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Why: Since her launch in England by the Cunard Line in 1936, the Queen Mary has seen war, peace, Europe, New York, Clark Gable, Winston Churchill and, more recently, Ships & Giggles Comedy Night in Long Beach. In early December, it will be 50 years since the grand old lady arrived to begin her retirement years in Long Beach Harbor as a floating hotel, restaurant and special-events venue. Since she needs as much as $289 million in work, there's no telling how much longer this retirement will last.
What: The ship is more than 1,000 feet long, with 12 decks and three smokestacks. Converted into a troop ship and painted gray during World War II, the Queen Mary could carry up to 16,683 soldiers and sailors. She resumed civilian service after the war, but before long the rise of air travel largely destroyed demand for transatlantic passenger ships. In late 1967, the ship made her 1,001st (and final) transatlantic voyage and settled into her current location. The City of Long Beach's plan was to boost tourism.
The years since have been bumpy. The Queen Mary has had success with seasonal attractions like the Dark Harbor program that runs through Nov. 1. But beneath those spooky trappings, the ship is genuinely suffering from extensive structural corrosion. Without dramatic repairs, experts have warned, an internal collapse could come within 10 years.
But there's no place quite like it on the West Coast, and the ship's operators have been talking up some ambitious plans. If you're not ready to spend the night or brave Dark Harbor, the hour-long Glory Days Historical Tour is offered eight times per day, every day.
Where: 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach, 25 miles south of downtown L.A.
How much: A one-day Passport (which includes self-guided exploration, access to the model ship gallery, a "4-D" theater presentation and the Glory Days Historical Tour or an alternative called Haunted Encounters) costs $27 and up (plus service fees) per adult, $17.50 and up (plus service fees) per child aged 4-11. Parking is $18 a day.
Info: Queen Mary