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Dust off the old Schwinn or roll down the windows of a restored Volkswagen and you’ll fit right into the funky vintage vibe of this Long Beach daytrip: a nostalgic exploration of Long Beach’s retro hotspots that includes independent vintage apparel and home goods shops, mid-century mod watering holes and classic diners that you won’t find anywhere else.
Get an early start with a java infusion at Portfolio Coffeehouse – a neighborhood staple for more than two decades, the coffeehouse is at the heart of Long Beach’s Retro Row, an eclectic mix of some 100-plus independent businesses on Fourth Street between Cherry and Temple avenues. The café is a true local watering – or caffeinating – hole, with its sidewalk chairs always full of locals sipping java alongside their pooches.
Famously frequented by the costume designers of the hit series “Mad Men,” the shops on Retro Row offer endless treasures from decades past. Whether you want to relive the 90’s at Alien Artefacts – which has a wealth of ’90s Nicktoon gear and superhero tchotchkes – or you want to find that perfect ’70s armchair for your living room (look no further than Xcape), Retro Row has a little something for everyone. The shopping district capitalizes on old-school originality, including the historic single-screen Art Theatre, an Art Deco architectural gem known for showing limited release flicks and documentaries.
MEOW, a vintage clothing shop, is the neon-lit place to find throwbacks that never go out of style. Mix and match saddle shoes, cat-eye glasses, bell bottoms and other timeless treasures in unique fitting rooms equipped with antique refrigerator doors. Bargain hunters should walk the half block to the nearby Assistance League Thrift Shop for a store packed with high-end apparel, accessories and housewares donated and sold at rock-bottom prices (think $6 for a pair of men’s swim trucks) that benefit a good cause.
For lunch, burn rubber just south of Fourth Street’s Retro Row to the corner of Broadway and Junipero Avenue, where you’ll find a cozy booth waiting at The Original Park Pantry overlooking Long Beach’s tree-lined Bixby Park. The classic diner, with signed celebrity photos on the walls, features hearty portions of traditional American foods that haven’t changed much since the eatery first opened in 1956. It’ll hit the spot, whether you’re looking for an impeccable steak and eggs or a flawless slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
Drive or bike from Retro Row several blocks north to Anaheim Street for a retro-lovers paradise. Tucked away just north of East Anaheim Street in the historic Zaferia District on Coronado Avenue is Urban Americana, a massive 16,000-square-foot antique and design collective featuring 40 vendors who sell solid items that will last a lifetime and hearken back to the days before people bought furniture at big box retailers. With indoor/outdoor shopping, Urban Americana is known for distinctive and artfully displayed home and garden goods from yesteryear.
Head Downtown and you’ll discover the antique treasure trove Long Beach Vintage Etc. on historic Pine Avenue. The sprawling shop offers a chock-full 7,000-square-foot showroom of finds from every era, from traditional antiques to “cool junk” from the sleek 1960s to the kitsch 1990s. Once you’ve exhausted its endless aisles – and paid your respects to the one-eyed shop cat, Likho – walk, bike, or scoot to the East Village Arts District, which has a high concentration of galleries and creative businesses. Surrounded by historic Art Deco buildings, you’ll find Ay Que Vintage thrift and consignment clothing store on Linden Avenue between 1st Street and Broadway. Ay Que specializes in everyday wear with contemporary flair, and an assortment of accessories and housewares, too.
With your shopping bags full, head north on Pine Avenue to East Anaheim Street end the day with some old-world glamour at The Grasshopper, where distinct green wallpaper and exquisite mid-century modern ambiance make the swanky little bar’s patrons feel like they’re having a glamorous 1950s-era martini lunch.
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