The sights and sounds of race weekend -- cars racing down Shoreline Drive and distinctive engine notes in a concrete canyon of high-rise buildings -- make the Grand Prix of Long Beach an exciting spectacle for both avid race fans and visitors who can't tell an Indycar from the Queen Mary.
Unlike oval tracks and road circuits designed for competition events, the Long Beach course is carved out of an urban area with restaurants, bars and other entertainment. There also are concerts scheduled for race weekend, including a performance by rockers Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and the Lifestyle Expo.
Here's a list of other non-race events.
But if you're a race fan or just being dragged to the event by one and want to know the basics, here's what to watch.
Friday Highlight: Practice, Qualifying Without the Crowd
Assuming you have the day off and an umbrella, Friday is a good day to visit. Cars will be on track for practice and qualifying, and in the paddock area for preparation. Visitors can get a close-up look at the heaping pile of technology at each team's area.
What to Watch: Crewmembers at Work
The American Le Mans Series is especially fan friendly with an open-paddock policy, and teams often make drivers, engineers or team managers available to talk with fans. Check out the steering wheels -- the dials, buttons and indicators serve as the car's command center.
Saturday Highlight: Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series Race, 4:30 p.m.
ALMS cars compete in different classes with prototype racers and production-based Ferraris, Corvettes, Porsches, BMWs and more on the track at the same time. The acceleration, top speed and cornering abilities differ among the classes, setting drivers up for challenges all over the crowded circuit.
What the Watch: The GT Class
The prototype racers are faster and radically designed, but the best competition on the track will be in the GT class. Various makes from the biggest names in the auto world slug it out for two hours. There are a lot of cars swapping position, so watch the row of three colored lights on the side of the car to determine which is the class leader.
Sunday Highlight: The 38th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, 1:30 p.m.
The IndyCar race is the headline event of the weekend's six races. This season marks a few changes for Indycar, including design changes to the cars. Two races into the season, Helio Castroneves (No. 3) and Scott Dixon (No. 9) are separated by two points atop the driver standings.
What to Watch: Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe
An early season battle is shaping between Dixon and Castoneves -- both have finished in the top three in two races this season. As for Bourdais, he is a three-time winner in Long Beach who has his work cut out for him. He'll serve a 10-spot grid penalty for an "unapproved" engine change in violation of the IndyCar rule book. It's not easy to pass on the tight street circuit, but Bourdais will try in his Lotus-powered No. 7. Hinchcliffe (No. 27), handed the same penalty, was last season's rookie of the year and finished in the top 10 in two races this season.
During race week, tickets can be purchased at the 300 E. Ocean Blvd. ticket office. On race weekend, ticket booths are located at all major entry gates. Booths open at 7 a.m.
Showers are possible early Friday, but expect sun Saturday and Sunday. Check the Long Beach forecast here.
Parking is available in reserve lots, or at the Marine and Shoreline parking areas. Marina is south of Shoreline Drive behind grandstands 24-31. Shoreline is on the west end of Shoreline Drive.
The Blue Line stop is just blocks from the track entrance. Click here for route information.