Springtime Sporting Events Bring the World to Long Beach

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Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo from Wikipedia.

By land and by sea, the city of Long Beach, Calif., is the place to be for entertainment-seeking travelers this April.

Two international sporting events happen on the same week, each celebrating a milestone anniversary. The 40th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach auto race (April 11-13, 2014) and the 50th Congressional Cup yacht race (April 7-13, 2014), combine to make this coastal city south of Los Angeles one of the country’s leading springtime destinations. 

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, America’s largest street race, features IndyCars racing through the city’s downtown waterfront. Drivers roar down palm tree lined Shoreline Drive at speeds reaching 190 mph, with the Queen Mary serving as the perfect Long Beach backdrop. Now in its 40th year, the race involves the same cars and drivers who compete in the Indianapolis 500. Past winners include the biggest names in the history of the sport: Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Dario Franchitti, Alex Zanardi and the “King of the Beach,” Al Unser, Jr., who won six times.

The Grand Prix, however, is more than just an auto race, it’s a 3-day extravaganza with something for everyone. Fans love the Pro/Celebrity race, which pits Hollywood celebrities against racing professionals. Plus there is a downtown block party with live music and entertainment that keeps Long Beach buzzing with tens of thousands of people from throughout the region. Through the years, it has become such an iconic Southern California event that it practically defines the arrival of springtime in Los Angeles. It has even earned the nickname “The World’s Fastest Beach Party.”

This year, Grand Prix fans will be able to see a second world-renowned race, this one out on the ocean. The Congressional Cup is a prestigious international yachting match race that features 10 of the world’s top skippers and crews from eight countries competing on identical boats in a week-long elimination. The Congressional Cup, the longest-running match race in North America, is a very coveted title for the winners and 2014 marks the race’s 50th anniversary. Past skippers include Ted Turner, Ed Baird and Dennis Conner, each famous for their America’s Cup winning teams.

For spectators, while the action occurs at a much different pace than at the Grand Prix, the Congressional Cup features dramatic sailing maneuvers as the boats come within inches of the Belmont Pier. Fans are so close they can practically reach out and touch the boats. It’s like being courtside at a Clippers game or in the dugout of the Dodgers. Plus, it’s free.

Because the Congressional Cup starts on Monday and the Grand Prix on Friday, it is possible to take in both events in the same week. The boats can also be seen in the harbor from certain vantage points at the Grand Prix.

For more information on the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, please visit: http://www.gplb.com. For more information on the Congressional Cup, please visit: http://www.thecongressionalcup.com.

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