If you’ve ever been to Long Beach you’ve probably seen it from a distance—the majestic RMS Queen Mary, one of the most beautiful ocean liners ever built and a pristine time capsule of Art Deco artistry.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Queen Mary was officially retired from service in 1967 and is now permanently moored on the sunny docks of Long Beach, gracefully living out her retirement as one of the most historic floating hotels in the world.
If you’ve never set foot upon this astonishing piece of history, there is no better historical getaway to Southern California than a date with Her Majesty, The Queen Mary, enjoying a taste of what travel was like when luxury ocean liners ruled the seas.
A Floating Time Capsule
I’ve been in awe of The Queen Mary since I first visited as a child living in San Pedro. Every time I strolled around the ship I always imagined the thousands of people who walked the very same wooden decks since 1936, decks crafted from 50 different types of wood from all over the world, giving it the nickname “Ship of Woods.”
Even today, after The Queen Mary has gone through many renovations and conversions over the years, I still feel the same excitement (if not more) knowing that the staff has painstakingly preserved an astonishing amount of original art, woodwork, photos, and travel memorabilia for guests like me to ooh and ahh over with each visit.
The Queen of Hotel Deals
Begin your voyage by learning the layout of the massive ship with a self-guided Walking Tour, included with your stay. You can spend hours strolling the exterior decks and interior corridors while discovering hundreds of historical photographs and mementos. Unlike so many other historic relics, The Queen Mary is immersive, impressive, totally consuming, and the only hotel/museum of its kind in the world.
Check into your spacious stateroom that offers an authentic glimpse into what transatlantic travel was like during the halcyon years, complete with original Art Deco fixtures and operable portholes that perfectly frame downtown Long Beach just across the harbor. The Observation Bar & Art Deco Lounge begs for a Happy Hour martini—a must before heading to dinner at Sir Winston’s restaurant or The Chelsea Chowder House & Bar at sunset.
Diana: Legacy of a Princess Exhibition
The detailed retrospective is divided into three distinct sections: The Royal Family, Princess Diana, and Diana’s Legacy. In the Royal Family exhibit, guests get an inside glimpse at Queen Mary (for whom the ship was named), as well as King George, Queen Mother Elizabeth, and Queen Elizabeth II, through personal documents, letters, newspapers, royal memorabilia, and more.
And then there are Diana’s dresses, which literally take your breath away. The highlight of the Princess Diana Collection is an elegant dressing room display featuring nine of Princess Diana’s dresses and gowns, including the unforgettable pale floral-print silk taffeta evening dress that she wore to Australia’s bicentennial celebration in 1988. You’ll also see designer-signed fashion sketches of Diana’s famous gowns, handwritten letters, and notes from Princess Diana.
My favorite exhibit, however, is the least exotic: Diana’s hairdressing schedule, written by her own hand in pencil. If you think your hair is difficult to manage, wait until you see this window into the day-to-day life of a modern princess.
What makes a getaway to The Queen Mary even more enticing is ease of the journey getting there. If you’re flying into Long Beach then you happen to be in for a treat, because the recently overhauled Long Beach Airport (LBG) quite simply brings sexy back to airline travel.
Its main terminal—built in 1941—is a Cultural Historic Landmark and remains as the airport’s hub. A spacious new passenger concourse is filled with natural light thanks to towering glass walls that overlook the bustling tarmac, not to mention a slick iPad Bar and cozy fire pit.
They’ve also added a beautifully landscaped Garden and Palm Court lounge area that gracefully stretches through the airport with an astonishing new assortment of shops, restaurants, and beer & wine bars.
More Long Beach Attractions
Once you’ve become properly acquainted with The Queen, here are a handful of other must-see attractions in Long Beach:
Aquarium of the Pacific If you’re an aquarium lover you’ll swoon over nearly 1000 species in one of the largest aquariums in the US. Touch over 150 sharks in Shark Lagoon, feed colorful birds in Lorikeet Forest, and feel sea jellies in the Arctic & Antarctic gallery. Explore 19 major habitats and 32 focus exhibits that guide you through three regions of the Pacific Ocean: Southern California/Baja, the Tropical Pacific, and the Northern Pacific. A no brainer for families.
Hit East 4th (between Cherry and Junipero)—a.k.a. “Retro Row.” It’s home to vintage and contemporary clothing, furniture, accessories, art, antiques, collectibles, books, roller skates, and skate boards, as well as a locally owned restaurants, coffee shops, and wine bars. Check out La Bomba for its extensive selection of treasures and gigantic pile of clothes in the back of the store that you’re welcome to dig through.
Long Beach Museum of Art This small but impressive art museum is housed in a stunning historic Craftsman-style mansion featuring 20th Century art and decorative pieces created mostly by California artists. Enjoy breathtaking ocean views atop the bluffs overlooking Long Beach Harbor, Catalina Island, The Queen Mary, and the Pacific Ocean.
The campus includes the historic Elizabeth Milbank Anderson house and carriage house built in 1912, oceanfront gardens, and a beautiful new pavilion with two floors of expansive gallery space for evolving exhibitions.
Shoreline Village This waterfront shopping, dining and entertainment center overlooks Long Beach’s beautiful Rainbow Harbor and is styled after a Cape Cod fishing village that’s family friendly by day and totally romantic after dark. Shoreline’s antique carousel is the focal point of the village. Rent a bike and explore the Long Beach coastline, jump on a harbor cruise or shop eclectic boutiques.
Belmont Shore Nestled along the southeast coast of Long Beach, Belmont Shore boasts 60 retail stores in a charming beach-side scene brimming with over 250 businesses. Second Street and fifteen intersecting side streets make up the heart of this exclusive seaside spot affectionately referred to by locals as “The Shore.”
“Rosie’s Dog Beach” The ONLY off-leash dog beach in all of Los Angeles County!
If you happen to be in town in April you have to check out the Long Beach Grand Prix, a weekend long event culminating in Indycar racing on a 2 mile track through the streets of downtown. Vroom vroom!