The refurbished fountains outside of Long Beach’s Terrace Theater recently debuted with a new twist: the capability to create spectacular shows reminiscent of the famous fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. (Photograph courtesy of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Long Beach’s reputation as a destination for leisure and convention travel continues to spread, evidenced by the growing number of visitors to the city for three years in a row. With a bustling convention and entertainment center along the downtown waterfront, internationally renowned attractions such as the Aquarium of the Pacific and Carnival Cruise Line’s busiest terminal in the United States, plus an array of annual events and no shortage of unique neighborhoods to explore, it’s no wonder that millions of people visit Long Beach each year.
“There is a lot of momentum right now with the convention business in the City of Long Beach,” Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Steve Goodling told the Business Journal. “Our new special event spaces have been widely [well] received and awarded.”
With the recent debut of the new Terrace Theater Plaza fountains, which are outfitted with programmable lighting and spouts able to replicate something you might see at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, a years-long improvement plan to upgrade convention center facilities has come to fruition.
Visitors stroll along the boardwalk at Shoreline Village, which boasts a variety of shops, waterfront dining, an arcade and other activities. (Photograph courtesy of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Over the past five years, the convention center has debuted: the Pacific Room at the Long Beach Arena, a venue that, due to a massive theatrical rigging structure, allows the space to be transformed to fit a variety of meeting sizes and events; The Cove, a contemporary outdoor party space for meeting attendees under the Terrace Theater Plaza complete with theatrical lighting; the Rainbow Bridge, an LED-outfitted bridge that connects the Terrace Theater Plaza with the convention center’s Pine Avenue-facing Promenade; and now, the fountains.
“Now the whole fluidity around the convention center is one of continuous unique experiences,” Goodling said. “Finally, now, this whole place is truly a lively civic center space.”
The improvements to the center have resulted in increased conventions and meetings business for Long Beach, exemplified most recently by the International Association of Venue Managers’ decision to hold its 2020 conference at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center. “It’s all of the leaders of large special event spaces, arenas, convention centers, stadiums,” Goodling said of the group. “It’s a big deal.”
Leaving the downtown waterfront behind them, bikers set off down the City of Long Beach’s three-mile beach path. (Photograph courtesy of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
“The investment that is coming to Long Beach is not just for the convention business but also for tourism,” Goodling observed. He cited multiple proposed new hotels, including the historic Breakers building on Ocean Boulevard, slated to become a boutique hotel hearkening back to its heyday in the mid-1920s. American Life is proposing a towering hotel adjacent to the convention center, which Goodling said would fill a different niche in market demand.
Long Beach’s attractions have also seen injections of investments in the past year, with the Aquarium of the Pacific constructing a new wing and Carnival Cruise Line debuting an expanded terminal able to handle more cruise guests.
The Aquarium, which sees about 1.7 million visitors annually, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with a variety of special programs and contests, and a new exhibit on cephalopods. The institution continues to offer a wide array of educational programs, including a lecture series, summer camps for kids, and a long list of annual cultural events. Following the completion of its new wing, Pacific Visions, in 2019, The Aquarium will be able to – and fully expects to – host up to two million visitors each year.
Kayakers enjoy a sunny day on the water in Belmont Shore. The City of Long Beach boasts 9 miles of beaches along a variety of waterways. (Photograph courtesy of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Carnival Cruise Line recently began offering cruises to Alaska from Long Beach and continues to offer trips to Hawaii and locations along the coast of Mexico. The company’s expansion to occupy the entirety of the dome adjacent to the Queen Mary enabled it to swap out one of its three Long Beach-based vessels with a larger ship, boosting its projected annual guest numbers by nearly 100,000 people. The company will eventually bring in a brand new, even larger ship once its construction, ongoing now in Italy, is complete.
For day trips, there are plenty of activities throughout the city. Shoreline Village at Rainbow Harbor offers an arcade, shops, dining and bike and tandem-cycle rentals for rides along the beach path.
The Long Beach Museum of Art, located on a bluff overlooking the ocean, is open Thursday through Sunday and features both a permanent municipal art collection as well as rotating exhibitions. The nearby Museum of Latin American Art in downtown’s East Village Arts District is the only museum dedicated to Latin American art west of the Mississippi, and is open Wednesday through Sunday, with free admission every Sunday.
The new Rainbow Bridge in Downtown Long Beach connects the Terrace Theater Plaza with the convention center’s Pine Avenue-facing Promenade, allowing for easier foot traffic outside of the center. The bridge is outfitted with programmable LED lights, allowing it to double as a dazzling art piece and event space. (Photograph courtesy of the Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Further inland, the city has two historic ranchos to visit and explore, Rancho Los Alamitos and Rancho Los Cerritos, with structures dating back to the Spanish government-granted ranchos of Southern California. Each offers tours and special programming such as bird watching and adobe brickmaking.
Getting around the city is easy thanks to Long Beach Transit’s services, including its Passport buses, which offer free transit to downtown’s most popular destinations. In the summer months, the organization offers water taxi service from downtown attractions all the way down the five-mile coastline to Alamitos Bay.
The Long Beach Airport, located adjacent to the 405 Freeway, provides some of the lowest airfares in the country and an award-winning passenger terminal with a resort-style atmosphere and local vendors.
There are many accommodations available for visitors throughout the city, from high-rise downtown hotels to boutique and affordable lodgings. A list is available at www.visitlongbeach.com/stay.