I can't believe it was two short years ago that I first learned about POW! WOW! On a three-day press trip to Long Beach that truly changed the course of my life, I was introduced to Jasper Wong and his team of dreamers and do-ers that put on dozens of mural festivals each year in cities across the globe. I've been lucky enough to attend both POW! WOW! Long Beach and POW! WOW! Hawaii twice, and POW! WOW! D.C. and San Jose are both on my wishlist for the near future. They explain it this way: POW! is the impact that art has on a person, and WOW! is the reaction the viewer has to it.
It's an incredibly inspiring week, and the Long Beach tourism board gets that. They generously invited me down for a few days to experience the festival and all that their amazing city has to offer. Long Beach has such a different vibe from Los Angeles despite being twenty miles from the heart of downtown. It's a place I could consider calling home within the next few years, and hopefully you'll be able to tell why by the end of this blog post.
As soon as I arrived, I took myself for a seafood dinner at King's Fish House just a few minutes from my hotel. After a busy day of airporting, flying, and running errands as soon as I landed, I was ready to head to bed early to hit the ground running the next day. There's an adorable and delicious cafe, Cuppa Cuppa, just a few minutes' walk from the Westin, our home for the week—we absolutely loved our central location & the friendly staff. Coffee and avocado toast was an easy decision for breakfast before a leisurely walk to the beach and back. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool waiting for my friend and photographer Michele to get into town, and when she did...that was when we hit the ground running!
Long Beach is a surprisingly walkable city. Most neighborhoods contain several murals from the current year and years past, so once you get to the area you're going, you can park for an hour or two and pound the pavement. Make sure to seek out a POW! WOW! "Passport" on the day you arrive, which is your guide to finding the locations of each artist's mural. They're available at most POW! WOW! events as well as select retailers around the city (P.S., they're free!). There's also a digital map on the POW! WOW! website, but if you get your passport stamped you can get discounts at local restaurants and shops.
Typically, my days at POW! WOW! follow a pretty similar schedule. After breakfast, I grab a coffee to go and stop by as many murals as I can to check on the artist's progress. Passersby are encouraged to stop and say hi to the artists and ask them about their work, so I usually like to make conversation. Lots of them are surprised to hear I've attended four POW! WOW! festivals now—which, if I'm being honest, also surprises me. It's just such a powerful event that I get terrible FOMO whenever I don't attend.
However, on this trip to Long Beach, the tourism board set me up with some activities outside of the festival. Alamitos Bay is a popular spot for beach-goers and watersport enthusiasts—you can get on paddleboards, kayaks, or even gondolas. The canals you can paddle through are lined with incredible vacation homes and have five beautiful bridges to travel under that make you feel like you've kayaked into a different country. I love kayaking any time I vacation near the water, so I definitely made time in my schedule.
Of course, it's always important to break for sustenance, and Long Beach has a ton of incredible dining options in addition to the aforementioned locations. One of our favorite meals was at the newly opened juice bar and health food stop Salud Juice. I am not vegan or gluten-free or any of the things I should be, but I can't tell you how much we enjoyed our savory raw salad bowls! (The acai bowls unfortunately left much to be desired—make sure to get your bowls from Revive Juice Bar, they are too good to be true.)
Another standout meal was Michael's Pizzeria, where we enjoyed pizza, pasta, olives and rosé to our heart's content. For breakfast, a favorite spot is Berlin Bistro (they're also my favorite coffee stop in Long Beach). Matcha, chai, lavender Arnold Palmers...you name it, they have it. Make sure to stop into the iconic Fingerprints Music store next door!
After spending four nights at the Westin Long Beach, it started to feel like home. My favorite spot on campus? The pool area, of course. It was so serene and made the perfect place to hide out for a few hours and read as a bit of a respite from the city. Even on work trips, I have to step back every now and then to get some time to myself, especially on one like this where I'm constantly meeting new people and going to events every night. This girl has to put her feet up...especially in southern California heat!
As murals wrap up toward the end of the week, there are a ton of closing events and parties, which becomes a lot of darting back and forth across town. I was so grateful to have our Ford Escape (which is coincidentally the car I want to buy!) from Enterprise. I love the additional space an SUV offers for traveling, and it happened to be the cheapest car option available from Long Beach Airport. Pickup and dropoff is always so easy with Enterprise—they truly run the best customer service game in the business.
Speaking of the airport, Long Beach Airport is one of my favorite airports in the whole country. It's open air and the landscaping is so pretty. JetBlue flies nonstop from Seattle to Long Beach all the time, which is an easy and comfortable flight. I try to fly into LGB every time I go to Los Angeles—it's one million times better than LAX and just about the same distance from everywhere (unless you're in rush hour, then add about forty minutes onto your drive time—still, worth it! It takes me that long to walk through LAX anyway).
As always, I'm very grateful to the Long Beach tourism team for having such contagiously positive attitudes toward Long Beach—thanks to them inviting me to visit once, I've fallen in love with the city as much as they have. There's nothing better than being waterfront with such tremendous art opportunities around you. They really are the #BeachWithBenefits!
Thank you to Visit Long Beach for hosting me!