Big City Family Fun

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.

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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 missthe 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.

Head south of Downtown Los Angeles for a day trip to Long Beach, California. Find top activities like touring the Queen Mary ocean liner, or explore a top aquarium. Here's what to do in Long Beach California for one day. Or stay overnight on the haunted Queen Mary Oceanliner. Got the details for a getaway with kids and more. #California #LongBeach #SoCal What to do in Long Beach for one day | Day Trips from Los Angeles | Family Travel Destinations near LA | Where to stay in Long Beach

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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