Before the end of the world, take time to tour Long Beach’s historical landmarks, courtesy of El Imagenero
9:30am | Okay, so the world probably won't end in 2012.
BUT WHAT IF IT DOES?
No, we're not getting all alarmist on you. Nonetheless, as we know all too well here at the Long Beach Post, life in this world is not forever.
And so what if 2012 really were the last year of Long Beach? What are some of the unique aspects of our city -- other than its fabulous people -- that one really ought to experience at least once or one last time before heading into the next life (whether that means Portland or the Great Perhaps)?
We here at the Post are starting off what may be THE LAST YEAR EVER with our own little Long Beach "bucket list." It's subjective and nowhere near comprehensive, but it's something to get you on your way to enjoying the uniqueness that Long Beach has to offer in 2012.
Surf Long Beach's world-class breakers
Obviously we're kidding here. Check back in 2038 . . . if we make it that long.
Sit on the dock near Parkers' Lighthouse
Down in Shoreline Village there's a little, L-shaped pier that gently undulates up and down as the water placidly plashes against the rocks. While its designated purpose is to accommodate small boats, this little-used, west-facing gem hiding in plain sight is the perfect place to sit cross-legged and watch a gorgeous SoCal sunset made all the more brilliant by the light bouncing all over the ocean's ever-shifting surface. Sit there long enough and you may fall into such deep meditation that you begin wondering not whether the world will end, but whether we're even really here at all.
Board the Queen Mary
This one is obvious. No, she's not the world's biggest ship. She's not even the world's biggest ship with "Queen Mary" in her name. But she very well may be the biggest ship on which you'll ever set foot -- or even eyes. And she's almost surely the most historical. Now, money won't matter when the world ends, but it comes in handy right now -- so it doesn't hurt that you can enjoy the Queen Mary without spending a dime. Climb all over its various decks, tempt the ship's ghosts at the midnight hour by skulking through empty hallways and sneaking into grand ballrooms, venture into the ship's bowels and see a humungous propeller, even see a film or play in the Royal Theatre (although this will cost you a little cash). You may take our most famous icon for granted (when's the last time you checked it out?), but bring an out-of-towner down across the water and see what happens.
Jog across the Gerald Desmond Bridge
If you're traveling by car toward San Pedro, the ride over the Gerald Desmond Bridge will be nothing more than an opening act for the scenic downward swoop you get after cresting the Vincent Thomas Bridge. But if you're hoofing it, the GDB affords a nice little thrill, as you find yourself striding across a bouncy metal grating of a sidewalk, which offers a clear view straight down to the water far below. A particularly good cognitive-therapeutic tool for ridding yourself of acrophobia before the world ends. And even if we make it to 2013, you won't have the GDB to kick around for much longer: it's scheduled for replacement later this decade.
Tour Long Beach's historical landmarks
"Here today, gone tomorrow" is a fitting epitaph for historical Long Beach, as our city has not always been the most well preserved in the land. So you'd do well to get inside our remaining historical landmarks while the getting's good -- just in case, you know? The most striking piece of architecture we've got is, of course, the Villa Riviera, whose chevron shape and severely sloping, oxidized copper roof make this one-time hotel seem like a piece of urban art on loan from NYC. It's worth just driving by or standing at the front door, but now and again the Villa is open to be toured. From the complex echoes that sound against the common room's domed ceiling when you tap the immaculate marble floor to the private deck three storeys above the beach, the Villa Riviera is can't-miss. (And if you're really lucky, you might even get someone to sneak you up to base of the spire, which is typically closed even to residents. Don't ask me how I got up there -- just do what you can to get there yourself.) But the Villa isn't the only historical landmark in town. Relative to the Villa, the Sovereign is solid but modest 1920s creation, except that its rooftop and solarium let out on an unobstructed view of Long Beach Harbor and the Queen Mary. The solariums of the Willmore and the Cooper Arms are pretty sweet, too, but it's their lobbies that are unparalleled in Long Beach. For below-ground fun, get yourself into the Lafayette's basement or inquire about renting a safe-deposit box in the Farmers & Merchants Bank Building on Pine Ave. so you can make a subterranean descent to see how they made bank vaults in 1923. (Short answer: impressively!)
Spelunk the Jergins Tunnel
Speaking of the subterranean, did you know there's a pedestrian tunnel running underneath Ocean Blvd. between Pine Ave. and the Pike? Yeah, not that many people do, as it has been closed since 1967 (except for a couple of fine days in 2007-2008 during the unfortunately-short-lived University by the Sea event). But there it lies, dormant. Now, we're not saying you should trespass; but if we're talking about the end of the world, really, who cares?
See the "the Skinny House," and "the LEGO® House," and…
(Back above ground now.) The Guinness Book of World Records says that if you go to 708 Gladys Ave., you will see the skinniest house in the United States, measuring only 10 feet wide. Head on over to 341 Grenada Ave. and you'll behold "the LEGO® House," a peach/yellow/white/blue/terra cotta creation that looks like, well, not much else. In fact, from Belmont Shore to Bixby Knolls you'll find that standout architecture in Long Beach is not limited to multi-family dwellings.
Go up and down Signal Hill
No offense to the City of Signal Hill, but when we're talking Signal Hill, we're talking the hill -- and for our purposes, we're claiming it as our own. If you're an area that's got basically one real hill, you should make it a good one. Signal Hill definitely fits that bill. For the complete experience, begin at PCH and Cherry Ave., then go north. A half-mile-incline later your warm-up is over, as you hang a right on Skyline Dr. and begin a steep climb. Push through the pain, and to your right is your reward, as an aerial view of the entire southern portion of Long Beach opens up before you, majestic sky and sea meeting at the horizon. Make it all the way to the top and rest up at little Hilltop Park, which frames various vistas for you while offering a brief education about Signal Hill's history as oil-boom center. (It's even mentioned in the film There Will Be Blood. Great film. Day-Lewis totally deserved that Oscar.) This is the best view of Long Beach for those without recourse to a flying machine. When that view has taken enough of your breath, hold what you've got left as you bike or skateboard down Hill St. on Signal Hill's east side. It's one of the steeper hills you'll ever ride, so be careful! If you want a gentler descent, keep an eye out for the hiking trails. But before you descend, cast your gaze in an easterly direction and see if you can spot a piece of architecture that is sui generis in the LBC.
Channel your Pyramid power
There it sits, 18 storeys of corrugated blue metal coming to a point above the CSU Long Beach: the Walter Pyramid, a 5,000-seat multipurpose sports venue that is . . . well, it's a pyramid, for crying out loud! How can you skip it? Would you go to Giza without seeing those great pharaonic tombs? hit Vegas without visiting the Luxor? Puh-lease.
March in -- or at least to -- the Gay Pride Parade
We're happy to say that Long Beach is far from the only place in the world to hold LGBT Pride parades. And even if The Advocate is right and we're only the 14th-gayest city in the U.S. (did they miss our May print edition cover story, "Long Beach: Gayer Than You Think"?!), the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Parade (May 20) is a true LBC experience -- and is far from limited to the LGBT community. Find yourself a spot along Ocean Blvd. and revel in the flamboyantly inclusive fruit (can you revel in fruit?) of living in one of the world's most diverse cities. The parade itself is almost just the warm-up to the day, as official and unofficial celebrations welcome all comers and last well into the night.
Lie back and watch fireworks in Shoreline Aquatic Park
If Earth goes bye-bye in 2012, clearly you won't have a chance to see the fireworks next New Year's Eve. But there's still the Fourth of July. Sure, Disneyland puts on a bigger display, but ours you get for free…while lying down on the grass…with the cutest little lighthouse you ever saw doing its lighthouse thang. It's so Long Beach.
Catch a Bixby Knolls First Friday -- or two, or twelve
Considering how much the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association's First Fridays event has grown over the last two years, I'm surprised how many people I come across who haven't heard of it. Complementary food and drink of all sorts, live music going up and down Atlantic Ave., huge art-and-more happenings in the EXPO Building, DJs spinning in the most unlikely places, pirates and horses and flash mobs and people on stilts and you never know what until you're there. It's a real-time feel-good story of how a business district can self-energize while providing a good time for one and all. firstfridayslongbeach.com
Bike the horse trail along the L.A. River to Will Reid Boy Scout Camp
For all its bicycle-friendliness, Long Beach is relatively short on great off-road rides. There is, though, a little ribbon of nature running northward right along with the Los Angeles River. Head west from the lighthouse along the bike path, navigate past the Catalina Express landing and around the mobile-home park, and you find yourself riding along the L.A. River, where eventually you'll come to a spot where you can get your off-road, er, on. It's a lovely ride in and of itself, but about five miles later you find yourself passing right behind Will Reid Boy Scout Camp, 12 unlikely acres of nature in the heart of the 8th District. Work your way around to the east side, go on in, and have a nap -- because the end of the world can be tiring!
Traverse the El Dorado Nature Center -- all of it!
Twelve acres of unspoiled nature in Long Beach is lovely; 105 is almost ludicrous. But that's exactly what you get up by the San Gabriel River and the 105 Freeway: two lakes, over two miles of trail, a stream, and forestland on 105 acres of plant/animal sanctuary. Tranquility to the max. I mean, where else you gonna go in Long Beach to watch turtles mate? Of course, if that's not your cup of tea, you can put dozens of acres between yourself and the nearest amorous testudinate. That's the beauty of space: you've got room to roam. longbeach.gov/naturecenter
Go see/hear SoundWalk
While the Grand Prix draws far more people, it can't remotely compete for the title of the LBC's most unique event with SoundWalk, FLOOD's yearly transformation of the East Village Arts District into a one-night-only indoor/outdoor gallery of sound installations, many of which are almost as enjoyable/intriguing to see/touch/play with as they are to hear. For five hours every October a little part of Long Beach becomes like a little Burning Man -- except, you know, without the nudity and the dust and the people giving away free food. If you've never experienced world-class sound installations, there's an entire artistic realm that has never touched your palette. You cannot paint a complete Long Beach experience without a little of SoundWalk's color. soundwalk.org
Behold the Christmas lights on Naples Island
If the world lasts deep into 2012, something you should do -- and that you should have been doing every year -- is venture out to Naples Island to get a gander at the Christmas lights there. Long Beach is a great city for house decorating (so good that over time we've been seeing more and more Halloween lights), but the high percentage of houses (swanky enough without seasonal adornment) taking part, combined with how elaborately they take part, make Christmas on Naples a time/place like no other. The density of houses and lights means you're really better off parking your car and strolling than driving. But if you do opt for mechanized transport, hop on the Big Red Bus, which winds its way through the tiny streets with surprising grace for something that rectangular.
Dance yourself merry at the Good Foot Xmas
Perhaps you'll make it all the way to Christmas Day. As night comes on and you're still a survivor, if you want to party like it's 1999 -- except, you know, in the future -- head on over to Alex's Bar, where starting at 9 p.m. you can get your Good Foot on. Yes, Long Beach's favorite monthly soul dance club has passed on, but every Christmas Night -- for now, at least (which is all we ever have, after all) -- you can enjoy this funky resurrection. Sometimes the end is no end.
We called this a Long Beach "bucket list" because clearly it's far from the only possible range of must-dos before the Mayans are proven right. So we hope you'll use the Comments space below to share with your fellow city-dwellers whatever's on your Long Beach "bucket list."