Week 248: Long Beach Shoreline

August 29, 2021

 AllTrails Shoreline Aquatic Park Loop, 2.8 miles

Barbara and I drove down to Long Beach this morning for a scenic walk around a famous shoreline section of the city's history. Shiny and new, well-kept and pretty, when Long Beach demolished the remnants of the area's once infamous past in 1979, they left no historic structures for us to see. But oh, what a past. In 1888, the Long Beach Land and Water Company bought Bixby's Ranchos Los Cerritos and changed the name to Long Beach, a seaside resort that remained sedate, church-going, and dry until Pacific Electric's new railway delivered the "rabble" from the North. In 1902, the area around our starting point at Shoreline Drive and Pine Avenue became the entrance to the new Pine Avenue pier near the mouth of the Los Angeles River and an amusement zone called "The Pike." Goodbye sedate—hello arcades, rides, and an indoor saltwater bath house called The Plunge with swimsuits to rent. By the 1920s and 30s, sailors were frequenting the Pike's seedy dives, pool rooms, and girly shows. Gawdy, bawdy, and louce, the city tried to rebrand the area as "Nu-Pike" in the 1950s, but the 5th largest amusement zone in the US couldn't be tamed. The arrival of the Queen Mary in 1965 as an attraction spurred another rebrand to "Queens Park," a nice try that failed. In 1979, Long Beach gave up and trucked away or demolished the shops and rides. It took 24 years to rebirth the area into the 2003 Pike at Rainbow Harbor that we walked today. Instead of starting at the ocean, AllTrails had us circle Rainbow Lagoon Park, next to the Hyatt Regency across the street. The Japanese-style lagoon with two connected islands is filled with seawater, a remnant of the original lagoon filled for the Long Beach Arena. Swan boat rentals waited for tourists, fish came to the edge for food, egrets posed at the shore. Calmed by the lagoon, we crossed Shoreline Drive lined with viewing stands for the upcoming Long Beach Grand Prix at the end of September. Pine Avenue dumped us at the Shoreline Aquatic Park bike path along Rainbow Harbor, a mile-long arc across the water built in 1932. With a view of the Queen Mary in the distance, we walked west past the pleasure boats in the harbor and a variety of restaurants from Gladstones to the quaint ice cream and souvenir shops in Shoreline Village. The path looped around Rainbow Harbor past whale-viewing tour ships and schooners for rent, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and our turnaround spot—the Lions Lighthouse for Sight. Built in 2000, the 10-story lighthouse honoring the Lions Clubs dedication to ending blindness was never meant to be functional, yet it's a perfect accent for the area. We retraced our steps back to Pine Avenue parking lot where we left the car. We only covered a slice of what this area has to offer, and if you ever find yourself down in Long Beach with nothing to do, check it out. It's urban harbor seaside at its blue sky best. 






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