Lounging in Long Beach

A famous ship, the beach, elections and more await at the PVA national convention.

It’s well understood there is plenty of hard work to be done at this month’s annual Paralyzed Veterans of America Convention in Long Beach, Calif., but it’s hard not to want to have a little fun in a place with “beach” in its name.

Located right on the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach offers what seems to be an endless list of activities and attractions. Whether it’s catching an amazing sunset over the Pacific, spending a day at the beach or checking out the Queen Mary, there is something for everyone.

Of course the old adage “business before pleasure” holds true when it comes to the Aug. 13–17 convention at the Westin Long Beach.

Getting to Work

As always at this annual get-together, electing PVA leaders for the next year takes center stage.

Statements from candidates running for various offices were included in last month’s issue of PN. These elected officials will be tasked with leading the organization as the nation tries to continue its financial recovery. Those elected or re-elected to office will also be charged with keeping close watch on the ongoing issues with veterans benefits, including VA’s backlog of cases and trouble with prosthetics.

There will also be plenty of honors to present. Each year coveted awards are given to outstanding PVA members, sponsors, supporters, and chapters, including the Speedy Award, Patriot Award, and Bob Webb Award.

It’s easy to see that the days will be filled with important business, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to explore and enjoy the area. The following are just a few places to help get you started.

The Queen Mary offers a full-service hotel, historical tours, several restaurants and bars, a coffee shop and a tea room. (Photo Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Get on Board

One of the biggest attractions in the Long Beach area is hard to miss, mostly because, well, it really is big.

At more than 1,000 feet long and almost 200 feet high, the historic RMS Queen Mary has been docked in Long Beach since the late 1960s. The legendary ocean liner was once the premier cruise ship of its time and also served as a troop transport in World War II.

Located about ten minutes from the Westin, the Queen Mary is now a marquee tourist attraction. It features a full-service hotel, historical tours, several restaurants and bars, a coffee shop and a tea room.

Several group and guided tours of the ship are available, including Ghosts & Legends, which explains why the Queen Mary is known as the “Haunted Ship.” Because of the ship’s  historic nature, not all tours are wheelchair accessible, but the ghost tour is.

For more information, visit queenmary.com.

Park It

The Queen Mary isn’t far away, but things to do can be found even closer to the Westin.

Only a few blocks south of the hotel you’ll find Shoreline Aquatic Park, Rainbow Harbor and The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. The waterfront area is teeming with parks, shops, restaurants, a nationally renowned aquarium and lots of boats.

The Pike at Rainbow Harbor (thepikeatlongbeach.com) is a 369,000 square foot waterfront entertainment district that includes numerous chain restaurants, bars, a multiplex movie theater, an antique Spillman carousel and a solar-powered Ferris wheel. Shoreline Village (shorelinevillage.com) is another retail and dining area at the southern end of the harbor.

Rainbow Harbor itself is a very active and beautiful area with 87 slips for commercial and recreational vessels, including some vessels as large as 150 feet. The harbor offers whale watching, dinner cruises, private charters, sport fishing, boat rentals, personal watercraft rentals and shuttle buses and boats to other attractions in Long Beach.

For more information on Rainbow Harbor, visit longbeach.gov/park/marine/rainbow.asp.

Probe the Pacific

As the city’s name might imply, a lot of water-related activities are in the area, and one of the coolest (figuratively and literally) is the Aquarium of the Pacific (aquariumofpacific.org).

Covering five acres, the aquarium celebrates the largest and most diverse body of water in the world, the Pacific Ocean. The facility includes more than 11,000 animals representing over 500 different species in exhibits ranging in size and capacity from about 5,000 to 350,000 gallons.

One of the main attractions at the aquarium is the 10,000-square-foot outdoor Shark Lagoon, which has more than 150 sharks and rays. There are also several types of docile sharks in three touch pools.

Another amazing exhibit at the wheelchair-accessible aquarium is the Blue Cavern. This 142,000-gallon, three-story-high exhibit features ocean inhabitants found off the coast of Catalina Island.

Other areas of interest include the 211,000-gallon seal and sea lion habitat, ray touch pool, and shorebird sanctuary.

Island Hopping

Visiting Rainbow Harbor and the Aquarium of the Pacific also gives you easy access to a true Southern California gem — Santa Catalina Island.

Often referred to simply as Catalina Island or just plain Catalina, the island is only 22 miles west of Long Beach. It’s roughly an hour by accessible ferry from Catalina Landing right by the aquarium (catalinaexpress.com). The 22-mile wide, eight-mile long island has a Mediterranean charm that is well known for its relaxing atmosphere.

Because the use of automobiles is restricted on the island, it’s pedestrian friendly, especially in the main town of Avalon. The one-square-mile port city offers plenty of oceanfront shopping and tasty local island cuisine.

It’s also home to the accessible Catalina Casino, which was built by chewing gum titan William Wrigley Jr., who helped develop much of the island. Besides amazing views, the casino features a theater, a ballroom and a museum.

Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the many land and sea sightseeing tours on the island are not wheelchair accessible. However, there are wheelchair-accessible cabs and the Island Hopper tram. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation on the island, and many places rent them. Some companies even have designated tour routes to take at your own pace.

For more information, visit catalinacha mber.com.

Beat the Heat at the Beach

Southern California in August means temperatures should be toasty outside, but remember, you’re going to be in Long Beach. There’s a good reason why the city has that name.

Long Beach features 5½ miles of clean, sandy beaches. A smooth, fully paved bike path spans the length of the beach from downtown to Belmont Shore. The path is easy to find right at Shoreline Village on Rainbow Harbor. There is also a large parking lot just minutes from the Westin.

Also located on the beach and accessible via the path is Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier (belmontpier.com). The 24-foot-wide pier juts out 1,800 feet into the Pacific Ocean and is a prime spot for fishing or for just taking a roll to catch an amazing western sunset over the water.

For more information on Long Beach, go to visitlongbeach.com.     


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