|COUSIN ARTY LONG BEACH, CA|
PICTURE, HYPER LINK = WEBSITE
Hey gang, this is Cousin Arty, contributor to JohnnyJet.com and long time resident of San Pedro, California. My close proximately to Long Beach (separated by two bridges) has given me a unique perspective on that city's evolution. Sit back, read and discover why I'm totally stoked about my neighboring town -- it's not your grandpa's Long Beach anymore.
As a child, I could remember sitting in my parents living room and staring out through the windows at Long Beach’s sparkling skyline. Over the years, I’ve witnessed the rejuvenation of this dynamic urban playground and thoroughly enjoyed my visits across the bridges. With the addition of unique bars, museums and restaurants (from beach casual to Hollywood chic), Long Beach should be a serious consideration for those looking to have a great time in a completely walk able central district.
My witnessed History of Long Beach
From the days of my grandfather, Long Beach was primarily viewed as a Navy town. The US Naval Base was constructed in the harbor area in 1941. I can still remember the Naval Base which we would always pass heading through Terminal Island. Apparently in 1975 the city underwent an aggressive redevelopment project and hosted the first Long Beach Grand Prix that same year. Early June of every year, downtown Long Beach sounds like an angry beehive with the roar of these races. In 1978, the Long Beach convention center opened next to the Long Beach Arena (This is the site of the Fred Hall fishing and tackle show). Prior to each Summer, my Dad and I looked forward to the show as it is the precursor to the fishing season in our local waters. 1982 marked the construction of Shoreline Village, the Downtown Shoreline Marina and Shoreline Park. The Downtown Shoreline Marina was the site of my first boat purchase, and I operated water taxi’s in and out of Shoreline village while attending college. In 1983, I watched as the Spruce Goose was moved off Terminal Island and placed in a Dome shape structure adjacent to the Queen Mary. Just a year later, the city is host to four Olympic events: volleyball, yachting, fencing and archery. The Los Angeles Metro blue line started its first link in downtown Long Beach in 1990. My dad still drives over the bridge every other day to drop my mom off so she can hop on the Blue line to go to work in downtown Los Angeles. 1992 marked the year the Spruce Goose was moved up to McMinnville, Oregon. It now rests at the Venture Museum and its dome became a movie studio used by Warner Brothers. On one particular night, I did see the Bat Boat explode as it was racing along side the Queen Mary while filming Batman Returns. In 1998 the Long Beach Aquarium opened and at this time holds the only Bull shark on display in California. The Pike at Rainbow Harbor Entertainment Complex opened in 2003 offering a great selection of food and entertainment.
My trip begins on a Thursday at the Westin at around 6:00 pm in downtown Long Beach.
The Long Beach Westin is located at 333 East Ocean Blvd. Directly across from the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, it’s only a five-minute walk to attractions at The Pike or fine dinning along Pine Avenue. The Hotel offers a variety of packages from Business packages, Aquarium of the Pacific packages or those looking to start off their cruise in the Port of Long Beach and want a night of relaxation prior to their exciting cruise vacation. The Westin Centennial Ballroom holds up to 1,540 people, the cities largest. There are also 469 guest bedrooms and 23 meeting rooms. The Westin has an extensive list of business services including: audio visual equipment and technicians, meeting and event facilities, outdoor function space, audio visual equipment, video conferencing services and high speed internet access in all meeting rooms or event facilities. I thoroughly enjoyed my room at the Westin. I slept on one of their signature "Heavenly Beds". If you have never slept on one of these beds, you are truly missing out on a better night’s sleep. I had a great view of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center and Shoreline Village and the cranes at the various ship terminals in the Port of Long Beach. The 5th floor of the hotel offers a Reebok powered gym and an outdoor heated pool. If your trip was anything like mine in Long Beach, you probably ate some great food and a lot of it. Not to worry, hotel guest are given "Runners World Maps". These maps are designed by Runners World Magazine and consist of a 3 or 5-mile loop through scenic Long Beach.
Over to the Coast Hotel by 6:30 pm.
The Long Beach Coast Hotel is yet another "location blessed" resort hotel in Long Beach. The Coast Hotel is one of the few waterfront hotels that I know offers beautiful views that change with every hour of passing light. The Queen Mary, Shoreline Village and Catalina Express terminals are all but a short water taxi ride away so no need for a rental car. The Coast Long Beach Hotel conveniently offers Aqua Bus Service within 100 steps of their patio dining area. What a cool way to head over and check out the attractions on the other side of the LA River. Now lets talk business. The Coast Long Beach Hotel has 195 newly renovated guest rooms with private balconies, coffee makers, irons, hairdryers, data ports and voicemail service. The Coast Hotel also has a gift shop and a fitness center. There is bayside dinning on their outdoor patios, a year round heated pool and lighted tennis courts. If meeting space is what you seek, there are 8 meeting rooms that provide a total of 7,450 square feet which can hold up to 300 guest. Also, the Coast Hotel offers some great catering. So if your looking to spend vacation time or plan a business trip, the Coast Long Beach Hotel offers unbelievable access to all of Long Beach’s attractions and an even more unbelievable view of the Downtown Long Beach skyline. This, in my opinion is the most beautiful skyline in all of Southern California. A view I’m fortunate enough to experience every time I return from Catalina Island while aboard the Catalina Express.
Breakfast at "Kabo Café" at 8:30 am
The Kabo Café in Shoreline Village offered a great breakfast and reasonable prices for waterfront dinning. It’s also one of the only places in Shoreline Village to serve breakfast. With outside seating along the boardwalk, one can enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of shoreline harbor. I’m not too sure about you, but I’m completely content with a hearty breakfast and hot cup of coffee while watching the passing of boats as they slip in and out of the harbor. The service was prompt and friendly. Their menu looks to be a fusion of American and International Cuisine. My personal experience with the breakfast is that it was light and uncomplicated, yet flavorful and satisfying, the perfect complement to the start of an active day. I plan to revisit the Kabo Café with my girlfriend and enjoy a glass of wine (or two) during sunset. I was afforded a view of their wine selection (not too shabby,) and wish to return during the magic hour (right before sunset), when the harbor is a blaze with reds, lavenders and orange shades. My favorite time of day!! The attire is casual, a "friends and family" atmosphere. The Kabo Café is opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their hours of operation are Sunday-Thursday 6am-9pm and Saturdays 6am-11pm. They also offer takeout and there is parking on site as well as valet. If you are exploring around Long beach and happen to be at the "Downtown Landing", "Queen Mary" or "Aquarium of the Pacific", you can pick up an Aquabus from any of these locations and be dropped off directly in front of the Kabo Café.
Over to the Rainbow Rocket at 10:15 am
The Rainbow Rocket is an 1800 hp high-speed vessel that takes you for a wild and crazy ride outside the break wall into the open ocean. The ride time is about 45 minutes at speeds of approximately 40 mph. That might not sound all that fast, but add 2 to 3 feet of wind chop, and you better hold on for dear life. Our ride was relatively tame, but I could see the makings of a darn good time. With the tunes cranking and a cocktail bar on board, had this excursion taken place about 8 hours later it might have gotten a little sloppy. The boats seats 124 brave souls (Life vest included), fares are subject to change, but the summer rates were as follows: Adults $14, Children $7 and infants free. They operate Tuesday thru Sunday 1:30pm, 3:00pm, 4:30pm, 6:00pm, 7:30pm, 8:45pm and 9:45pm. Again, these times are subject to change so you might want to give them a call before you come down. For more information you can call 562-43 ROCKET (76253). The Rainbow Rocket is located in Rainbow Harbor, tied alongside Pier 7, just across from the "Yard House". Oh yeah, if you visit their website: RainbowRocket.net, there is a $2.00 off coupon.
Dockside Boat & Bed Long Beach
Another Unique opportunity for an overnight stay in Long Beach is the Dockside Bed & Boat. There are 6 yachts that are offered as a "bed and breakfast" type stay in beautiful Rainbow Harbor. Each yacht offers the comforts of home, while the "Crown Jewel" (my favorite) also offers an electric fireplace. Prices ranging from $170.00 - $300.00 per night make them competitive with some of the larger hotels chains on Ocean Blvd. All the yachts sleep up to 4 people and some will seat up to 6. This is a family owned operation and has been in business in Rainbow Harbor for seven years. Could you plan a better weekend?? With endless attractions, fine dinning and dancing literally footsteps away. All the while knowing that at the end of the night you can return to your private yacht for a nightcap on a spacious aft deck taking in the views of the Light House and the majestic lights of the Queen Mary in the background. For more information contact by phone: (562) 436-3111 or Fax: (562) 436-1181. Premium nights such as New Years Eve, Valentines Day, 4th of July, require advanced reservations, so book early!!!
Next: Aquarium of the Pacific by 11:15 am
The Aquarium of the Pacific is all about the Pacific Ocean. And why shouldn’t it be? ]The Pacific Ocean is the largest and most diverse body of water on the planet. That’s a lot of ground or water to cover. The Aquarium is located on 5 acres of land that could fit 3 football fields which is about 156,735 square feet. The Aquarium of the Pacific features 19 major habitats and 32 focus exhibits. The Aquarium houses more than 12,500 ocean animals representing over 500 species. Exhibits range in size from 5,000 gallons up to 350,000 in an effort to educate visitors on the conservatory strategies being employed to the "Big Blue" ocean.
Upon entering the Aquarium, we were greeted by our tour guide and educator, Eric, in the ‘Great Hall of the Pacific". Immediately, one begins to realize with the hustle and bustle of tour groups and excited grade school kids that this aquarium is succeeding in its mission. I’ve visited the Aquarium a few times and my eyes are always immediately drawn to the rear of the hall. There lies possibly my favorite display within the aquarium, the "Blue Cavern". This huge tank houses all the fish I grew up chasing around on sport fishing boats. The "Blue Cavern is actually modeled from a kelp forest along the northeastern coast of Santa Catalina Island. There are Barracuda, White Sea Bass, Yellowtail and much more within this exhibit. I’ve been told that watching fish in an aquarium is therapeutic; standing next to this 2-story fish tank definitely puts the mind at ease. For those not quite ready to perform their wedding nuptials underwater, this could be the next best thing. The area in front of the "Blue Cavern" is available for weddings. Kind of cool!
Before we embark on our "Behind the Scenes" tour, Eric gives us the lay of the ocean, so to speak. The three main galleries of the aquarium highlight the major regions of the Pacific Ocean: Southern California/Baja, the Northern Pacific, and the Tropical Pacific. The "Behind the Scenes" tour last about 1 hour. It allows visitors to gain inside perspective on this one million gallon attraction. What first came to mind when I learned the amount of animals being cared for was the topic of food. Rest assured that these animals are being given the royal treatment. All the animals are given restaurant grade fish on a daily basis. Did someone say sushi? We should all be so lucky.
I found the animal quarantine area particularly interesting. This area consisted of multiple independent tanks where sick animals could be cared for. We also got to see where baby sharks were hatched and raised until old enough to be released into the larger habitats. We were told that the aquarist collect 5 to 25 shark egg cases per day. It was really cool to see some of the various ages of development of the sharks by looking through their somewhat tran slucent egg cases.
The outside exhibits offer just as much fun. We had the opportunity to pet sharks, Bat Rays and an odd looking creature called the "Shovelnose Guitarfish" in the "Ray Touch pool". Also, be sure to take the time to visit California’s only "Bull Shark" on display in the "Outdoor Shark Lagoon Exhibit". Not knowing too much about this animal, I found it interesting that the "Bull Shark" is the only shark that can live in fresh water lakes and rivers. Eric informed us that there were only 4 fatal shark attacks that took place in 2005. Most of these attacks come from the "Great Whites", Tiger Sharks and the "Bull Sharks". While statements such as this instill fear in us all, it is also important to realize that sharks represent a very important part of our oceans ecology and that in truth man represents a greater threat to their species than they to ours. Humans kill over 100 million sharks per year and because of this, 80 species of shark our endangered. Hopefully through educational programs such as the ones offered at the "Aquarium of the Pacific", understanding can offset fear and we can learn to appreciate one of nature’s most highly evolved species.
To tell you the truth, birds kind of freak me out a little more than sharks, so what a better place for me to be than in a giant birdcage surrounded by birds. My first thought was "oh look at the cute little bird", but upon closer observation these cute little birds have very large beaks. Stephanie, an employee of the aquarium involved with media relations assured me that if I wanted to feed them I would be fine. It turns out that this was the whole point to the "Lorikeet Forest" exhibit. At the entrance of this exhibit, visitors purchase a cup of nectar that these birds go batty over. It was actually pretty cool having this Australian bird perch on my finger while he proceeded to chug the nectar from the cup. Yeah, it was cool until he decided to crawl up my arm and hang out right next to my ear, then I got a little freaked out again.
There are several other exhibits worth mentioning and one of the newer ones is the "Dazzling and Dangerous". This exhibit opened May 6th of 2006 and allows one to get an up close and personal view of creatures such as the toxic blue ringed octopus or a Gila monster. This exhibit houses a huge amount of live creatures, but also includes interactive presentations, a film, passport guide and stamping stations, interactive displays and much more. Visitors learn about new research into the medicinal benefits of these creatures’s venom and why it is important to protect them and their habitats. The Dazzling and Dangerous exhibit will remain open to the public until May 26th of 2007.
What continues to strike me as unique about the Aquarium of the Pacific is its approach to educating the public. A lot of the exhibits are hands on and they do emphasize "hands on" here. There are a number of educational programs that range from age two to and up. These programs include courses, lectures, family sleepovers, parent and child classes and family workshops. There are also off site programs such as kayaking adventures, summer day camps and the opportunity to become a marine biologist for a day with the "Ocean Experience Adventure". The Aquarium of the Pacific is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach, Ca. Their hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily. The Aquarium is closed December 25th and during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend. For more information you can call (562) 590-3100 or visit AquariumOfPacific.org.
PART 2 Next Week!
*Please tell us what you think of Cousin Arty's review!
|Join Our Mailing List|