After first visiting the City of Long Beach in the Amgen Tour of California’s second installment, the race makes a long overdue return to this urban waterfront playground. Both city and race have seen many positive changes over the past 11-years. To celebrate, Long Beach will host an intimate 11-lap circuit, starting and finishing on the waterfront before touring 7 miles of Long Beach’s many highlights.
The Tour kicks-off the 2018 festivities at Long Beach’s waterfront along Shoreline Drive. The start and finish largely mirrors the annual Long Beach Grand Prix held only one month prior. On the north side is the expansive Convention Center complex, anchored by its giant wrapped mural of migrating whales. Below are paddleboaters soaking up the sun in Rainbow Lagoon Park. To the south is Rainbow Harbor, bordered by the pedestrian-centric shopping and restaurants of Shoreline Village and The Pike. Overlooking this busy scene is the celebrated Aquarium of the Pacific, the waterfront’s star attraction. Spread over five acres, this is one of the best aquariums in the U.S., offering an annual 1.6 million visitors interactions with 500 species. As its name indicates, the aquarium focuses on the Pacific’s diverse array of wildlife through sixteen permanent and rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits. The museum’s centerpiece is the Blue Cavern, a 142,000 gallon, three-story tank that replicates the vast habitats of Catalina Island. Can’t wait until May? Explore the aquarium’s eight webcams that get up close with sharks, penguins, and more. But just like Sagan wading through traffic to win the sprint, this will be one highlight to see in person come race day.
After making a right turn at the majestic Villa Riviera, the peloton heads east on Ocean Boulevard, hugging the city’s sandy shores for two glorious miles. The riders make a triangular U-turn where Ocean Boulevard forks, forcing them to deaccelerate and treat spectators to a rare double-vision opportunity. This is quite possibly the best place to see Stage 1. Better yet, the Belmont Brewing Company is only steps away. As the oldest brew pub in Los Angeles, BBC is an excellent representative of Long Beach’s resurgence with vibrant eateries and watering holes. It’s true that Long Beach’s diverse population has made this city an untapped culinary reservoir. Nowhere does this new legacy mix seamlessly with the beachy and relaxed feel of Long Beach than at BBC. Grab a seat on the outdoor patio. At the foot of Belmont Shore Pier and overlooking the beach, it’s the opportune place to watch all the action on the sand to downtown. An extensive menu of Mediterranean meets California means you get freshness with spice, the perfect mix for a warm day watching the Tour. If your taste buds drive your mood, head down to Belmont Shores for Stage 1.
From the edges of the Belmont, the race double backs on Ocean before making a right turn at Bixby Park to make a brief detour into a little bit of Long Beach’s interior. As the peloton speeds back towards Downtown, it detours through Bixby Park, Bluff Park, Carroll Park, and Franklin. Just before re-entering downtown, riders experience the artsy East Village District. This neighborhood is one of the city’s most vibrant, where independent art galleries compliment the small bistros, cafes, and retailers that give life to a throwback era of cozy charm. Even the buildings provide an aura of art. The best place to watch the race is on the periphery - diagonal from the Villa Riviera - but nowhere is the neighborhood’s allure more evident than the corner of Broadway and Linden. To one side is the Art Deco towering Lafayette Hotel. Adjacent is the gloriously detailed Churrigueresque-style Campbell Apartment House. Across the street is the Broadlind Hotel, a boutique hotel built in the Italian Renaissance tradition with a mix of other influences thrown in for good measure. The Villa Riviera may provide a picture-perfect race backdrop, but Long Beach’s East Village will satisfy all your cravings once the peloton passes.