1 Day Long Beach California Itinerary for Families

Tour the Queen Mary, what to do in Long Beach with kids.
Tour The Queen Mary to witness the glory of the high seas. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Southern California offers more to discover than Hollywood or Santa Monica. With charming communities up and down the coast, pack up the kids and explore Long Beach for the day. About 25 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, it offers a full day of family fun. So I’ve outlined what to do in Long Beach with kids.

Long Beach is a favorite with my kids since it’s boasts the Queen Mary and a fabulous aquarium. But first it’s time for breakfast.

Gaffey Street Diner

247 N. Gaffey St.
Opens at 5:30 a.m.

Gaffey Street Diner makes everything from the biscuits to the salsas fresh in-house. It was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. Be prepared to eat, the servings are generous and the scene is unpretentious.

The Queen Mary

1126 Queens Hwy.
Long Beach
Admission + Parking fee

Once the queen of the seas she crossed the Atlantic Ocean from the East Coast to-and-from England. In 1967 the RMS Queen Mary moored in the Long Beach Harbor. Now a maritime destination and some consider her haunted with multiple accounts of ghostly sightings walking the decks.

Take the tour to learn about the history of the RMS Queen Mary, including a tour of duty during WWII for troop transport. Walk through the model room with scale models of various ships and see the LEGO version of the Queen Mary.

Across the decks, I found the indoor pool (not open to visitors) and different mechanical rooms. With several restaurants, we ate at the Chowder House. Offering a family friendly menu, it worked for my kids.

Grab Starbucks coffee or snacks at the Midship Marketplace and eat at the tables on the deck outside. Another choice for families, The Promenade Cafe offers a menu with American favorites.

For a unique place to spend the night, book a stateroom on The Queen Mary. During our visit to Long Beach we spent a night onboard. Best for families with older kids and remember it’s an vintage ship.

After touring the Queen Mary, disembark the ship and head to the Long Beach Bike Share at the entrance. Since the parking is plentiful and paid I would leave the SUV at the Queen Mary.

Ride a Bike, what to do in Long Beach with kids.
With separate bike lanes, it’s easy for families to explore Long Beach on wheels. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Long Beach Bike Share

Rent by the Hour 
Several bike racks across Downtown

If everyone is willing, rent bikes from the Long Beach Bike Share Program. With multiple bike racks around the downtown area, I found it convenient for families with kids in middle school and older. Though helmets aren’t included.

From the parking lot of the Queen Mary, I found dedicated bike/walk lanes across the bridge to Shoreline Village. The bridge was a bit of a challenge for me though my teen had no problems.

Park the bikes in the rack and remember to take your belongings. If you park your bike in the official bike rack, the time on the meter stops. But your bike is open for another biker though I didn’t have a problem finding a bike during the weekend.

Take a day trip to Long Beach, California, or extend the stay with a night on the haunted Queen Mary Oceanliner. Got the details for a getaway with kids and more.

Aquarium of the Pacific

100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach
Admission depending on age

A must for families, the aquarium houses over 10,000 animals from 500 different species. With animals from the West Coast to the tropics, kids encounter a wide assortment of marine life.

As a kids favorite, spend a little extra time at the touch tanks.

The Rainbow Lighthouse, what to do in Long Beach with kids.
The Rainbow Lighthouse offers lots of space for family picnics. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Shoreline Village and Boardwalk

Since your bike has a basket, pack a picnic to enjoy in the shadow of the Rainbow Lighthouse. I found lots of grass, perfect for an afternoon or evening picnic.

The boardwalk in Shoreline Village is lined with souvenirs shops. It’s a pleasant bike ride for families though watch for bike route signs and walk your bike around the aquarium.

Pelican Pier Carousel

Don’t miss the Pelican Pier Carousel in the arcade. It’s a treasure from 1920 that started on the East Coast with stops in New Hampshire and Missouri before landing on the West Coast. Before Long Beach this carousel delighted kids in Santa Barbara.

Looking for a bit of throw back fun for the kids. Grab some tokens and play the games in the arcade.

Pelican Pier Carousel, what to do in Long Beach with kids.
The Pelican Pier Carousel is a must for the young-at-heart. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

After exploring the Aquarium, the Lighthouse and the Boardwalk. Ride out to Long Beach beaches.

Catch some sun at Long Beach Beaches

Just pass Shoreline Village, families can splash in the water. Since a breakwater protects the Long Beach Harbor, Long Beach beaches are calm compared to other Southern California beaches. Perfect little kids though will fall flat for teens wanting to surf.

Take a Scenic Cruise 

All aboard for family fun so grab a scenic cruise in Long Beach. For animal lovers book a whale watching cruise out of Long Beach. Winter and early spring offer the best chances of seeing a whale.

More Information

For those needing more information I recommend the Moon Travel Guides. I use the following for my travels through California.


This post contains affiliate links.

Know Before You Go: 

  • Download the Long Beach Bike Share app before arriving.







Camping in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park

The sign says it all.
The sign says it all.

The carful of kids wake up in the tiny town of Alma, New Brunswick, right outside the Bay of Fundy to a cloudless sky–amazing since yesterday we tromped around in the remnants of Hurricane Arthur. We are on the move again to add another Canadian province to our list, Nova Scotia, with a driving tour of the Cabot Trail, one of the best scenic drives in Canada.

The Cabot Trail is an 185-mile scenic route that winds along the northernmost coast of Nova Scotia through the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This area of Canada borrows its heritage from Scotland and celebrates it in towns like Mabou where The Red Shoe Pub that hosts twice weekly ceilidhs with traditional Scottish folk music.

The people of Nova Scotia
The people of Nova Scotia

From our room in Alma, New Brunswick, to our reserved campsite at Cheticamp in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, it’s 338 miles and should take a little over six hours. The roads are well-maintained and easy to navigate making for a pleasant drive; you won’t find a chain restaurant or hotel though, just so you know.

Our Equipped Campsite from Parks Canada.
Our Equipped Campsite from Parks Canada.

We spend the day driving and arrive at our destination at the eastern entrance of Cape Breton National Park just north of Cheticamp. This area of the park is quite wooded and we check in to the visitors center for our equipped campsite that I reserved online.

An equipped campsite is a great way to camp when you’re road tripping. Like most kids, the carful of kids will look for kindling or tote sleeping bags but they vanish into the woods when I need help with a tent, leaving me to do the grunt work. Parks Canada has done it for you NO TENT TO SET UP–and they also provide high-quality cooking equipment with a stove and fuel. Just bring your sleeping gear, food and best ghost stories.

The carful of kids are delighted with the campsite and it takes no time to get some burgers sizzling on the camp fire. We top dinner off with some s’mores and crawl into our tent for a pleasant night’s sleep, thanks to our sleeping pads and air mattresses that I don’t leave home without.

Along the Cabot Trail
Along the Cabot Trail

The carful of kids pack up camp after a breakfast of toasted tea biscuits and jam from the Aucoin Bakery, a local bakery that I find. We’re continuing east on the Cabot Trail, named after John Cabot who landed in Canada in 1497, towards the other side of Cape Breton National Park at Ingonish.

Rugged Beauty at Every Bend in the Road.
Rugged Beauty at Every Bend in the Road.

This one of the top scenic drives in Canada and the carful of kids love its vast, rugged beauty as it snakes its way through the Cape Breton Highlands. There are lots of turn-outs and overlooks so take your time but the driving is easy and there’s no traffic.

In Neil's Harbor, a small town with a rich fishing history.
In Neil’s Harbor, a small town with a rich fishing history.

We stop in the town of Neil’s Harbor and grab some seafood chowder at the Chowder House before we head over  Neil’s Harbor Lighthouse Ice Cream Shop where there are some tables to have a picnic lunch. The lighthouse sits on top of the ice cream shop and it is still operational.

At the Neil's Harbor Lighthouse, there is an ice cream shop on the first floor.
At the Neil’s Harbor Lighthouse and Ice Cream Shop–LOVE.

The owner of the ice cream shop, Scotty, greets every guest and tells us the rich history of the area as well as tales from the sea. Scotty delights us with the locals-only hiking trails as well as what winter is like in his corner of the world.

Chasing the waves of the North Atlantic
Chasing the waves of the North Atlantic

The carful of kids love the beach so we stop at the Ingonish Beach for wave chasing, a tad too chilly for swimming. Ingonish is the larger gateway town to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, it’s also home to the Keltic Lodge, a historic seasonal resort.

Mile after Mile of Pristine Beauty
Mile after Mile of Pristine Beauty

The carful of kids spend the rest of the day leisurely exploring the Cabot Trail on our way to Pictou, Nova Scotia, for an early morning ferry to Prince Edward Island. We wish we had more time, there is plenty to do in Nova Scotia and we hate to say good-bye to its rugged beauty.

Know before you go: If you are short on time, enter the Cape Breton Highlands National Park from the western entrance and enjoy as much as your time allows.

Up Next: Prince Edward Island getaway