Griffith Observatory views but on a smaller scale.
My best tip is to go a little before sunset as parking can fill up quick. Alternatively, you can grab a bite at the Costco nearby and walk up the hill so you don’t have to worry about parking.
5. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at Sweet Retreat Donuts
Ever since I had Blue Star Donuts in Portland and tasted their perfectly fried and unique flavored donuts, I’ve been on the hunt for something similar. I’m happy to say that I not only found one, but I found TWO donut places that were amazing in SoCal!
Passion Fruit, Fruity Pebbles, and Blueberry are just some of the delicious donuts flavors Sweet Retreat Donuts has to offer. The donut shop isn’t located inside the most glamorous shopping center, but when you walk in to the store you’ll immediately feel its charm.
The lady that helped me choose the flavors was very patient and made me feel welcome. She successfully convinced me to buy all three donuts that I was eyeing through the glass display.
The other donut shop I recommend, Sidecar Donuts, is not in Long Beach, but it’s not far away either. In my opinion, Sidecar is just as good as Blue Star Donuts. Portland better watch out, cause California’s donut game is up there!
6. Picnic on Seal Beach
Southern California has a ton of great beaches. Naturally, one of the fun things to do in Long Beach California is to go to a beach. For Long Beach visitors, I recommend going to Seal Beach.
Seal Beach takes us back to where Naples Canal, Ballast Point Brewing, and 2ND & PCH are located, at the far east side of Long Beach. It’s technically located in Long Beach’s neighboring area, Orange County, but it’s right on the border of the two neighborhoods and was one of my favorites during our month-long stay there.
There’s a couple blocks of restaurants and shops right by the beach, so it was easy for me and Alan to grab sandwiches before finding a spot to sit and chill.
We each ordered a sandwich from Pierside Press, and they were some of the chunkiest sandwiches I’ve had. The price was also very reasonable and each sandwich came with a bag of kettle corn. It was the perfect meal to satisfy both my sweet tooth and hunger.
7. Practice Your Golf Swings at a Driving Range
A friend of ours grew up in Orange County, and according to him, there are some good golf courses in Long Beach.
So wanting to try the best that Long Beach had to offer, we agreed to go golfing at El Dorado Park Golf Course one Saturday morning and see what it was all about.
Leading up to our golfing session I was pretty anxious since I hadn’t played *real* golf before. Before that, I’d only done mini golf and Top Golf which I had heard are very different.
Luckily, the driving range was very welcoming for beginners. In fact, no one greeted us and all we had to do was get a basket of golf balls from the vending machine for ~$20 and pick a spot from the several openings on the driving range. It was the perfect arrangement.
Fun Things to Do in Long Beach
Living in Long Beach for a month opened my eyes to the diverse cities that made up Southern California. I had been to Southern California so many times before this, and mostly hung around Santa Monica, Koreatown, and Irvine. Living in Long Beach made me feel like I was in a totally different place.
So next time you’re in SoCal, maybe swing by Long Beach for some golf, a sandwich on the beach, or a beer at Ballast Point Brewing. I hope you’ll see the charm that I felt calling it home for a short but fun packed time!
If you’re looking for more things to do in SoCal, maybe check out Joshua Tree. It’s one of the coolest National Parks in the U.S. and gives you the ultimate California desert experience.
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