Long Beach, California and the QueenMary are practically synonymous. I live not too far from Long Beach and have avoided going to the touristy Queen Mary for years. This is for many of the same reasons I don’t go to Grahman’s Chinese theater, the Hollywood Sign or other tourist spots in the Los Angeles area – locals usually stay away from the throngs of tourists that inundate those iconic must-see places.That said, I love festivals and the ScotsFest just happens to be held at the Queen Mary, so off I went to get my fill of haggis, highland games and bagpipes.
The festival is just the right size to navigate in a ½ day and has quirky things to see and do – like sheep herding, lessons in ancient Celtic weaponry, highland dancing as well as typical fair type things like face painting, handmade crafts for sale and nachos.The central area of the festival is in a field dockside to the Queen Mary where clans meet to compete in traditional highland games.
If watching men in skirts throw telephone poles around (caber tossing) isn’t your thing, you can climb aboard the ship to enjoy the traditional Scottish dance competition, or check out the professional darts tournament. Watching the sheep herding dogs at work is fascinating and as a perk you may enter the pen to take photos or give a scratch on the head to the friendly dogs and sheep.
Helpful Tip: Make sure to find out when the dancing starts and get there early, as the competition may be shorter than expected if there’s a low turnout of dancers.
As any good Scotsperson would have it, the event has whisky tasting throughout the day and night. The main draw in the evening is the Rock Yer Kilt concert with a very festive party atmosphere and plenty of opportunity to hoist a pint. The show is a mix of live Scottish, Gaelic, and Celtic bands with some heavy metal thrown in for good measure (a tribute to the kilt clad Angus Young of AC/DC). After a night of merriment, the alternative to calling a cab is staying in one of the many rooms available on the Queen Mary (make sure to reserve a room ahead of time).
The festival was all I expected and more: The more being the majestic floating time capsule I had been ignoring all these years. The ship is an intriguing walk through history that has been lovingly maintained and its many fascinating stories about starlets, historical figures and ghosts are kept alive by well-versed tour guides dressed in uniforms of an era long past.
After enjoying ScotsFest, I’ve been checking the Queen Mary online calendar for other events and found they also host exhibits, such as Diana: Legacy of a Princess which I plan on seeing in the next few weeks. I’ve noticed other tourist spots are also taking up the trend of adding value through temporary events and exhibits. In the future, if I’m heading to a popular tourist spot, I will make sure to aim it at a time when I get to have the experience of an event which adds a new slant to a “typical” tourist destination.