The 39th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach wrapped up its weeks of festivities this past weekend in Downtown Long Beach. As Long Beach’s largest annual event, the grand prix attracts tens of thousands of race fans from across the globe to spectate the races and immerse in Southern California culture. Like any large outdoor event, attendees should take extra precaution to endure the weather conditions, which in the case of the grand prix usually consists of adequate hydration and sunscreen application. Regular attendees know to stick to the normal game plan, as the layout of the grand prix remains consistent every year. However, those attending for the first time may feel overwhelmed by all the path closures, stairs, ramps, and temporary paths. Even the map provided by the grand prix explains little without a veteran explaining the map. Read on for further clarity on how to navigate the grand prix, as the layout will likely remain the same next year.
Five public entrances exist for the grand prix. The main entrance lies directly in front of the performing arts center, where Long Beach Blvd ends. Guests without tickets can purchase tickets here or pick up tickets from will call.
Entering via the main entrance places guests on a platform directly above the back straightaway of the race track.
Moving further towards the front of the track, guests will find all of the main activities that guests can participate in. These include the celebrity car paddock, hospitality village, go kart track, indy car paddock, and one of the entrances to the lifestyle expo, an expo for all things automobiles.
Leaving the lifestyle expo going east, guests will discover the hospitality village, filled with more active lifestyle vendors, plus the location of the Formula Drift competition area. Crossing over the track at this point places guests at the Exotic Car Paddock, where guests can exhibit and take pictures with rare and/or expensive cars.
From the hospitality village area, moving towards the starting line will have guests face two bridges, one of which will take guests over to the Marina Green side, which we will cover in just a bit. A second bridge running parallel to the track going west serves as a shortcut for reaching Turns 6 & 7.
Slightly west of the main entrance lies another entrance to the grand prix, in case the main entrance starts to overflow. Unlike the main entrance, this straightforward entrance serves as a direct path from Marina Green to the Ocean Blvd exit. This entrance places guests directly above Turn 8 of the race track, a common spot for racers to wipe. From this area, guests can reach the main entrance area by traveling into the convention center’s west entrance and navigating through the lifestyle expo.
Moving further inward from this entrance, guests will discover one of the main general admission viewing areas – a bridge going over Shoreline Drive. From this vista, guests receive a vantage point over Turns 6 & 7, as well as the straightaway following the starting line. Guests could also spot two of the ramps used in the Super Truck demonstration that occurred Sunday late morning. In order to reach the viewing area for Turn 6 from here, guests must take the stairs going down from the convention center’s west entrance, walk south, then take the temporary bridge going towards The Pike.
Reaching the end of the bridge will place guests at a split – go west towards The Pike, or go east towards Shoreline Village and the starting line. For the duration of the grand prix, all businesses at The Pike and Shoreline Village remained open for business, so guests could opt to eat and/or drink there instead of at vendors.
All entrances will eventually converge at Marina Green, which faces the starting line. From the main entrance, taking the main path places you here. From the second entrance, moving east at the split at the end of the first bridge places you at Marina Green after moving past Shoreline Village. Once at Marina Green, guests will find behind the grandstands a lengthy row of food & drink vendors. Also behind the grandstands, guests can find the food truck village.
Marina Green stretches far along the race track, which consists of half of the straightaway where the starting line lies. This creates plenty of space for spectators to approach the fence for either a closer look or to take pictures. Two additional public entrances exist for guests to take here at Marina Green, although I have never personally taken either entrance. Guests may enter at the far east end, or for those that purchased a Marina parking pass, they may enter directly from the parking lot.
If guests move west towards The Pike, they will discover more restaurants and more viewing areas, especially near Turn 1. To get to the other side by Turn 6 from here, guests must travel west towards the aquarium, take the temporary bridge, climb up more stairs (great view of Turn 2 here), cross the bridge going over Shoreline Drive (can view Turn 5 from here), then take the only stairs down. The last public entrance lies here at The Pike.
For any major race during the weekend, you will want to end up at Turn 6 sooner or later. This turn certainly stirs up the most buzz among race fans. Many wipes occur on this turn due to racers attempting to pass right here. The tight turn also means a racer could accidentally run into the girder. Race fans receive a convenient view of a monitor showing the race live as well as real-time results, and plenty of speakers allows guests to hear the commentators between racers passing by. Lastly, winners will usually performs donuts at this turn following the race.
Hopefully this guide helped you better understand the layout of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. This layout has remained the same for at least the past four years because it works. Navigating this course without a plan can leave many tourists lost and confused, and they end up wasting a lot of time trying to figure out how to reach a certain point. Some tourists may get frustrated and not return due to the complexity of getting around the area. But once you attend and build a visual map for yourself, you will discover that all the paths and bridges make sense. For next year, I suggest obtaining a free ticket to the grand prix on a Friday – every year, countless promotions exist allowing guests free entry on the Friday of grand prix weekend. Do not miss this opportunity, as this will determine if you will enjoy the races or not as a first-time visitor.