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Long Beach, Calif., doesn’t just sit pretty in the shadow of Los Angeles — far from it. About a 30-minute drive from LA, the laid-back oceanside city has character all its own, from a longtime history with tattoos to the culturally diverse community it is today.
Travelers who like a heavy dose of arts and culture will feel right at home in Long Beach, where vibrant murals embellish buildings and stumbling upon a lively street festival is par for the course.
EatAsk any Long Beach local for a restaurant recommendation, and chances are, Open Sesame will be the response. Launched in 1999, the buzzing establishment is a Long Beach institution, and the permanent crowds and line out the door are proof. (Owner Ali Kobeissi even opened a second location just a few doors down.)
Authentic Lebanese food — rich, comforting and liberally spiced — are on offer here, and some of Open Sesame’s greatest hits include chicken tawook (kebab), fried cauliflower and spicy hummus. Tiled flooring, gilded mirrors and throw pillows produce a cozy Middle Eastern ambiance, but one bite of baba ghanoush (eggplant dip) is all one needs to feel transported.
SleepDrawing from Latin America and Southern California palettes, Hotel Maya - a Doubletree by Hilton wields a burst of flavor when compared to some of the muted city hotels in Long Beach. Because the waterfront boutique-style hotel is situated across the harbor from downtown, guests will feel like they’ve arrived at a relaxing, tropical getaway. The hotel features 199 guestrooms, including two suites, and all accommodations boast bright pops of color (such as pea-green window shutters or bright-blue artwork), Keurig coffeemakers, flat-screen HD televisions and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Just as vibrant is on-site restaurant Fuego, which fuses influences from Latin America. Sunday brunch is where Fuego truly shines: Don’t miss the chorizo chilaquiles or the ropa vieja (stewed beef) enchiladas. Outside, floating cabanas anchor a heated swimming pool, and fire pits set in a sandy, palm-tree-dotted stretch are enough reason to spend an evening stargazing and sharing stories over s’mores.
PlayThose drawn to the water will strike gold in Long Beach, as there are options galore to get wet — or at least admire the sea from a distance. For a great intro to the city, hop onboard a Long Beach Harbor Tour with Harbor Breeze Cruises. During the 45-minute sailing, passengers receive a history lesson while taking in skyline views.
But if clients would rather get behind the wheel, they can put the pedal to the metal with Long Beach Waterbikes. The local operator offers single or double Hydrobikes (bicycles mounted on floats); the double option includes a center platform for either a cooler with BYOB refreshments or a third companion — four-legged friends welcome.
The DetailsVisit Long Beachwww.visitlongbeach.com