When you think of great places to go on a date near L.A., Long Beach usually doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yet, I recently spent a few days there and was blown away by how beautiful and romantic parts of Long Beach are. I’m not a Long Beach local, but there are some spots that I think are worth driving to in Long Beach.
1. The Pine Avenue Pier at Sunset
I think one of the most romantic places in Los Angeles is the Pine Avenue Pier and 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. You can get package deals that combine admission with the Queen Mary or the Battleship Iowa, or even a Dolphin and Sea Life Cruise.
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.
2. 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, some of the restaurants turn into de-facto night clubs, 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.
3. The Queen Mary
From Pine Avenue, it’s a short drive to the Queen Mary, a vintage ocean liner permanently docked in the bay. Parking is $18 but is discounted with validation.
Check out the Observation Bar (open till midnight Sunday-Thursday and 2 AM on Friday and Saturday). They have live music on Fridays and Saturdays, ranging from jazz, blues, Latin and top 40.
For a romantic dinner option aboard the Queen Mary, check out Sir Winston’s, voted one of the top 100 most romantic restaurants in the U.S.
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!
4. 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 actually see a movie at the Art Theater, showing both first-run and independent films, including, of course, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
5. 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!
6. SteelCraft Long Beach
SteelCraft Long Beach is an 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.
7. 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 complain about the $10 cost for such a small museum, but if you go on Thursdays after 3 PM, it’s free. 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.
8. The Naples Canals
Venice is not the only beach 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.
9. 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 onboard, 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.
10. 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!
11. 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.
12. The Sky Room (WILL RE-OPEN IN 2020)
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.
On weekends, there is usually a live band, usually Latin or Swing. There is room to dance!
If you want an even more spectacular view, venture up the narrow staircase to the Up Lounge, a 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!