Top things to do on a long layover: Long Beach, California

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Activities, sights, food and drink, places to go and interesting local tips to make your layover at Long Beach Airport more exciting

Here at Kiwi.com, we use a lot of data to help you find the cheapest flights and the best connections. But sometimes, a quick connection simply doesn’t exist, and you have to wait around. In fact, the average stopover time at Long Beach Airport is around 14 hours, so here’s how you can get out and see a bit of the city. Let’s make your stopover a part of your trip!

Head to the shore

Los Alamitos Beach — ShutterstockAs its name suggests, any given afternoon in Long Beach is all about the sun, sand and sea — Shutterstock

One of the great things about Long Beach Airport is that it’s small and centrally located, which means no expeditions to collect your bags, and no waiting for shuttle buses, monorails and the like.

It’s also relatively close to the sea, so you can get to the beach in around 20 minutes by taxi, or in 45 minutes on local buses, depending on traffic. It might be that all you want to do is laze on the beach for a couple of hours, and who are we to stop you?

To start with, it is a very, very long beach, so it’s not just a name. Technically it’s divided into a bunch of them: from the northwest corner they’re Alamitos Beach (wide, flat sand, gentle waves); Junipero Beach (lined with palm trees, slightly marred by a parking lot, but close to Bixby Park with playgrounds and picnic spots); and City Beach (a sort of combination of the two).

At the southeastern portion where East Ocean Boulevard meets 39th Place, there’s the triple threat of Mediterranean grill, Mexican food, and the Belmont Brewery, all pretty much right on the sand, and if that’s not a better option than airport food, I don’t know what is.

Speaking of which…

Grab some food

This part of the world is known for great food, so treat yourself. In a relatively small area, you’ll find Korean, Mexican, Filipino, Peruvian, Cambodian and Mediterranean eats, as well as classic American fare like burgers and barbecue.

In the 4th Street Corridor alone, you’ll find places like VBurger (plant-based burgers, breakfast sandwiches and quesadillas, with a vegan creperie next door); the bright, friendly Social List tavern with its outdoor patio; Gusto Bread for early-morning pastries, baguettes and cookies; and Scholb Premium Ales for craft beer and nicely-priced bar food. Stop at one of these, or quickly grab a taco, burrito or a slice or two of pizza and continue your journey.

Rent a car

Wayfarers Chapel — ShutterstockWayfarers Chapel — Shutterstock

If you’d like to explore a bit further, Long Beach Airport provides car rental for shorter periods of time, with the obvious option of returning it to the airport when you’re done. This gives you much more freedom to see the surrounding areas.

Around half an hour southwest of the airport lies the Forrestal Nature Reserve, a pretty stretch of coast with gentle hiking trails up to lookout points, while the even more picturesque Palos Verdes Estates Shoreline Preserve is only 15 minutes or so further around the headland. Between the two, you’ll pass Wayfarers Chapel, a one-of-a-kind wood and glass church designed in the late 1940s by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s wonderful, and the church and its three and a half acres of landscaped grounds are well worth your time.

Korean Friendship Bell under its pagoda — ShutterstockKorean Friendship Bell — Shutterstock

Retracing your steps, San Pedro is home to another couple of interesting curios: Fort Macarthur, a former military battery that guarded the Port of Los Angeles from 1914 to 1974, is now a museum dedicated to the history of the US Navy and Air Force during the world wars and the American Pacific Theater campaigns; and, in a nice juxtaposition, the Korean Friendship Bell, a historic bell housed under a beautifully ornate pagoda, was a gift from South Korea in 1976.

Nature in the city

Think it’s all city around here? Well, you’re not quite right. If you know where to look, there are little pockets of nature all around… in a manner of speaking.

The area around Signal Hill might be absolute suburbia, but in the center there’s… well, there’s a hill, obviously, with views over the port and out to sea, and even downtown LA on a clear day. What’s remarkable is that it’s also just a local bus ride from the airport.

As is the El Dorado Nature Center, a mere 20 minutes on the number 104. This is 105 acres of peace and quiet for a variety of animal and plant life, with two and a quarter miles of trails winding around a couple of lakes, a stream, and through forested areas. You enter across a wooden bridge and are immediately somewhere else, somewhere quiet, green and peaceful. The visitor center has displays about the history of the park and the environment, a small gift shop and an art gallery.

Down on the Waterfront, you can also learn about marine life at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Sharks, jellyfish, sea otters, turtles, all manner of fish and more creatures local to this stretch of coast and the deeper ocean waters can be seen here. You can also take a tour to find out about the aquarium’s conservation programs, or see the special section where baby animals and animals who have been rescued can play and get healthy again. Aww!

Other attractions

Front of the Queen Mary ship — ShutterstockExplore the vast vessel that is the Queen Mary — Shutterstock

From the Waterfront down to Belmont Shore, as well as being one long stretch of beach, features a couple of interesting tourist attractions — namely, the Long Beach Museum of Art, with three floors of works by local artists from Southern California, and the Queen Mary. This massive liner was built in the 1930s, and is now a hotel, but you can take one of the many tours through its magnificent art deco interior, down below decks to the engine rooms, learn about the history of the Cunard Line… or, by night, a ghost tour through locations not normally accessible to the public.

Otherwise, the seafront east of Belmont Shore features playgrounds, a roller rink, kayak rentals and other sports facilities, while heading back northwest brings you to shops, more restaurants, and the long Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier.

Whatever you choose to do, be aware of the time, as you’ll need to be back at the airport with plenty of leeway, particularly if you have to re-check your bags. Driving times mentioned above can, of course, vary massively depending on traffic conditions, so keep that in mind.

But by traveling using Kiwi.com’s self-transfer — meaning you’re free to move wherever you want during a layover, rather than being stuck inside the airport — the city opens up and you can take advantage of what’s out there.

So make the most of your Long Beach layover — a bonus bit of holiday you’d never even thought about!

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