Free things to do in Long Beach, California

While beautiful Orange County to the south and L.A. beach towns to the north tend to get all the attention, there is plenty of fun to be found in Long Beach. The coastal city is known for its’ many waterfront attractions, most notably The Queen Mary, The Aquarium of the Pacific, The Catalina Express, and many cruises including whale watching excursions. While these attractions are quite pricey, there are several ways to enjoy the beautiful scenery without spending a dime. Below are the top 5 free things to do in Long Beach.

1. Bike the Shoreline Pedestrian Path

Shoreline Pedestrian path in Long Beach, CA

This 3 mile long walking/biking path is a perfect place to get in a decent workout, a little vitamin D, and fresh ocean air. The route runs a scenic course from Alamitos Beach to Shoreline Village. While you work up a sweat, you will take in incredible views. Great views of the Queen Mary and the artificial islands along the way. The ride is flat and fast making it perfect even for beginners. The 6 miles will fly by as you enjoy the scenery. The nice thing about this path is that there is a separate walking and biking path. Overall, while not as scenic, the Long Beach path is way less crowded and more relaxing than the Strand bike path in L.A.

2. Explore Shoreline Village

Shoreline Village in Long Beach CA

This quaint and colorful waterfront village is a great place to take a stroll anytime of the year. There are lots of touristy shops to browse around, endless photo opps, and plenty of great waterfront restaurants if you feel like shelling out a few bucks. Various free events take place throughout the year. Check the events calendar to see what is happening during your visit.

3. Take in the views via The Lions Lighthouse/Rainbow Harbor

Long Beach, CA lighthouse at sunset

The 56 foot tall Lion’s Lighthouse was dedicated in 2000. The fake lighthouse is not in operation. Rather it was built as a symbol of the Long Beach Lions Club International’s dedication to helping the blind. It changes colors at night which is pretty cool. You can read more about the history of the lighthouse here. This is one of the best places in the city for fantastic views, especially at dusk. Rainbow Harbor is a great place to people watch, see dolphins, and enjoy the extravagant boats/marina scenery.

4. Dig your toes into the sand at Alamitos Beach

Beautiful views at Alamitos Beach in Long Beach, CA

Long Beach offers several beaches, with Alamitos being the most popular with tourists due to its’ convenient location nearby downtown and many hotels. From this beach, you can easily walk or bike over to Rainbow Harbor and Shoreline Village. The calm waters make it a popular swimming destination. Yes, the beach could be a bit cleaner and the sand is a bit rocky. However, the views are beautiful, the beach is wide and spacious, and many amenities are within close proximity.

5. Get back to nature at El Dorado Nature Park

Bunnies at the El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach, CA

This quiet nature preserve is located far away from the beach congestion, making it a great place to escape the tourist crowds for a bit. Two miles of easy nature trails give you the opportunity to enjoy peaceful lake scenery, immerse yourself in the trees, and bird watch in a quiet natural environment. Although it is located in the middle of a busy city, El Dorado is the oasis of Long Beach.

And…not free, but affordable and well worth a visit!

Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden

Earl Burn's Japanese Garden at California State University Long Beach

This small 1.3 acre garden on the campus of California State University Long Beach truly is a gem. Highlights include a colorful koi pond and a Zen garden. It’s easily the most tranquil and beautiful place in the area – a truly gorgeous place to rejuvenate and get back to nature, if only for an hour or so.

Long Beach Museum of Art

This small museum offers a 4000 piece collection of impressive works including paintings, sculptures, and drawings. Most impressive is the beautiful waterfront location along Ocean Blvd in the upscale Bluff Park neighborhood. A nice place to unwind, relax, and enjoy local art and special exhibitions. Free admission on Fridays.

The Pike

Pike Ferris Wheel in Long Beach

Nice outdoor shopping/dining destination downtown. Dining options include popular big chains like PF Chang’s and Chilis as well as snack shops and quick eats. The highlight here is a historic Ferris Wheel. It’s rather small, although pricing is pretty cheap and the views are fantastic!

Also check out my full guide to the best of Southern California