Art + Architecture Long Beach Getaway

What better way to get to know a city than to explore the vibrant art and architecture within it? In this Long Beach Getaway, you’ll discover world-class art museums, conversation-starting murals, the East Village creative cultural hub, and a myriad of historic and beautiful architecture.

Day 1

Stop 1: Long Beach Museum of Art

The first stop on any art-lover’s tour is the Long Beach Museum of Art on Ocean Boulevard beside Bluff Park. Located within a historic home in Long Beach, the 1911 Elizabeth Milbank Anderson House, the museum is known for rotating exhibitions of its permanent collection, which features more than 3,200 works of American and European art. Visiting and special exhibitions are showcased in the adjacent Pavilion. A small but charming campus, you can walk through the whole thing in an hour or so, capping off your visit with a stop at its stunning ocean-view restaurant, Claire’s. There’s also a secondary LBMA location with dynamic installations at LBMA Downtown, which houses resident artists.

Stop 2: Murals & Mosaics

Thanks to the international mural festival designed to beautify urban spaces, POW! WOW! Long Beach, the city is home to dozens of inspiring and larger than life urban murals, with a high concentration in downtown near the city’s art museums and many architecturally significant buildings. Reputable POW! WOW! creations and other public art installations, including sculptures and mosaics, can be easily discovered on the Art Council for Long Beach’s public art map. Use the map to take a self-guided tour on foot, by car, or via rental bike or scooter to see the highlights, including several Works Progress Administration mosaics, such as the 1938 intricate tile piece at Harvey Milk Park, or the smaller but equally resplendent works at the entrances of Antioch Church and International City Bank.

Stop 3: Utopia

After working up an appetite for dinner, tantalize your five senses with a meal at Utopia Good Food and Fine Art. From its California-fresh cuisine to stimulating musical and visual arts performances, as well as an aromatic patio garden, the restaurant in the heart of the city’s East Village Arts District offers a little bit of everything. At the corner of First Street and Linden Avenue, the business is at the epicenter of one of the city’s hippest culinary and artistic scenes, surrounded by an eclectic mix of urban shops and eateries.

Stop 4: The Stay

Stay overnight at The Varden Hotel, a 35-room downtown landmark since 1929 — with the original sign outside boasting “a bath in every room.” European historic-chic is the vibe you’ll find at the award-winning boutique hotel. Outside, the urban jewel’s façade is covered in two striking murals: “Dolly Varden” is a fish-eye anti-gravity perspective of a girl in gray scale by artist James Jean; and “The American Way” by artist Tristan Eason is a colorful painting inspired by Margaret Bourke-White’s 1937 photograph of people lined up seeking relief in front of a “World’s Highest Standard of Living” billboard.

Day 2

Stop 5: Museum of Latin American Art and Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum

After grabbing breakfast at The Varden, bike, scoot, or drive over to the corner of 6th Street and Alamitos Avenue, where you will find two cultural art museums. The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) at 6th Street and Alamitos Avenue is the only museum in the country fully dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx art. The space features a sprawling sculpture garden and massive indoor gallery in what was formerly an early-1900s silent film studio. MOLAA, with its vaulted ceilings and uniquely beautiful wooden floors, is a work of art in itself. It’s also conveniently located across the street from the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum (PIEAM), the only museum in the contiguous United States to focus on transporting visitors to the Pacific Islands of Oceania in an artistic intercultural exchange.

Stop 6: Strange & Surreal: The Dark Art Emporium

A hidden and truly weird (in the best way) gem in Long Beach, The Dark Art Emporium is a macabre assortment of fine art and oddities; from surrealist paintings to taxidermy, there’s no end to conversation starters at this unique gallery. You’ll find the emporium deep within The 4th Horseman, a wicked-fun beer and wine bar known for its gothic décor, heavy metal soundtrack, and “apocalyptic pizza” with nontraditional toppings.

Stop 7: The Bembridge House

After filling yourself up with pizza, walk off your lunch with a tour of one of the oldest and most majestic historic sites in Long Beach: The Bembridge House! Built in 1906 by Stephen and Josephine Green, this Queen Anne Victorian is resplendent and ornate, with intricate moldings adorning the exterior, 18 rooms with beautiful paneling and woodwork, a grand staircase, and much more. The site is operated by the nonprofit Long Beach Heritage, which provides guided tours.

Stop 8: Architecture Sight Seeing

Before leaving town, drive, bike, or scoot around the city to take in some truly magnificent and unique architecture. A few must-sees: