We spent one night at the Varden Hotel-cute boutique hotel with a Euro feel. We missed the free happy hour because the downtown was cuter than expected! There are a ton of places to eat and shop-we ended up in the used bookstore and bought as much as we could carry. We also walked out to the piers. There is a free shuttle, but it is really not very far, plus you get to see interesting stuff along the way.
The Queen Mary, more on her below.
I love busy ports. I heard that George Lucas modeled the AT-AT walkers on container cranes like these from the Oakland Port, but apparently that is a myth (Boo!)
You can rent paddle boats.
We ended up getting dinner at Georges Greek Cafe. George personally greets as many people as possible-and it doesn't matter if he has never met you-you get a hearty handshake or a warm hug. The food was delightful and the people watching was spectacular. The internet is full of good reviews for this place-agreed! We had the best people watching: woman with rainbow hair-five different colors, all nicely layered. Young hipsters. Old hipsters. Cute couple, with Mario backpack. Families with toddlers. Old surfer dude with classic blond surfer hair. Lots of folks on bikes, all of them beach cruisers or hipster fixies. This is one of the most vibrant downtowns I've seen and who knew?
Gorgeous sunsets and skylines.
The next night we stayed on the Queen Mary. We were last here about 20 years ago and at the time you could basically only take a self guided tour. It was neat, but not something to go back to and not quite as cool at the Intrepid. They have done a great job making this into a real attraction. The decor is stylish, the restaurants better than I expected and you can take a paid tour or just wander on your own, reading the informational signs.
I love their logo-great design.
We were in Long Beach because this is the port where the Carnival cruise ship Inspiration docks. We had never been on a standard cruise and I was able to find a good deal at VacationsToGo (Thanks Peyton for the great service!).
We watched them load on new supplies from the Queen Mary deck.
Then we watched the people leave.
Pro tip-many folks spend the night before the cruise on the Queen Mary like we did. There is even an early check in desk that is open for an hour or two in the morning. It is like printing your boarding passes at home instead of waiting in the line at the airport. Of course if you want the Queen Mary more to yourself, check out the cruise schedule and book opposite.
The big dome where the boarding process starts used to be home to the Spruce Goose. Of course inside it is huge and mostly empty space.