When you think of great places to go on a date near L.A., Long Beach usually doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yet, whenever I visit, I’m blown away by how beautiful and romantic parts of Long Beach are. It’s got a unique mix of modern and retro, of beach and city, of towering skyscrapers and craftsman homes. Here are some fun and unique date ideas in Long Beach.
1. The Queen Mary – It’s Back!
After years of neglect by shader operators, the Queen Mary is being repaired and is in the process of re-opening!
The hotel, some restaurants, and tours are now operating!
The Observation Bar, with its vintage ambiance and signature drinks, will transport you back in time to the 1930s. For a real meal, check out the Chelsea Chowder House & Bar. The Queen Mary Royal Sunday Brunch will be returning over the summer. No word on Sir Winston’s, voted one of the most romantic restaurants in America. I hope it returns, as it was one of my favorite experiences onboard!
Afterward, wander around the decks of the ship, many of which are open to explore. If you’re into Art Deco design or vintage aesthetics, you’ll enjoy the 1930’s vibe of the interior. Everyone will enjoy the view of downtown Long Beach from the ship.
At night, some of the nooks and crannies of the ship are downright creepy (but fun); no wonder the Queen Mary was named one of the top ten most haunted places in the U.S. by Time Magazine!
There are guided tours of the ship ranging from historical to ghost tours, but they are rather expensive. Just wandering the ship can be fun as well!
From Pine Avenue, it’s a short drive to the Queen Mary, a vintage ocean liner permanently docked in the bay.
2. The Pine Avenue Pier at Sunset
I think one of the most romantic places in Los Angeles is the Pine Avenue Pier and the surrounding area. To get there, take the 710 South and follow the signs to Shoreline Drive. There are several parking structures around Pine avenue.
If you have an afternoon to spare, you can check out the Aquarium of the Pacific, open from 9 AM to 6 PM most days of the year. It’s rather expensive ($26 per person, as of this writing), so make sure you and/or your date are really into this type of thing.
But personally, I would suggest just strolling around the Pine Avenue Pier area waterfront around sunset for free. The views of the ocean, sky, lighthouse, boats, and the Queen Mary were spectacular around dusk!
You can walk all the way to the lighthouse and back.
For food, the area around the pier offers almost every mid-level chain restaurant I could think of, including the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, Gladstone’s (seafood), Famous Dave’s (BBQ), California Pizza Kitchen, Islands, Tokyo Wako, P.F. Chang’s and the Yard House.
3. Pine Avenue Restaurants and Bars
Another great area is just a few blocks further up Pine Avenue, where there are plenty of hip restaurants and bars to choose from. Later in the night, though, a good number of the restaurants turn into nightclubs, with dance music blasting into the streets.
One of my favorite restaurants on Pine Avenue is Bo-beau. The French-inspired cuisine is outstanding, the service is friendly, and the decor is very cool. Oh, and they have fifty beers on tap!
There is also a rooftop section with a more limited menu. There are plenty of other restaurant options on Pine Avenue!
4. 2nd Street Belmont Shore
2nd Street between Livingston and Naples island has a wide array of great casual restaurants and interesting stores. Located in the Belmont Shore neighborhood, it’s very walkable. Grab lunch or dinner, then walk down 2nd and visit or window show at the stores. No matter what cuisine you’re looking for, from Indian to Mexican to Greek, you’ll probably find it on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore!
5. 4th Street “Retro Row”
The area of East 4th Street centered east of Cherry Avenue is known as “Retro Row” for its wide variety of quirky vintage clothing and furniture stores. This is a great area to browse if you’re into the retro scene, or just are into unique stuff. Afterward grab a drink at Art du Vin wine bar, formerly a movie theater. Or see a movie at the Art Theater, showing both first-run and independent films, including, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
6. The Long Beach Antique Market
If you like flea markets, check out the huge Long Beach Antique Market with over 800 sellers. It meets every third Sunday at the Long Beach Veteran’s Stadium. I personally think flea markets are a great date idea!
7. SteelCraft Long Beach
SteelCraft Long Beach is a casual outdoor eatery constructed from repurposed shipping containers. I really love this concept, which I first encountered on a much bigger scale at Downtown Container Park in Los Vegas.
SteelCraft Long Beach is not very big, with less than ten restaurants (or more accurately, food windows) there, but it’s a cool, unusual place to meet for a very casual date. Grab coffee at Steelhead Coffee, noodles at Tajima Ramen, a couple of beers at Smog City Brewing, or dessert at the Fresh Shave. For breakfast any time of day, check out Waffle Love.
On some weekend evenings, they have a DJ playing in the courtyard.
8. Long Beach Museum of Art / Claire’s
Housed in a historic 1911 residence, the Long Beach Museum of Art is a smaller museum – more like a gallery – featuring mostly modern art exhibits. Some folks understandably complain about the $12 cost for such a small museum, but on Fridays, it’s half price.
Also on the museum grounds, and not to be missed while you’re there, is Claire’s, featuring new American cuisine with indoor and outdoor dining with ocean views. This place is not just a “museum restaurant”; it’s a charming destination in its own right. It’s a popular spot for Sunday brunch, so I’d recommend reservations for that.
If you’re there on a Saturday, you can walk just a few blocks to the Bixby Park Farmers Market on Saturdays between 9AM and 2PM. Or take a stroll down Bluff Park, adjacent to the museum.
9. Kayaking the Naples Canals
Venice is not the only beach city in Los Angeles with canals. The Naples canals in Long Beach are famous for their Christmas decorations, but you can rent kayaks and do the loop with expensive homes on either side of you any time of year. It’s a fun daytime date idea!
Alamitos Bay has a narrow opening to the sea, so the waters are calm. At the same time, there is minimal boat traffic. It’s ideal for kayaking!
The place to rent your kayaks is Kayaks on the Water. They never sell out, but on weekends you should get there right when they open at 9 AM to find parking. Otherwise, parking can be nearly impossible. Reservations are not necessary but are recommended to get you going quicker.
We had a great time when we went. First, we circled the entire Naples Island. Next, we entered the narrower Naples Canal with its picturesque homes and boats. Total distance was about 3.5 miles in about an hour and a half. If you want a shorter ride, just do the canal – that is the best part! If you want a longer ride, you can paddle further up Alamitos Bay to disembark at Starbucks!
Afterward, we had fish tacos at Roe Seafood on 2nd Street, within moderate walking distance of Kayaks on the Water. It’s a formal restaurant, but it has a fast food counter next door, so you are welcome to walk in wearing your swimsuit and flip-flops there. Everything was great there! Highly recommended!
10. Battleship USS Iowa Museum (San Pedro)
This isn’t for everyone, but if you’re a military geek like me, you’ll get a kick out of going on a real WWII battleship, the USS Iowa. Admission is under $20 per person and you can go on a self-guided tour. Look for the special events like Movies Under the Guns, where they play free movies on board, or veteran’s day concerts, and stuff like that.
The USS Iowa is technically not located in Long Beach, but in neighboring San Pedro, just a short drive away.
11. Farmer’s Markets
Long Beach has a farmer’s market almost every day of the week! Check out this list of farmer’s markets in Long Beach.
I went to the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Bixby Park. It was pretty small and didn’t have a huge selection of produce, but it did have a good selection of Mexican food. Perfect for a snack after visiting the Long Beach Museum of Art.
12. Country Line Dancing at Cowboy Country
Bear with me here. I know country music may not be at the top of your list, but I met up with some friends at Cowboy Country and had a great time! This is a country music dance club. There is no cover from 6-7PM and it’s only $5 after on Friday and Saturday, $3 on Wednesday (those are the only three days of the week that it’s open, so beware).
They have lessons at 7 and 8 PM. The first one they taught us was a partner dance called the “Horseshoe”. I would say it was moderately difficult for a beginner. The second dance was a line dance that was pretty easy to follow. I think even someone with two left feet could muddle through that one.
The fun part is that they played songs for that particular line dance two or three times during the night, so we could all get up and practice it some more. The downside is that other than that, we had to sit out because we didn’t know those particular line dance routines.
The crowd had a wide age range and were not just “cowboy” types, but rather all types of “regular” people, haha. We went close to Halloween so everyone was dressed up in costumes. We had a great time!
13. El Dorado Nature Center
If you want a quiet respite from the city, take a walk at the El Dorado Nature Center. This is literally an oasis of trees and nature in the middle of civilization. Parking is $5-$7.
14. Signal Hill Park
Signal Hill Park is a small but charming park in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It’s considered a hidden gem because it has some nice views of the area. Good for a late afternoon picnic or watching the sunset or the city lights after dark.
15. The Sky Room (CLOSED FOR RENOVATION UNTIL 2023)
Undoubtedly, one of the most romantic restaurants in Long Beach is The Sky Room just off of Pine Avenue on 40 S. Locust Ave.
Located on the top floor of the historic Breakers Hotel (now a retirement home), the Sky Room is considered one of the best restaurants in Long Beach and probably has the best view. Built in 1926, the building has an Art-Deco feel that will transport you back in time. The menu has a variety of seafood, pasta, and steaks.
If you want an even more spectacular view, venture up the narrow staircase to the rooftop bar in the same building. The DJ starts around 10 PM. The bar is kind of small, but the view is spectacular. It’s worth going up there just for the view even if you don’t stay long.
Read my full review of the Skyroom.
I hope there are a few ideas that you can take away here to help you plan the ultimate date in Long Beach. Please leave a comment if you know of any other cool hangouts in Long Beach!