Tucked inside a gated residential community in Long Beach is a historic cattle ranch, called Rancho Los Alamitos (Ranch of the Little Cottonwoods)
The ranch underwent sweeping renovations in 2012 and its 7.5-acres—which include a learning center, a barnyard (complete with horses, sheep, rabbits, chicks and ducks), gardens and a beautifully restored ranch house— are open to the public as a serene homage to local history.
A Brief History
The original inhabitants of the area were the native Gabrielino-Tongva people of the Los Angeles basin, whose descendants still consider the surviving ranch a sacred place.
The modern history of the ranch begins in 1790, when Spanish soldier Jose Manuel Nieto was gifted a 300,000-acre tract of land, known as Los Coyotes, for his services to the Spanish Crown. Oh to be alive during the glory days of exploration, when “thank yous” came in the form of newly claimed territory.
Over the years, the rancho transferred hands numerous times, until it landed, finally, in the affluent palms of the Bixbys. Frederick and Florence Bixby are largely responsible for the beautiful landscape and architecture that exists today. In 1968, their children donated the family ranch to the City of Long Beach, transforming what had been a working ranch to a public oasis.
When you arrive at the gated community, tell the security guard that you are going to the Rancho, and you will get a parking pass and a wave to come on in. (*call ahead to be sure the Rancho is open the day you choose to go, else you won’t be let past the gate).
Admission, parking, house and barn tours are all free. Make your way to the Rancho Center and check in with one of the lovely docents, who, the day we went, were two good-humored old dames in red shirts. We were pointed in the direction of a small theater where we watched a 15 minutes video on the history of the Rancho and surrounding area.
(side note: the bathrooms in the Center are surprisingly high-tech).
After the video, we were joined by three other Rancho visitors, and docent Louise took us on a tour of the barnyard and Ranch House.
Louise was great—she knew her stuff, made things funny, had us pretend to drink from a flower goblet.
Don’t pass up a tour of the house. It last about 45 minutes, and the home has been beautifully restored. There are no pictures allowed in the house, so, if you want a peek inside, you’ll have to go for yourself.
In the living room you will get to see two replicas of famous paintings, “Mother About to Wash her Sleepy Child,” by Mary Cassatt and a painting of water lilies by Claude Monet. The originals, which were donated by Florence Bixby, are currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the house is the kitchen, where the Bixby’s cook, who was deaf, made six meals a day: three for the family, three for the ranch hands.
When your done with your tour, take a stroll among the flowers.
Wednesday - Sunday: 1PM - 5PM
FREE (donations appreciated)
6400 E Bixby Hill Rd,
Long Beach, CA 90815