If you’re looking for a fun – and free – way to enjoy an afternoon, check out Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach. This hidden gem is a great place to talk a walk and immerse yourself in some SoCal history. Here’s everything you need to know before your visit.
Rancho Los Cerritos is one of those places that you’ve probably always heard of, but never seen. Unless you were actually trying to go there. Tucked away in Virginia Country Club, Rancho Los Cerritos is a little slice of history that you won’t find many other places in the city.
It may not be all flash and wild adventure, but if you’re looking for a peaceful, mellow afternoon Rancho Los Cerritos is sure to fit the bill. From the beautiful historic home to the stunning sprawling grounds and the native plant walk, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy at Rancho Los Cerritos.
Here’s everything you should know before you head to Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach!
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Planning a Visit
Rancho Los Cerritos is located in the Virginia Country Club neighborhood of Long beach. As of this posting, the hours were Wednesday through Sunday, from 1-5 pm. (You can check the Rancho Los Cerritos website for current times.)
Currently, reservations are required, but can be made easily online – including for same day reservations. You can use this link to make your reservation.
How Much Does Rancho Los Cerritos cost?
Ranch Los Cerritos is free to the public! Donations are encouraged, but not required. We do typically leave a donation, but it’s nice that you get to decide the amount.
There is also a cute birdhouse style donation box near the exit, so we typically bring along a donation to make as we leave.
How Do You Get to Rancho Los Cerritos?
The Rancho is one of those places where you may find yourself worried, “Did I miss it?” The answer is probably, “Nope, keep going!” To get to Rancho Los Cerritos you drive down N. Virginia Rd, off E. San Antonio Dr. You drive past a block of homes before the road is surrounded by the Los Cerritos Country Club golf course. Keep going!
If you see the entrance to Virginia Country Club on the right- yes, keep going! You’re almost there! Up ahead you’ll find a sign on the left indicating where to park. Follow that sign and you’ll find the parking lot for Rancho Los Cerritos.
Parking at the Rancho
Rancho Los Cerritos has a large dedicated parking lot. However, the primary parking lot is across the street from the entrance from the Rancho. While this may be cause for concern, the Rancho is practically the only thing at the end of this road. It’s a dead end road that only has a few houses past the Rancho. So, basically everyone driving on the road is either going to the Rancho, or their house. And traffic is always cautious in this area.
There is also a handicap accessible parking lot to the right.
What is the Best Age Range for Rancho Los Cerritos?
The Rancho has something for kids of all ages, however the target audience is probably older elementary school aged chidren and older. Younger kids (toddlers and preschool) will probably want to stick to the nature walks and gardens.
Additionally, Rancho Los Cerritos offers an in-person storytime on Tuesday mornings at 10am. This is a perfect opportunity to see part of the Rancho with your younger children. Benches are set up in the shade near the California Native Garden, or you can bring your own picnic blankets.
Older kids, 5 to teen, will be able to learn more from the Rancho. They can tour the Rancho house, learn about the history of the rancho and don’t miss out on the Ranch Los Cerritos Scavenger Hunt! Available at the check in desk, this scavenger hunt is available in both English and Spanish and takes you through all the major areas of the Rancho. Complete the hunt and you can get a prize at the end of your visit!
Can You Bring Food to the Rancho?
There is no outside food allowed at the Rancho, and no food available for purchase.
Does Rancho Los Cerritos Have Bathrooms?
The Rancho has a set of bathrooms near the entrance. They are very clean and well-maintained. They are a bit of a hike from the main house and trails so you may want to make a Potty Pit Stop when you arrive.
There is also a water fountain located next to the bathrooms, so don’t forget to fill up your water bottle before you head out to the paths!
Is the Rancho Good for a Group?
The Rancho is good for smaller groups. Larger groups may be hard because different folks may have a different pace to keep. (For instance, some folks want to read all the placards and others want to just keep walking!)
There are some beautiful open grounds, however, so you can always agree to meet under the giant, beautiful Moreton Bay Fig Tree when everyone is done for instance! (But please don’t let little ones climb on the large roots!)
Additionally, Rancho Los Cerritos does have a large, beautiful event space. They often host weddings and other events here. For more infomation, see their event information page.
How Long Should You Expect to Stay at the Rancho?
How long you stay at Rancho Los Cerritos will depend largely on your kids. My kids have been there many, many times, and we usually see everything in about an hour, but can add an additional hour depending on if they want to play on the grounds.
Should You Bring a Stroller?
There are some areas you may not want to miss that are only accessible via stairs. So we recommend an Ergo Baby Carrier. It’s relatively easy to get on and off, and takes away the struggle of pushing a stroller across dirt and sand.
The trails are dirt, so if you want to use a stroller you may want to have a jogging stroller (though I’ve trudged through with an umbrella stroller in a pinch!) It’s a beautiful place to just take a walk and get outside for a nice change of scenery.
What is There to See at Rancho Los Cerritos in Long Beach?
There are two self-paced tours you can do. The first is a Self-Paced Tour which includes the native garden, adobe house, orchard and backyard and includes the use of stairs and loose-dirt pathways. The second option is an Accessible Self-Paced Tour that loops around the backyard and can include the adobe house. It includes both brick walkways and packed-dirt pathways.
The Native Garden
The first thing you encounter on your self-paced tour is the Native Gardens. These, if taken one way, end with a large staircase at the end, so strollers beware! This is a wonderful place for kids to to watch for lizards, birds and butterflies while taking in the native Southern California plant life. It’s a short path, but my kids love to run the length multiple times.
The Ranch House is a piece of preserved history. Built out of Adobe in the 1800’s, the house is now more than 175 years old! .
The Bixby Family bought the house in 1866 and did much . There are several well preserved and furnished rooms inside that you can peek into to see what life was like on the Rancho.
Don’t forget to look at how thick the walls are! This is your first (but not last!) chance to learn about the adobe that was used to build the house.
Each room has a QR code to get more information and teach you about the history. There are also fun questions to spark conversations with your kids about Rancho life and exploring the rooms.
Be sure to visit the beautiful pond in the Courtyard of the Adobe house.
On your way to the back side of the house, you’ll pass through a small orchard. There are many different kinds of fruit trees there, and it’s a beautiful walk to the other side of the Rancho.
Garden Paths & The Backyard
Upon arriving on the backside of the house you’ll see the stunning, large Moreton Bay Fig Tree. Behind you stands the backside of the Adobe home, and there’s lots to explore on it’s veranda. One of my kids favorite things to check out is a Bixby Family Height Chart in the exposed adobe. It’s one of those cool personal touches that has been preserved throughout time that is so relatable to kids even today!
Follow the path along the veranda to this beautiful pergola leading you to the garden paths.
Have some kids that are a little more adventurous and independent? Let them take their own route as you make your way to the large open grassy area. There are several different small offshoots that all lead you to the same place. And my kids love to take every. single. one. of them. They love feeling independent and we love letting them learn how to find their own way!
Pro Tips for Visiting Rancho Los Alamitos
We’ve got a few tricks for visiting the Rancho to help you get the most out of it.
- Don’t forget to grab a scavenger hunt. For young visitors, a scavenger hunt is an amazing way to add a fun element to the educational aspects of the Rancho. If you’re worried your kids won’t be interested in the history, this might help a great deal!
- Prep your kids for what the Rancho is – and what it isn’t. Look, we love the historical nature and the beauty of the Rancho. But it’s not Chuck E. Cheese. So let your kids know ahead of time and they’ll be much more likely to enjoy it!
- Learn about the history before you go on the Rancho Los Cerritos website. The history of the Tongva people can be somewhat glossed over on the official tour, but it’s important to learn about the original residents of the site, too.
- Print out the Archeologist Activity Booklet. This booklet contains fun educational activities for kids to do with adults. It was created by Long Ago Long Beach and is generously provided for Long Beach students by the Rancho.
- Be prepared for the kids to ask to buy something. Decide before you go if you’re Team Move Them Past the Gift Shop as Quickly as Possible or Team Buy Something. While I’m usually the latter, there are some really cool historical toys and crafts your kids might be interested in!
Why We Love the Rancho
There are a lot of reasons to love Rancho Los Cerritos. First, it checks three of our boxes that we love: cheap, mellow, easy. With no entrance fee, we can enjoy this beautiful landmark, while staying on a budget. (And, of course, giving what we can, when we can). It’s easy to make a reservation and show up and it’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Also, it’s a fun way for our kids to learn about local history. They can learn about how people used to live, play, and work, all in our neighborhood backyard. It’s truly like walking back in time, which is such a great experience for our little ones.
Lastly, with all that exercise and education, it takes a little of the pressure off when we get home! Screen time guilt is gone for a bit when the kids are ready to kick back and relax after an afternoon of learning and exploration at Rancho Los Cerritos.
If you haven’t visited Rancho Los Cerritos yet, you’ve probably realized by now that you’re missing out on one of Long Beach’s best hidden gems. Put on your walking shoes, get the kids psyched for the gardens, and head out on a mini adventure in your own city.
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