Long Beach, located in the southern part of Los Angeles County, is one of America’s 40 largest cities and it is a city with many faces. It is a significant industrial town, home to the petroleum and automobile industries, has one of the country’s most important ports, a lively arts scene, and it is a tourist destination with many attractions. Thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach has a mild climate throughout the year, even in winter, temperatures are rarely lower than 5° C.
The city developed out of the settlement of Spanish lands at the end of the 18th century. In 1843, Jonathan Temple from Massachusetts bought a large part of these lands and started a cattle breeding business. The Los Cerritos Ranch House built by him in 1844 can be found at Virginia Road today and hosts a museum open Wednesday through Sunday. Jotham Bixby lived in this building from 1866 on - he is often credited as the “Father of Long Beach” today because he sold some parts of the extensive ranch grounds, on which Long Beach later developed. The city was founded in 1888. At the beginning of the 20th century, Long Beach flourished as a seaside resort before oil was discovered in Signal Hill in 1921. Signal Hill today is an independent city that is completely landlocked by Long Beach. In 1933, the city’s development experienced a setback when a strong earthquake caused severe damages and more than 120 people died. Before that happened, mayn further industrial companies had moved into town, among them a plant building cars for the Ford company.
One of the most important sectors in Long Beach is still the aircraft industry which had been started in World War II for military purposes. The plant that once belonged to the McDonnell Corporation is still active but belongs now to industry giant Boeing, the largest employer in the city. Aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream also produces in Long Beach, furthermore, telecommunications company Verizon is one of the most important employers. Thousands of jobs are also at Port of Long Beach, one of the most important container ports of the US. For the port, an environmental program is in place since 2005 that is supposed to reduce the influences on water, air and soil. At the annual Green Port Fest, residents and visitors get the opportunity for a glance behind the scenes of the port which can also be explored with free boat tours. Within the port lies the artificial Terminal Island, which was once home to a Japanese neighborhood and today is being used for the container business, but isd also home to a prison.
Long Beach’s has a very multicultural population. Approximately 12% of residents are of Asian heritage. Many immigrants and following generations, especially from Kambodscha, Vietnam and the Philippines have made the city their home. Long Beach has 15 sister cities, one of which is with Phnom Penh. Some 40% of the population is from Latin America.
The most important tourist attraction of Long Beach is the Aquarium of the Pacific on Aquarium Way opened in 1998 which hosts some 12,500 sea creatures, several species of sharks being among those. The aquarium focuses on the Pacific habitat from the cold waters of the North Pacific to the tropic waters and deals with environment and climate issues. It is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm daily; there are a number of ticket combinations available, for example one including a whale watching boat tour. Across from the aquarium, the RMS Queen Mary is anchored, a former cruise liner serving routes between Europe and New York from 1936 to 1967. The ship is today being used as a hotel and is one of Long Beach’s major tourist attractions. A part of the reason why so many people are drawn to the Queen Mary is certainly the always recurring rumor that the ship is haunted. In addition, it has repeatedly been used as a backdrop for movies. In the vicinity of the hotel ship there is the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, which encompasses a multi-purpose arena for sports or music shows and a trade fair area. On the outside, the building is adorned with a wall painting some 11,000 square metres in size, depicting whales and other sea animals. Another sports arena is Walter Pyramid on the campus of California State University, a glass pyramid with a capacity for 5000 fans.
A rather unique sight is the so-called Skinny House on Gladys Avenue in the Rose Park neighborhood. It is the outcome of a dare in 1932 to build a three-story home on a property only 3 x 15 metres in size. There are still people living in that house to this day. It is listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the narrowest house of the US.
Another important attraction of Long Beach obviously is the water. Apart from the Pacific beach - a good place to go is the Alamitos Beach neighborhood - the Naples part of the town should be mentioned which stretches over three islands in the Alamitos Bay. There are gondola tours being offered here and in December, a Christmas Boat Parade takes place here. A street-based christmas parade is organized on Daisy Avenue in the Wrigley neighborhood.
Long Beach often serves as a backdrop for movies made in nearby Hollywood. The city’s schools are frequently being used for that purpose, but avid movie fans might also recognize some streets and homes, especially in the Los Cerritos neighborhood. Those who prefer more traditional art might want to consider a visist to the Long Beach Museum of Art on Ocean Boulevard in the Bluff Park neighborhood, a museum showcasing contemporary art from California as well as European works from the 19th century. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday 11 am to 5 pm. In addition, there is the Museum of Latin American Art, the only museum of its kind in the US, opened in 1996. Here, contemporary art from Latin America is on display. The museum, located on Alamitos Avenue, is open Wednesday through Sunday.
Among the highlights in the city’s event calendar is the Indy Car race Long Beach Grand Prix in April, which used to be a Formula One race previously. In October, there is the CSULB Wide Screen Film Festival, taking place at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center and in May or June, there is the annual LGBT parade which is usually attended by more than 100,000 spectators and which is accompanied by a festival.