Beyond the Aquarium: Long Beach Adventure (with Halloween perks!)


If you’re searching for a new weekend adventure with your kids, consider Long Beach. Normally, I only go when headed to the Aquarium or whale watching — both of which are always fun. But two weeks ago we headed south for the Longines Master (a Grand Prix horse jumping event) and last weekend we set out to see a play at the International City Theater and took the time to discover the many wonders of Long Beach.

Long Beach

Located in the huge convention center, right next door to the Aquarium, is a great little theatre called The International City Theatre.   We went for a family-friendly play titled “Shipwrecked”, which was an appropriate story of an adventure at sea, and after the show, decided to wander around bit, instead of heading right home. I was really struck by the town and how many things there were to do.

To begin with, it’s October and the City of Long Beach has gone full on Halloween. There was a Zombie walk which included a fantastic haunted house a costume contest with some shockingly good entries, old hearses from movies, creepy crawly snakes, lizards and arachnids and the chance to be made up by professionals.

Something about the way the city sits on the harbor makes the light stunning. So while my son was enjoying the horror and the gore and the monsters of the zombie walk, I was also taking in the breeze, the light on the buildings and the many restaurants we had to choose from. While the Zombie walk has ended there is still horror to be found in the city. The Queen Mary has been transformed into a ship of horror, called Dark Harbor (open every evening from 7:00 PM – midnight through October 31), which by all accounts is a blast.  It is full of bodies and zombies and mazes, and hardly for kids, but completely in keeping with the elaborate staging of horrors popular today.

Right on the same strip along Shoreline Drive you can walk to the Pike at Rainbow Harbor, a large open air shopping mall replete with a pint-sized train to take kids on a ride, a ferris wheel that is always spinning and a small roller coaster the flies you around to look at the view. This experience is much more civilized than the Santa Monica pier, and you can get a quick fix of adventure with kids, without having to ride all day.  The shopping is great and so are the number of restaurants from steak houses to pizza joints and Mexican food that line the streets. Some of the sidewalks take you over little bridges and beside canals and one even offers small paddle boat rides.

We stayed for dinner and a beautiful sunset and my son had a really fun day. Shockingly, the traffic back to LA was with us both ways and that alone made the day a success. So as you’re planning your weekends, check what’s new and happening just south of the 405.

Other Long Beach Attractions:

Aquarium of the Pacific Ribbon Dragon

The Aquarium of the Pacific: A reliably excellent venue for families, with ongoing programming. Get on their mailing list for updates on speakers and family programming. Here’s what’s new this fall — including a seahorse show and two baby penguins!


Whale Watching with Harbor Cruises: Check the site for updates on what whales and dolphins are currently being spotted, but this is a wonderful family experience, and a must-do for every CA kid.


Queen Mary: Again, every kid should have a tour of the magnificent boat but if scares are not for you, wait until the season is over to tour around the famous ocean liner when a different program is on display – perhaps CHILL, a holiday Alice in Wonderland-inspired experience playing from November 23-January 8.

Avalon Harbor by Cliff Wassmann

Avalon Harbor by Cliff Wassmann

Day Trip to Catalina: In just about an hour, you can travel across the Pacific to Catalina Island, and enjoy a day adventure. Avalon is a beautiful harbor and you can travel by golf cart and biking around the little town, or adventure further with some hiking or zip-lining. And, buffalo await! Click here for the Catalina Express.

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Toyota Grand Prix Long Beach zooms through Ocean Blvd. This year expect to see the races April 7-9th.

Look ahead to the International City Theatre’s upcoming schedule, which includes the musical “Forever Plaid” and “Crimes of the Heart”.

Written by Cary Bickley