Friday, June 13, 2014 | 4 p.m.
At some point during the relentless desert heat of summer in Las Vegas, every resident needs and takes a reprieve from the 110-plus-degree highs and the onslaught of tourists in the Entertainment Capital of the World.
One popular option is the easy 4-hour drive (or 45-minute flight) to Los Angeles, but what some might not but should consider is the under-the-radar or often-overlooked oceanside city of Long Beach southeast of Los Angeles.
The LBC has a special place in my heart because it’s where I landed my first full-time job in journalism after graduating from college. Who doesn’t remember their first job and hometown post-graduation? I returned to Long Beach a few weekends ago — the first real visit since moving away in 2002 — and the trip was so incredible and memorable that it made me want to move back.
New to Long Beach in my 12-year absence: the portside Hotel Maya and its restaurant Fuego; restaurants Sip, Breakfast Bar, Pier 76 Fish Grill, Bo-Beau, Beachwood BBQ and Brewery, Michael’s Pizzeria, The Attic, Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and Boathouse; and the church-themed bar Congregation.
Still around: Shoreline Village, the expanded Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (I was a proud charter member in 1998) and Parker’s Lighthouse for oceanside dining. Plus a Harbor Breeze waterfront cruise, a really fun electric-bike ride along the beach and a gondola ride through Naples steered by striped-short-sleeve-polo-wearing gondoliers Adam and Jeff.
And I finally went aboard the Queen Mary (and, wrongfully and laughably, imagined Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson) romancing Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater) in “Titanic”), something I regretfully never did while living in Long Beach from 1996 to 2002.
Now you can experience the revitalized Long Beach, too — for free.
The City of Long Beach’s #BeachWithBenefits summer marketing campaign is in full swing, and seven winners of the summer sweepstakes will receive a memorable getaway package. Each package includes two round-trip JetBlue Airways Travel Certificates; three-night hotel accommodations; VIP Aquarium of the Pacific and Queen Mary tours; a gondola getaway experience for two; and a fine-dining experience, meet-and-greet with a culinary team member and a $1,100 Visa gift card.
At the conclusion of the sweepstakes, Long Beach will continue to give. Social media followers will have an opportunity to win all summer long with weekly contests on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Prizes will include hotel stays, tickets to the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Queen Mary, whale-watching tours, gondola rides, restaurant gift certificates, museums, festivals, concert tickets and more. Go to Facebook.com/Visit.LongBeach.CA and BeachWithBenefits.com for updates.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. PST on Sunday (yes, Father’s Day). Do it now. Who doesn’t want a “Beach With Benefits” vacation away from the desert heat? And say hello to the Queen Mary — and Jack and Rose — for me.
I’ll never let go, Long Beach. I’ll never let go.
Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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