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  • Writer's pictureChris Green

Grand Prix of Long Beach


Photos by Chris Green, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57

Grand Prix of Long Beach 3000 Pacific Ave Long Beach, CA 90806

Year Opened: 1975

 

A Beachside Speed Fest

The Grand Prix of Long Beach is America’s longest-running street race, and it is easy to see why. The location in Southern California is perfect for a spring race in April, and the excitement on the track is also top-notch. The area of Southern California itself is a mecca for people all around the world to visit, so adding a world-famous car race to the mix only makes Long Beach even more attractive.


Featuring the IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Series as the top-billed race series, in addition to several support events, fans will have no shortage of action to watch while at this annual event.


Food & Beverage 5

The average fan may experience a bit of an overwhelming overload when looking for something to eat or drink in Long Beach. The track has an insurmountable amount of food vendors on site, ranging from chains like King Taco and California Pizza Kitchen to individual booths with kettle corn, massive turkey legs, and fries.


However, to make the choices even more numerous is the inclusion of part of The Pike Outlets into the course’s boundaries, making several of the restaurants exclusive to race fans for the weekend – Hooter’s, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Famous Dave’s, Chili’s, Outback, and more can all be found inside the track itself, and each of them has a special menu just for that race weekend.


Where else can you sit quite literally trackside while munching on fresh seafood and a cold beer from Bubba Gump, all at a special price for fans that weekend? Prices are about or just above average (burgers $15-$17, hot dogs $12, drinks $4-$8) at the various food booths trackside, which makes them rather reasonable for fans, as they aren’t breaking the bank to find something to eat; even the higher-end booths like California Pizza Kitchen’s gourmet pizzas are no more than $12 each.



Atmosphere 5

The air at the Grand Prix of Long Beach warms the race fan’s soul once the sound of engines echoes through the downtown high-rises. The weather in Southern California is rarely anything but perfect in mid-spring, with temps in the 70s to low 80s, and sunny skies almost a certainty. The weekend features no fewer than four different race series every year, ranging from the historic Formula 1 race and the Stadium Super Trucks Series, plus SuperDrift Challenge and IMSA Porsche Carrera Cup action added to the IndyCar Series race.


Neighborhood 5

The track winds through downtown Long Beach right along the shoreline, and just steps from the famous hairpin turn is the beach itself. The marina and harbor are also nearby, home to the Queen Mary.


Additionally, the city of Long Beach is essentially a neighbor to Los Angeles, giving fans easy access to one of the biggest and most popular cities in America. When looking for somewhere to stay, hotels are literally across the street from the track and within walking distance, including a hotel located inside the boundaries of the track. But book early, as rooms fill up quickly, and the prices rise as you get closer to the first date of the weekend.


With Long Beach once having been one of those places visitors would be urged to avoid, the area has transformed into a haven for foodies and small businesses. In addition, the massive shopping district right next to the track offers you the perfect place to visit and enjoy an evening out during race weekend.


Fans 5

The track is always packed on all three days of the race weekend – fans flock from around the world to visit the Grand Prix of Long Beach, meaning you will meet a wide variety of fans from different cultures. Surprisingly a lot of fans are very sport-knowledgeable, something that is not typical of city-based street courses, which are more of a spectacle for fans than something loyalists pack in for. The majority of spectators here are all about having a good party too, and the fans show up for the free concerts they hold during race weekend in front of the convention center.


Access 4

Getting to the Grand Prix of Long Beach area is not difficult, as several major highways in California provide great access to Long Beach. Parking can be tricky, however, as it is a street circuit. Thankfully there are numerous parking lots and garages within walking distance of the track in all directions for you to pick from, and several public transportation lines (you can take the trolley or bus to the area, as well as water taxies from Catalina Island) help ease your travel woes. The cost of parking can rise to over $50 across the street from the entrances, but can also be as low as $20 just a few blocks away.


Arguably the most difficult thing is getting around the track itself – pathways and walkways are cordoned off in specific patterns that limit the flow of foot traffic around Long Beach. Fans also aren’t able to spread out as much as they can at other tracks, making the pedestrian bridges and the pathways rather congested.


Return on Investment 4

Tickets to the Grand Prix of Long Beach start at $38 for Friday, $77 for Saturday, $82 for Sunday, and $112 for all three days. Reserved seating for Sunday ranges from $67-$81 for kids and $92-$107 for adults, with 3-day reserved seating ranging from $95-$135 for kids and $124-$175 for adults.


Fans who enjoy photography can also purchase the unique Super Photo ticket, allowing them access to specific locations around the track that offer great photo-taking opportunities, which no other race on the schedule allows.


Extras 4

The Grand Prix of Long Beach has an interesting layout for the fan zones, as the entire convention center is turned into a massive exhibition hall that also includes the paddock for the Historic F1 and IMSA Porsche Cup teams. Freebies are abundant for fans who enter the hall, and there are several driver meet-and-greet opportunities as well.


The race weekend also includes various driver autograph sessions, allowing fans to get up close to the stars and cars they cheer on during the day.


Another bonus is the proximity of the track to various national parks and natural areas; Channel Islands National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Los Padres National Forest, and Angeles National Forest (just to name a few) are all within a short driving distance from Long Beach and the LA area, making for great day-trip ideas for the family to get away from the city and have some adventure.


If you’re a fan of social media, you want to log on for the Grand Prix of Long Beach; throughout the weekend the event displays photos from Instagram and Twitter posts on the big screens for all to see.


Final Thoughts

Visiting the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a must-do for any hardcore race fan. Anyone in Southern California should visit the race, as it is the nicest racing facility, in terms of weather and location, in the area. Not much can top sunny skies by the Pacific Ocean as cars race down the streets of Long Beach, and that’s exactly why the race has been held here for so many years.

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