Long Beach

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018

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.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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).

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

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

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Thank you to Visit Long Beach for hosting me!




Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach

This is a sponsored post by Chase Ultimate Rewards. The content and opinions expressed below are that of truelane.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The best kinds of trips are the ones that change your life when you weren’t quite sure what you were initially walking into. With summer in full and beautiful swing during the second weekend in June, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Long Beach, California, to attend POW! WOW! Long Beach festival.

POW! WOW! is a celebration of culture, music, and art that originated in Hawaii. The festival’s founders were inspired by the traditional Native American pow wow. Native American culture is spread far, wide, and rich across Washington state, so I grew up around it as a Seattle native (a relative term in this context—as native as I can be being born in 1991). Reading about the festival, I was instantly hooked, and was stoked to see what artistic talents POW! WOW! would bring to light.

Mainly, POW! WOW! is a mural festival. Artists are invited from around the world to spend the week in sunny SoCal executing some of the biggest work they’ve ever done, and my sister Elyse and I got to see it all go down. As soon as we hopped on our bus tour of the in-progress murals, we were enchanted. Charismatic and down-to-earth John Hall, the director of the Long Beach branch of the festival, stood and introduced himself as our tour guide while the bus began to roll along, and I wondered if I heard right. The guys that actually make this event happen were the guys that were taking us around, introducing us to the artists, and giving us the inside scoop on what it takes and what it means to put on POW! WOW! Long Beach. I felt honored to even be in their presence. Our first stop on the tour was an half-finished mural by Japanese artist Dragon76, and John was the first one out the bus door. By the time we rounded the corner to the mural, John was mid-conversation with Dragon76…in surprisingly fluent Japanese. Elyse and I just looked at each other, dumbfounded, as we found ourselves doing practically every ten minutes the whole trip. Everything was the coolest.

Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane

As we stopped at more murals and learned more about each artist, their background, and the piece they were working on, it became clear to me that this was not just a group of artists and organizers that descended upon the city, made their mark, and vanished. POW! WOW! is an event for the entire city of Long Beach, and the municipal government and local business are one-hundred percent invested most of the year. It takes work to acquire sponsors, and even walls for the artists to paint on. The team has to negotiate with building owners and the businesses inside them to find an available wall, preferably with high visibility and not a lot of windows or other interruptions. At the same time, John explained that POW! WOW! isn’t trying to own the Long Beach art scene, stating, “We’re just here to be a part of it.” Wall and mural art are often mistakenly placed into the same category as graffiti, as there are a ton of noncommissioned art pieces across the globe that tend to rub business owners the wrong way. But this is different.

POW! WOW! Hawaii began in a run-down neighborhood that has since blossomed into a vibrant art hub with dozens of murals completed in the six years that POW! WOW! has been up and running. Art can truly change things and change people, and that is why the festival has expanded into so many cities over the years. This summer marks the second year for POW! WOW! Long Beach. Some of last year’s murals are still around, and others are not. That’s a natural part of mural painting, as John told us on the tour. People interact with it and add to it and make it their own, and that difference is why POW! WOW! is not a platform for budding artists. It’s a privilege to be asked to paint for POW! WOW! The team pays for airfare, hotel, and gallons upon gallons of paint that artists normally have to provide for themselves to express their ideas and their visions.

Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane

After spending the weekend in Long Beach, Elyse and I had plans to head north to Los Angeles. We spent a few days in West Hollywood and Santa Monica seeing the sights and the sun, and as relaxing as it was, we couldn’t stop talking about POW! WOW! Then, our trip came full circle when we checked into a random, one-night hotel back in Long Beach, the day before our flight home, and it turned out to be one of the locations of a POW! WOW! mural: the hotel was a partner for the festival. It had even been the home base of one of our favorite artists, Aaron Li-Hill, while he was completing his mural. We felt perfect closure at Long Beach Airport the next day, when Hawaii-based artist Kaplan Bunce was on our flight back to Seattle to spend a few days in his hometown of Olympia. Decked out in a POW! WOW! t-shirt and snapback, he was easy to spot in the crowd.

“Where are you guys sitting?” he asked me after I introduced myself in line to buy a water bottle before we boarded, “We gotta squad up.”

The funny thing? I didn’t even blink at the idea of this phenomenally talented and well-known artist wanting to spend some time with a couple art enthusiasts at a southern California airport—the sense of POW! WOW! community is real and alive, during the festival and beyond.

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Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane
Savoring Summer with POW! WOW! Long Beach | truelane