Elaine Masters a RoamRight Blog Author

Exploring Long Beach, California – A Queen, An Island And Art

Queen Mary is a retired ocean liner that sailed primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1936 to 1967 for the Cunard Line

Over the years, Long Beach has been the butt of jokes, bypassed by freeways and troubled by gangs. What residents enjoy, and savvy travelers still may discover, are graceful, waterfront districts where the city forefathers erected Craftsman mansions from Spanish ranch land, filled marshes and dug canals; in the process creating a vacation mecca for those want to escape the inland heat.

Historic Playground

To the north sits the largest port on the West Coast where you can still book passage to Catalina Island. In town, a playground, the Pike amusement park, was built in 1902 along the pier at the base of Pine Street until the city razed it in 1979. Before the Pike, enterprising sportsmen created a duck hunting lodge and befriended city fathers who later sold them the rights to carve canals from marshland and raise a ring of lots above the high tide mark. That neighborhood became Naples Island, a quiet residential area where today multi-million dollar mansions rub shoulders with beach shacks along the waterfront. There are few visitors as the uninitiated speed past on their way to Belmont Shore, the 2nd Street business and shopping district a few blocks away.

Naples Holiday Boat Parade

Each year Naples Island throws off its quiet façade for the annual Holiday boat parade. Waterfront homes compete with elaborate light and animatronic displays. Crowds line the walkways and bridges to catch a glimpse of small decorated craft and at the finale, the floating Santas, singing as they bob in the water, their beards wet and red caps soggy. It’s all in good fun and the next day, calm returns. During the rest of the year a Gondola company will slowly sail you through the waterways in Venetian style, stopping under bridges for old-world serenades while you relax and sip wine.

If you cross the bridge to the other side of Alamitos Bay you’ll find sheltered, sandy beaches and rental kiosks with kayaks to explore the canals, roller blades or bicycles to scoot along the paved boardwalk towards downtown.

The Queen Mary

A regal quiet has a permanent berth across from the urban center of Long Beach. The Queen Mary sits in splendor on the other side of the bay from downtown. It’s more than a floating hotel. Between private events and shipboard conventions, the vessel hosts a sumptuous buffet in the ballroom every Sunday, often accompanied by a harpist. There are a handful of specialized tours, including séances and ghost walks. The walls still shine with burnished burl wood and chrome, etched and stained glass sconces, all remnants of a gilded age when Art Deco embellishments adorned cravats, sequined gowns and stemware.

Art on the bluff

The vintage appeal of Long Beach has given way to more modern tastes over the past thirty years. Two vastly different museums are worth a visit. The Long Beach Museum of Art is perched on a bluff overlooking the harbor and the Pacific Ocean. The open floor plan and galleries contrast with the historic Elizabeth Milbank Anderson home and carriage house, built in 1912 and sitting adjacent to the museum. A garden café and special musical events make the Museum a vital and popular institution.

Less than a mile inland sits the modern and bright, MOLAA, the only museum in the United States that exclusively features contemporary Latin American fine art. Built on the site of a retired roller skating rink and 10 thousand feet of a silent movie studio, the galleries are dedicated to educating the North American public about contemporary artists drawn from over 20 countries south of the border.

Long Beach is a city full of contrasts, but for those with an appetite for history and fond of contemporary creativity, it makes for a satisfying sojourn off the beaten path.

Have you been to Long Beach? What did you think?

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About the Author

Elaine Masters

Elaine Masters, a RoamRight Blog Author Elaine is constantly in motion. She's called most of the major cities along the U.S. west coast home and travels or scuba dives as often as possible (Her latest passport is almost out ofpages.) The one constant has been writing and she's contributedto numerous publications and blogs as well as her own,TripWellness.com. Flytime Yoga was founded through her yoga practice, including a session at 30,000 feet on a dive trip flight to Fiji. Her Indie Excellence award-winning Drivetime Yoga techniques have helped RV and bus drivers, police officers andother travelers get where they're going feeling great atDrivetimeYoga.com. She podcastsThe Gathering Roadweekly and brings authors and experts together with travelers at monthlyTravel Well meetupsin San Diego. Follow Elaine onLinkedIn,Pinterest,Facebook,TwitterandGoogle Plus.

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