Long Beach has a fantastic nightlife situation. The only real problem is that the city is so spread out, it’s sometimes hard to get a real grasp of where you should be and when. No one wants a night of bar hopping that ends with riding around aimlessly in Ubers. Which is exactly why you need to come in with a game plan. Whether you’re in the mood to day drink by the ocean, listen to live music, or play bar games in a basement all night, this is your guide to drinking extremely well in Long Beach.
Not to be confused with the outlet mall downtown with a fake roller coaster going around it, this Pike is a dive bar on 4th St. During the day, this nautical-themed spot is more of a diner, but at night it turns into a full-on live music venue with a great beer list, a low-key crowd, and a late-night food menu that goes till 1am. Drinking at The Pike feels like you’re drinking at a bar from one of those ’90s movie where everybody could break out into song at any moment simply because they’re having a good time.
We love the Blind Donkey because it’s basically a college bar, but for people in their late 20s. Located in the basement of a building downtown, Blind Donkey has every type of activity to keep you and your friends entertained: darts, skee-ball, billiards, shuffleboard, karaoke, a photo booth, and even an old-school vending machine. There’s also a massive whiskey stock, a solid craft beer list, and a selection of very strong cocktails.
Joe Jost’s has been in operation since 1924 and is a Long Beach institution. This legendary dive bar on a random stretch of the Eastside is not where you go for a rowdy late night. It’s where you go on Sunday afternoon to drink giant steins of beer with a room full of local pirates, play some billiards, and eat pickled eggs and pretzels in the corner. It’s bizarre and wonderful and a place no one should miss.
Do you really need to go to a tasting room for beer you can find at any grocery store? Yes, you do. The Ballast Point Tasting Room isn’t so much a tasting room as it is a gigantic, two-story shrine to day drinking, where you go to enjoy the best views in Long Beach. On weekends this place becomes a bro-pocalypse, but luckily it’s so big, you can always find a quiet corner to get away from that guy in a Quiksilver hat shouting about his threesome in Brazil.
The Exhibition Room is a speakeasy inside a dive bar on the far north side of Long Beach. They have a strict dress code and require reservations, and there’s a tiny phone booth you have to squeeze through to get into the place. Also, you need a password that you’ll receive via email. If it sounds like a complete production, it is. But the good news is that it’s worth it. Once you’re inside, expect live brass bands, burlesque shows, and incredibly well-made cocktails that aren’t too expensive either. If you’re looking to impress a date, you can’t do much better than The Exhibition Room.
Located just a 10-minute walk down 4th St. from The Pike, The Stache has a rowdier, last-call bar kind of feel to it. There isn’t a designated dance floor per se, but come after midnight on a Saturday, and people will have created one between the tables. If that sounds like a lot for you, stop by midweek, and you’ll find a more relaxed crowd there to play some board games, watch the Dodgers, and drink Moscow mules with housemade ginger beer.
Beachwood Brewery is a full-scale restaurant, but while their food menu is totally fine, everybody’s really here for the beer. They’ve been making some of the best craft beer in the state for a while, and their location along downtown’s Promenade is an ideal spot to sit and unwind. If you’re an IPA fan, get their Melrose, and if you’re not, you’ll find plenty of other things to drink. Also, their new Beachwood Blendery is across the street, specializing in only sour beers.
There are lot of places to drink on 2nd Street in Belmont Shore, but one of the nicest places to do so is the upstairs balcony at Saint & Second. This restaurant and bar serves a big gastropubby menu, but that’s probably not what you’re here for. You’re here for Happy Hour. It runs from 3 to 6pm during the week, and involves discounted food (try the charcuterie) and $9 cocktails.
This tiny wine bar next to an arthouse cinema is a good place to start a night out. Walk in, sit at the bar, and tell the guy behind it what kind of wine you’re in the mood for. He’ll keep pouring until you find the one you’re looking for - and will keep going even if you landed on a keeper the first try. After you’ve picked your wine, sit on the sidewalk patio, and repeat. Actually, you might end up spending your whole night here instead.
If you want a relaxed place to drink some beer and stare at the ocean, go to Belmont Brewing. Located right on the beach in Belmont Shore, this neighborhood brewery has been around since 1990, and caters to a local, low-key crowd. Are they brewing the best beer in Long Beach? No. But if you don’t really care about what notes you’ll taste in your IPA and simply want to be left alone on a sunny patio, Belmont Brewing is your Saturday afternoon dream.
You’re not going to stumble on Cielo. It’s a rooftop bar on top of a steakhouse, and you’ll have to walk through a Shining-esque lobby, go up an elevator with an attendant (who’ll tell you the history of the building), and then up a narrow set of stairs to get there. The journey is worth the effort - you end up in a Mexico-themed bar with 360-degree views of the city. Fridays and Saturdays can get a little rowdy, but if you’re in the area, Cielo is worth checking out for a drink with a view.