A Shot in the Rain: Long Beach, CA
Hunter Esquibel of Claremont enjoys petting the rays in the rain at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA. Photo by Kayte Deioma
A Rainy Day in ….Long Beach, CA
story and photos by Kayte Deioma
Everyone knows it doesn’t rain in Southern California. At least not between May and October. Not until last year when it actually sprinkled a few drops in July. Rain in July? Not possible. But I’m a witness. It happened. So you never know when you might just need some rainy day alternatives.
Many people come to Long Beach from far away places to sun themselves on the beach. With only 32 days of rain per year, you have a reasonably good chance of visiting Long Beach on a day when it’s not raining. One might expect the other 333 days to be sunny. They usually are, eventually, after the infamous “marine layer” burns off. But if you happen to arrive in the middle of June gloom which, despite the nomenclature, can last from May through September, and you’ve had enough of lying on the beach under your beach towel to keep warm, you might want to check out some of the great indoor alternatives Long Beach can offer.
There are more Long Beach rainy day options on the Rainy Day Links page.
story and photos by Kayte Deioma
You can’t go wrong on a rainy day in Long Beach taking the kids out for a day at the Aquarium of the Pacific. A real deluge might keep the Lorikeet forest closed, but it won’t bother the sharks and rays in the outdoor touch pools. It will just scare away a bit of the competition for a good position to two-finger touch these creatures of the sea.
Most of the Pacific Ocean animals on display in the Aquarium can be viewed without your umbrella. The Weird, Wild and Wonderful Passport Book that you receive at the entrance helps identify the various underwater residents as you go. It includes a fun quiz at the back for school-age children or anyone who wants to test their memory. Weekdays the schools of fish are visited by schools of little people identified with matching bandanas, hats or T-shirts.
In the main hall you are greeted by a life-size sculpture of a blue whale and her calf suspended from the ceiling. The Aquarium is divided into geographic regions which reproduce the local habitat for the undersea inhabitants of that area. At the end of the hall, the Blue Cavern exhibit, extending two stories high, represents the habitat of the Southern California Coast and Islands. At feeding time, you can see exotic Homo sapiens in scuba gear swimming among the California barracudas, shovelnose guitarfish and leopard sharks. Volunteer divers give underwater presentations several times a day. The two-legged scuba-fish also make appearances in the Tropical Reef Exhibit.
It is easy to become transfixed for long periods of times watching the translucent jellies floating through the blue water of the Open Ocean or waiting to see if the balloonfish are going to balloon in the Sea of Cortez. If it’s too wet to have the Seals and Sea Lion presentation outside, you can still view these sea mammals from inside the Southern California and Baja Gallery. You can also watch the sea otters cavort and play in and out of water in the Northern Pacific Gallery.
In the outdoor section of the Southern California and Baja Exhibit, you can give the two-finger touch to a giant green anemone, purple sea urchin or bat star in the sheltered Rocky Intertidal exhibit or to the nearby stingrays and whiptail rays competing for your attention in the Ray Touchpool. Downstairs you can pet the white-spotted bamboo sharks, zebra sharks and many other small shark varieties in the Shark Lagoon.
Films and presentations are scheduled throughout the day in the Honda Theater near the entrance and in the outdoor Marine Life Theater, weather permitting. Guided hour-long “Behind the Scenes” Tours for visitors seven years old or above are available daily for an additional fee. On weekends, you can make a reservation for Animal Encounters, which will allow you to get up close and personal while you feed the animals with the Aquarium staff. Children have to be at least ten years old to feed the seals and sea lions and 13 to feed the sharks.
The Aquarium of the Pacific has a wonderfully informative web site at www.aquariumofpacific.org including a fun Animal Database. Price and schedule information on the web site may be out of date. For current information call (562) 437-3474.
story and photos by Kayte Deioma
Long Beach ‘s most familiar attraction is also a great rainy day destination. The RMS Queen Mary, the former luxury ocean liner and WWII military transport, is now a Hotel, museum and constantly evolving attraction. The Queen can keep you occupied indoors for a couple days, and you still may not have time to discover all her secrets. Guides expert in the illustrious lady’s bipolar past can introduce you to both of her historic personalities. Others will expose the skeletons in her closets, boilers and guest rooms.
If you only have a couple hours, skip the guide and start with the self-guided walking tour of the ship. The walking tour takes you through exhibit areas not visited by any of the guided tours. These exhibits include original furnishings from the ship’s dual lives as a cruise ship and a military transport. General Admission includes the self-guided tour map and the Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary special effects show. If it’s raining, bring your umbrella. You’ll want to step outside for a few minutes on the upper decks.
The walking tour starts with an orientation video, then takes you through the engine room and up the escalators to the Promenade and Sun Decks. If your timing is right, you can catch a lifeboat drill by Roy Sorge or one of the other ship’s officers at Lifeboat Station 23 on the starboard (right) side of the ship. You can imagine being on the Titanic as you watch the lifeboat being lowered. Drill times are posted daily and are more likely to occur weekends and in summer.
Up on the Sports Deck, the self-guided tour continues to the ship’s Communications Center and the Wireless Room, where you might catch members of a local amateur radio station on the air. Toward the bow of the ship you can visit an exhibit of the original officers’ quarters, and the Bridge and Wheelhouse. Alas, you can’t stand at the helm or any of the dozen roped-off controls. But you can get closer to the charts and maybe a ghost or two next door in the Chart Room.
Down one level, soldiers sleeping, playing, sick and at-arms populate the WWII exhibit along the port side. Along starboard is a historic exhibit of the cruise ship hospital, barber shop, and gymnasium – all looking more torturous than you might expect on a luxury cruise. There is also a charming nursery, where the sound of children playing could be your imagination or a paranormal encounter.
If you find yourself in need of refreshment at this juncture, the Sun Deck Deli is next door. It’s in the process of getting a facelift, so construction noise may mar the experience.
Your tour continues back down to the Promenade Deck where you can peek into the Observation Bar or stop for a beverage if it is after noon. Then head out to the bow area (with your umbrella, if necessary). Little kids and big kids can climb around on the giant machinery used to dock the ship and check out the 40mm anti-aircraft gun.
Back inside, you can visit the Passenger Information counter where helpful Ship’s Officers can give directions and recommendations, make restaurant reservations and sign you up for guided tours.
The Promenade Deck houses the main shopping area on the ship. Warm gleaming wood-paneled walls curve around a newsstand, oriental gifts and souvenir shops. Several eating establishments including the Starboard Bakery (featuring Starbucks coffee if you’re dying for a caffeine fix), the Promenade Café, Chelsea Restaurant (dinner only) and California Shakes are also on Promenade Deck. The Promenade Gallery with original artwork from the Queen Mary is also on this level
At this point your self-guided tour map directs you to the Ghosts and Legends Show. If you decide to skip the Show, take the hotel elevator down to Deck B and make a U turn to the right down the corridor to the bow (front) of the ship where you will find the Carpathia room. Cut through the Carpathia room to reach the Treasures of the Queen Mary Archive exhibit. Documents, sea-faring paraphernalia, tableware and other artifacts fill glass cases. In the re-creation of a first class stateroom, an evening gown and tux are laid out on the bed ready to step into for a first-class evening of dining and dancing aboard the Queen.
Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary
Retrace your steps and take the escalator or elevator down and out to street level and turn right where a stairway leads up to the entrance of the Ghosts and Legends of the Queen Mary special effects show. Beware! Loud noises and flashing lights may scare small children. Shows take 30 minutes and start every hour at quarter past.
On the day of my visit, a half dozen eight to ten-year-old boys are along on the tour. They had been scared off the previous hour at the point where the big scary door opens and you can see light and smoke behind the door. That is to say, the entrance itself scared them off. But they are back. They huddle together, arms over each others’ shoulders as our guide leads the way through the sinister door.
A second guide comes along to escort anyone who wants to turn back tothe nearest exit. One of the boys who has apparently experienced the show before is encouraging the others. “It’s not scary. It’s not real. It’s like Universal Studios.” And in fact, once inside, they seem to take the exploding boiler, haunted swimming pool and leaking hull in stride. Just the right amount of scary to thrill a nine-year-old.
If you haven’t already visited the Treasures of the Queen Mary Archive exhibit, you can follow the signs at the end of the Ghosts and Legends show down the stairs one level to Deck B.
If you have more time, sign up to take one of the other guided tours of the ship. A variety of tours offer different perspectives on the ship’s history and on the neighboring Russian submarine Scorpion. You can buy a variety of package tickets with your attraction entrance fee at the outside ticket booth. If you happen to be staying or eating on the ship, or if you want to add something that was not included in your ticket package, you can purchase individual tour tickets at Passenger Information on the Promenade Deck.