Growing up I couldn’t wait to get out of Long Beach CA. The little big city I called home. I thought it was way too boring, way too slow and not as fabulous as I saw the direction of my life going. It took me moving across country( read about that adventure here) to realize that everything I always needed was in the place I’d been trying to put distance between. Today at 36 years old I couldn’t dream of living anywhere else. I’m such a champion of Long Beach in fact, I give my own personal tours to friends when they visit, in hopes of getting them to move here.
That’s why when I recently got the opportunity to test drive the Mazda 3i I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce it to the city I love and at the same time give my blog readers their own personal tour. Follow me as I take you to some of my all time favorite Long Beach destinations.
State of the art is the only way to describe the George Deukmejian Courthouse, so when I was recently asked to perform my civic duty as a jury member on a robbery case I was super excited to check out the building that had intrigued me on my drive in to work each day. While most people would begrudge such a task I couldn’t wait! Not only would it have been my first time on a jury but I also got the opportunity to check out the interior of this beautifully new updated building. With it’s comfortable jury room,free wi-fi, outdoor terrace, and sprawling entry with natural light and easy to read signage, just being in the building made my jury experience an enjoyable one. Needless to say I had to get a picture with the Mazda 3i in front of this newly minted Long Beach landmark.
Their motto says it all”A Liberal Church, Welcoming of All, Passionately Committed to Social Justice.” First Congregational Church in Long Beach is a historic landmark not only because of the amount of time it has occupied the city (est. 1914) but also because of it’s ability to withstand the test of time and Mother Nature. Having sustained extensive damage from the Long Beach earthquake of 1933, the church was closed for several months while repairs were made, but reopened better than ever. With its history of social activism including programs to assist the poor, homeless and disabled around the city, The First Congregational Church has been one ahead of its time. With a practice of a very liberal theology, it counts about 42% of its population apart of the LGBT community.
The Queen Mary is to Long Beach what the Statue of Liberty is to New York. What was once a cruise ship in 1936, now acts as a floating hotel on the shores of the LBC. The retired ship liner also hosts a super fab (albeit pricey) weekend brunch, an eerie haunted house during the fall season, and CHILL- an awe-inspiring 14,000 sq ft walk-thru exhibit featuring larger-than-life ice creations during Winter months. This Long Beach staple is as much a part of my childhood as the street I grew up on. Tales of it being haunted only make it that much more intriguing.
There is nothing better than sitting on the Reef’s patio and taking in the Long Beach bay over a mimosa or bloody mary on a Sunday morning. That’s why The Reef is my goto brunch spot. The selling point to this buffet brunch are not only its bay views, but the vast menu. Selections range from a sushi bar, pasta bar and seafood bar among other brunch staples.
The Pike first opened in 1902 and was the premier attraction of Downtown Long Beach. Hundreds of people would flock to the shore to escape the summer heat and enjoy the Pacific Ocean breeze. I’d long heard stories from my mother about how going down to The Pike was a summer staple. Her mother would give she and my aunt about $5.00 and they could spend the day there riding the cyclone rollercoaster, walking the boardwalk and eating all of the delicious junk food the boardwalk offered. After the insurgence of Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland the pike closed it’s doors in 1979, however in around 2005 a newer version of The Pike appeared. No longer an amusement park The Pike at Rainbow Harbor is host to a dozen restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. Outlet shopping is now underway with retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and Nike stores opening this summer.
The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is the perfect attraction for families looking for a fun affordable outing. Not only can you gaze at the beautiful and majestic marine life but you’re also steps away from The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. I’ve had the pleasure of both attending and hosting events at The Long Beach Aquarium and I’m always amazed at the beauty and expanse of the space. Corridors lead you to an underwater world that can only be described as breathtaking.
A two for one; The Art Movie Theater of Long Beach sits next to my favorite wine bar Art Du Vine. If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, I have a love affair with wine. Art Du Vine not only has the best wine selections, the atmosphere is laid back and unpretentious while still keeping an air of sophistication. After a long day of work I can come to Art Du Vine and find the bars owner playing old school R&B straight from a vinyl record player while baking fresh bread to accompany the creative charcuterie trays that pair well with the vast wine varietals. After a couple of glasses, just walk next door to take in an independent film at The Art Movie Theater. The old school ticket booth is a throwback to when you could see a movie for under $10.00 and not be worried about someones cell phone interrupting your viewing experience.
I love a coffee shop that doesn’t skimp on its selection of comfy chairs. Chairs that invite you to lean back, get lost in a book, with a strong cup of coffee in hand unbothered for hours on end. The Royal Cup Cafe is that coffee shop. Free wi-fi access and some of the most creatively tasty Panini’s you will ever have are just the cherry on top. I hosted my 30th birthday party at this Long Beach gem because I love it so much.
Nestled in a quiet neighborhood The Starling Diner appears like an oasis in the desert. Hands down the absolute BEST french toast you will ever have, this breakfast and lunch spot is my favorite to head to. Their dinner menu (on the rare occasion they open at dinner)is ever-changing and a delight when you can catch it, the wine selection huge and the mimosa’s refreshing. I just wish their operating time was longer.
My favorite neighborhood in all of Long Beach, Naples is a seen right out of the Italian Job. Homes sit on a canal with boats docked directly behind them, on any given day you may find rowers rowing or sailor sailing. I personally love walking the shore and coveting the gorgeous houses.
When anyone asks me for a restaurant reco, Michael’s in Naples is my first suggestion. Fresh Italian food is the order of the day and the orecchiette is unmatched! It also doesn’t hurt that the space is one of the most pristine in the city and the service on point! I went here with my mother for the first time and couldn’t stop raving about everything from the fresh and flavor filled food to the restaurants superb musical selection(think a mix of old standards and soul music). On a good night you may even catch a live band on their rooftop.
Graduates include Cameron Diaz, Snoop Doggy Dog, baseball hall of famer Tony Gwynn and yours truly 🙂 My tour of Long Beach wouldn’t be complete without taking you to the place that helped nurture and mold me into the woman I am today. Long Beach Polytechnic High School “The Home of Scholars and Champions” , “Enter to learn go forth to serve” ; it was the motto that welcomed me into what I believe is one of the best educational institutions in Southern California. From the passionate teachers who manage to bring the best out of their students to the coaches who have helped to nurture some of the professional athletes we all follow today. The pride you feel as a Poly alumni stays with you way past graduation day and those who have attended are always quick to show it. Going to a homecoming game is like a reunion and there is a sense that you belong to some special club that only you and a select few belong to. I come from a long line of Poly High graduates and hope that my children will one day belong to this special club.
Now on to my car review. Of course I had the most amazing time riding in the Mazda 3i, but every car has its positives and negatives. Here are my thoughts…
- Starting at $17,000 this car is incredibly economical
- At 30 MPG on the highway and 25 on city streets, gas goes a long way in the Mazda 3i
- Handles like a sports car and has a lot of giddy up
- Smooth ride, I couldn’t feel a bump on the road
- INCREDIBLE Bose sound system!
- Easy to use sound system, I’m usually clueless to these things and even I could figure it out
- I love that the radio controls are on the center console. Because you’re not busy pushing buttons on a touch screen, your driving experience is a lot safer. In fact the touch screen locks when the car is in motion.
- Dual temperature control so that you’re not fighting over the air conditioner with other passengers
- Roomy interior and trunk
- HD radio channels, I wasn’t really sure what this feature was but i feel in love with it! Pretty much for every radio station I listened to there were 2-3 sister station’s with the same style of music programmed that I could choose from.
- Stiff ride I felt like the wheel was harder to turn than that of other vehicles
- The rear camera had a fish eye view so I felt like I wasn’t completely comfortable parallel parking the car
- I didn’t love the hatch back style of the car
- Upon starting the car it was incredibly loud. I initially thought it was overheating but after researching I found this was just a condition of the car.
- My bluetooth had a bit of a problem connecting. I ended up having to erase the connection and reconnect a couple of times
Overall I loved this car! If you’re in the market for an economically affordable car and you don’t want to skimp on luxury than this car is for you!
So what are your thoughts on the Mazda 3i after reading about my time in the car? Are there any spots in Long Beach you’re now dying to visit? I’d love to know in the comments below!