Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Long Beach, CA September 2014
Growing up in Venice, CA you would think that I have visited many of the nearby cities. Imagine my surprise when I was invited to visit Long Beach for the weekend and I realized I hadn't been there in years (since my kids were little). I was very excited to see what this city has to offer. After a 35-minute drive from Venice, I arrived at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Maya, a 199-room, Latin inspired hotel. The furniture and art pieces throughout the hotel are very unique; in fact, you can purchase many of the paintings by local Latin artists that are on display. Upon checking in I was given a warm cookie. After settling into my room with a lovely view of the Marina, I decided to relax at the pool. While walking to the pool I passed the man-made beach, complete with fire pits and comfortable chaise lounges and a cozy day bed. The pool was very calm and relaxing with floating cabanas and a beautiful view of the Marina. That evening, I was invited to a cocktail party at Fuego Restaurant. This indoor-outdoor restaurant and lounge serves wonderful Latin food. I enjoyed a variety of ceviches and I absolutely loved the grilled lamb chops. Their margaritas were a great complement to the wonderful food.
Following the cocktail party we walked along the harbor to the Queen Mary. I went on a fascinating tour and learned so much about this great ship. Guests can take a tour of this magnificent ship and even spend the night. We had a magnificent dinner at Sir Winston's. I started my meal with the Lobster Bisque and then enjoyed the Chateaubriand for one with a red onion marmalade, béarnaise, and red wine sauce, and completed my wonderful dinner with a chocolate molten cake. The service was impeccable and the view overlooking the water was fantastic.
The next morning we began our day by taking a boat ride on Harbor Breeze Cruise to see the USS Iowa. It was a beautiful ride and we even saw seals. The company provides daily rides for whale watching, as well.
After our glorious boat ride we toured the Museum of Latin American Art. All of the artists are Latin American and are from Latin America and well as the United States and Europe. In fact, this museum is the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. The pieces were so interesting. To help further enjoy your museum experience, there is a telephone number posted by a number of pieces of art and if you push the number corresponding to the artwork you can listen to information on the painting using your own cell phone. There is also a lovely sculpture garden outside that is great to visit. The museum also has a bus that allows them to pick up students from schools so they can learn about the art.
Also in the area is Shoreline Village, a cute little area along the water with various shops, an arcade (with a Merry Go Round), restaurants, and treats. We enjoyed a marvelous lunch at Parkers Lighthouse. They are known for their fish--I enjoyed my sushi while others raved about the fish and chips.
After lunch we visited the Aquarium of the Pacific. There are so many wonderful exhibits that both kids and adults wills enjoy. The Ocean Theatre offers a unique way to watch education films, and there are a number of hands-on exhibits where you get to touch different sea creatures. The different exhibits include penguins, birds, a shark lagoon, and beautiful and unique fish. There are daily presentations with the aquarium's seals, sea lions, sea otters, and sharks, and they even have divers who are equipped with microphones to communicate with the audience from inside the tanks. You can further enhance your visit by participating in the animal encounters or even going on a whale watching tour.
Later that evening we visited several restaurants in Downtown Long Beach. This area is only a few minutes from the hotel so very easy to get to. We started out at Michael's Pizzeria where the thin crust pizzas with bubbled edges are made with all fresh ingredients. In fact, they make all of their sauces, dough, and cheeses from scratch. It was fun watching the chef toss the pizza dough around and put on a show. The pizzas are made in the wood-fired oven and are cooked in just a few minutes. We tried the margherita pizza, the Prosciutto E Arugula pizza, and my favorite, the Pistachio E Stracciatella. So different, yet so tasty. They also have wonderful salads. We started out with the special of the night, Arugula, watermelon, pinenuts, and housemade mozzarella. What a wonderful combination. In addition to the wonderful food, they serve wine and beer to complement your meal.
Our next stop was Beachwood Brewing. Famous for their slow smoked and dry rubbed meats, all of their food is prepared to order so it comes out fresh and hot. And for you beer lovers, they have 22 rotating taps where they work hard to find unique but first rate beers that will enhance your food. We sampled a variety of their appetizers such as Lena's Famous Fried Pickles (hey, everything tastes better fried), the tater tot casserole, smothered steak fries, and, of course, the pulled pork sandwich with creamed spinach and collard greens. I am anxious to go back and try their baby back ribs next time.
Our final restaurant that evening was BO-Beau Kitchen & Roof Tap. Right when I walked in I was blown away by the design and décor of this restaurant. We sat at a table in front of the fireplace, but there are beautiful plush booths, as well. We shared a few different dishes, such as the pistachio crusted salmon and risotto, the 5 spice seared duck breast, and the Brussels sprouts. Everything was wonderful and beautifully presented. The desserts were scrumptious, as well. My favorite was the ménage a trios, as you get to sample three incredibly tasty desserts that included Cherry Cheesecake, peppermint pot de crème, and the chocolate ganache. The restaurant has a nice long bar to sit at on the first floor with a large variety of tap beers to choose from, and upstairs has a roof top bar that is quite popular.
Following dinner my friend and I went to Sgt. Pepper's Dueling Pianos, where we had such a great time singing along to all of our favorites. Very entertaining.
The next morning we had breakfast on the bluffs at Claire's Cafe and Restaurant, the restaurant at the Long Beach Museum of Art. This restaurant has outdoor oceanfront dining with beautiful views, as well as indoor seating. In the center of the outdoor seating area stands a beautiful fountain sculpture, created by Claire Falkenstein, called Structure and Flow. The menu has a large variety of breakfast items, including unique items such as the crème brulee French toast served with poached granny smith apples, pecans, golden raisins, and real maple syrup. In addition to the wonderful breakfast items, they serve amazing and unusual drinks, such as the surf and turf Bloody Mary that is served with bacon and jumbo shrimp cocktail. We met Jaime Antezana, the culinary mixologist for Claire's, who spoke about the time he puts into creating these unique and flavorful drinks. I loved seeing the pride he took in his creations. After breakfast we walked next door to the Long Beach Museum of Art. The current exhibit is The Paternal Suit: Heirlooms from the F. Scott Hess Family Foundation Exhibition that runs through October 5, 2014. This exhibit includes more than 100 objects, including artifacts, paintings, and costumes that tell the story of 400 years of American history assembled by Los Angeles artist F. Scott Hess. There is a video that explains his exhibition that I found very interesting F. Scott Hess video. The next exhibit, Masterworks: Defining A New Narrative, opens on October 23. The lower level of the museum has a beautiful display of artwork created by kids. The museum is free of charge every Thursday evening and every Friday. They also offer free family artmaking workshops the 2nd Sunday of every month.
After our museum visit we set out to discover different areas of Long Beach. We drove through the city and visited different communities. The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is located in downtown Long Beach and has restaurants such as Gladstone's 4 Fish, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and PF Changs, as well as entertainment that includes Laugh Factory, Cinemark Theatres, and Sgt. Pepper's Dueling Piano Café. There is also a historic Carousel and Giant Wheel. Rose Park, one of the City's oldest parks, has concerts in the park. A beautiful spot to visit is Hilltop Park in the city of Signal Hill. Signal Hill is best known for the discovery of oil in 1921 and is known as an oil town; in fact, it is still actively used for oil and you see working machinery as you drive through the city. Hilltop Park has incredible views of the city. Our next stop was Retro Row, an independent shopping and dining district located on 4th Street. Here you will find unique stores that sell vintage clothing, antiques, books, furniture, and clothes. There are a number of restaurants to dine at. We had lunch at Lola's Mexican Cuisine. Lola's recipes were passed down from her grandmother and the food was wonderful. We of course started out with margaritas and their house made guacamole. We enjoyed the various dishes but I think the "El Trio" was the big hit, with three homemade tacos with different toppings and beautifully presented. Across the street from Lola's is the Art Theatre of Long Beach, which shows independent and foreign films. Every Saturday night there is a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, and everyone comes dressed up as characters from the movie
Our last evening was spent taking a Duffy Electric Boat cruise on Alamitos Bay. What a wonderful way to spend the evening. We had wine and cheese and crackers as we drifted across the water and enjoyed viewing the beautiful sunset and homes along the water. After our boat cruise we went to the Boathouse on the Bay for dinner. This steak and seafood restaurant has a great vibe, with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the Alamitos Bay. There is live entertainment and when we arrived there was a wonderful singer, Rick Parma, singing on the patio entertaining the guests. I enjoyed the Caesar salad and the steak and lobster for dinner. The drinks are wonderful as well. There is nothing better than enjoying delicious food and drinks, listening to great music, and having an incredible view of the water as you dine. This was the perfect ending to my wonderful visit to Long Beach.