Santa Monica was once inhabited by the Tongva and was officially named in 1827. The city became economically prosperous with the construction of the first hotel and the famous port. Although the citizens initially opposed the small pier, it soon became a unique charm for the city.
Santa Monica became a popular destination for beach vacations, experiencing a tourism boom in the late 1980s. The authorities work to preserve its quaint and quirky charm.
17 TOP THINGS TO DO IN SANTA MONICA IN 2023:
Pacific Park, located near the Santa Monica Pier, is a famous fairground frequently featured in Hollywood movies. The park’s enchanting magic and charm make it a must-see attraction, and it’s an ideal place to enjoy oneself during the day or at night. If you visit Pacific Park, be sure to take a ride on the Santa Monica Ferris Wheel, which offers unbeatable views of Los Angeles and the Pacific.
A visit to the Santa Monica Pier is a must-do activity in the district, as it is the best-known attraction. The pier’s wooden structure creates a charming atmosphere that is worth experiencing. To make the most of your visit, we recommend going before dusk so that you can witness the priceless moment of sunset. As night falls, you can enjoy the stunning view of the Pacific Park Ferris wheel and the entire city illuminated with lights.
The boardwalk that runs along the entire coast of Santa Monica is a must-visit attraction. Ocean Drive is the section that connects Santa Monica Beach to Venice Blue and can be explored on foot, by bike, or on skates. In LA, it’s common to see people using these means of transportation, and there are many stores where you can rent them. As you stroll along Ocean Drive, you’ll witness the stark contrast between Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach, which are two entirely different places. Along the way, take a break from the heat and enjoy a swim at one of the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica. Moreover, you’ll have the chance to see numerous Art Deco buildings that are iconic of US cities.
For breathtaking views of the ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains, head to this hilltop park on Santa Monica’s North Shore. It’s the quintessential image that comes to mind when you think of the Los Angeles coastline. This point of interest is often overlooked by most visitors, making it an ideal spot to escape the touristy crowds of the Santa Monica Pier. To get there, venture towards the adjacent Pacific Palisades area, passing by the majestic Wilshire concrete sculpture and the colorful totem in San Vicente.
The beaches of Santa Monica are renowned for their crystal-clear waters and abundance of traveler-friendly services. Visitors can enjoy playing volleyball, beach soccer, and savoring delicious food and drinks in countless restaurants. These beaches are perfect for spending a fun day out with family or friends. In fact, locals and tourists alike frequent this beloved spot. When you arrive at a Santa Monica beach, it may feel like you’ve been there before since many famous movies and TV series, such as Pacific Blue and Baywatch, have been filmed there.
Muscle Beach is arguably one of the most famous beaches in Santa Monica. Its name derives from the inclusion of an outdoor gym, which has since become an international icon. Muscle Beach is situated next to Venice Beach and is a truly unique spot. Where else can you find a gym located in the middle of a beach and out in the open air?
Located two kilometers away from Santa Monica, Venice Beach (which we’ve previously mentioned in our list of the best beaches in Los Angeles) is a great spot for surfing. However, the most interesting thing about Venice isn’t necessarily its beaches, but rather the wide variety of street shows that take place along its vibrant promenade. The Venice Beach area is especially popular among bohemian artists of all kinds, and some of the shows are so fascinating that they’re often featured in TV programs. Walking along the eclectic streets of Venice Beach, you’ll get a real sense of the diverse urban cultures of California, as the atmosphere is one of counterculture and creativity.
The bustling heart of Santa Monica can be found on Third Street Promenade, a lively pedestrian area that offers a plethora of shopping options. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll or a refreshing drink, the atmosphere is sure to delight. Fashion enthusiasts will want to visit Santa Monica Place, where a wide variety of designer clothes and accessories can be found (though prices tend to be steep). In addition to clothing and accessory stores, Third Street Promenade also features a diverse range of other retail outlets, including even dog spas! For more information on shopping opportunities in Los Angeles, check out our article on the subject: “Shopping in Los Angeles.”
One of Santa Monica’s hidden gems, reserved for the brave and physically fit, is a stairway consisting of over 300 wooden and concrete steps. Located within a quiet residential neighborhood less than a mile from the ocean, this spot can be challenging to access due to limited parking, but it’s not uncommon to see crowds of people exercising on these stairs.
Most people are familiar with the famous Route 66, which runs from east to west across the United States, starting in Chicago and ending in Los Angeles. However, the official ending point of the highway is not actually in Los Angeles but rather on the Santa Monica Pier. To mark the end of the highway in an official manner, a sign was erected at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Ocean Ave. The sign, which read “Santa Monica” above a bold “66” and “End of Route” below, mysteriously disappeared after 50 years. To commemorate the official designation of the pier as the last stop on Route 66, a replica of the sign was erected, facing the Pacific as a symbol of the final destination for many travelers over the last century.
Montana Avenue is a bustling street in the northern part of the city that is a popular destination for shopping and dining. With over 150 establishments, including restaurants and shops, lining the sidewalks, the avenue is always lively. The boutique window displays and fashion stores found on Montana Avenue are unique to California and offer a diverse selection of clothing and independent shops, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking something different.
The Annenberg Community Beach House, located at the northern end of Santa Monica Beach, is a public pool facility that offers a variety of recreational activities. The property originally consisted of a massive mansion built by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies in the 1920s, which was later converted into a hotel and beach club. After the Northridge earthquake in 1994, the city lacked the funds to redevelop the space until the Annenberg Foundation provided funding for the project. In 2009, the Annenberg Community Beach House opened with the restored historic pool and Marion Davies Guesthouse, as well as new event spaces. Visitors can enjoy playing volleyball, tennis, and soccer on the courts and fields available. Some can be reserved for a fee, while others are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is the perfect alternative for those who are tired of swimming in the ocean or when the waves are too strong.
Located on the more commercial side of Santa Monica, at the southern end of the 3rd Promenade, is the renovated Santa Monica Place shopping center. Just two blocks from the beach and the Santa Monica Pier, the mall attracts many tourists who want to go shopping . Major clothing store Nordstrom is located next to the True Food Kitchen restaurant.
Santa Monica Main Street Farmers’ Market
It have been a city tradition since 1979. In addition to seasonal local produce, they also include special events such as live cooking demonstrations, street musicians and food trucks.
Santa Monica Airport Antique & Vintage Market
This destination offers a variety of items for decorators, designers, collectors, and families with dogs. It has been featured on TV and in design publications. The shops sell everything from antique furniture to vintage fashion, jewelry, art, and outdoor accessories.
The latest trend in Los Angeles, and many other cities, is the transformation of public parking lots into parks. Tongva Park is a stunning example of this movement, located south of the Santa Monica Pier. It features a range of amenities, including a playground, wooded areas, waterfalls, walking trails, and a shell-shaped gazebo with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. This peaceful and serene location is perfect for a relaxing picnic or lounging, away from the crowds of the beach. Additionally, adjacent to Tongva Park, the recently installed Ken Genser Plaza offers even more space to explore with a fountain and stream.
Meek, a successful furniture designer and collector of antiques, opened Jadis over thirty years ago with his partner Susan Leiberman. With an extensive private collection of scientific curiosities, the business became a prop rental company. Items in this collection have appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, including Batman and The X-Files. Giant gears spin in the store window, concealing an original generator built by Nikola Tesla himself (although it is in working condition, it is said that it is illegal to light it). The gallery and shop can be visited from Thursday to Sunday 11-5PM.
The Camera Obscura is a unique attraction that will fascinate photography enthusiasts. It is a dark room that mimics the interior of a camera and controls the amount of light that enters it. A beam of light is directed through a periscope on top of the building, which can be adjusted to face the ocean or the street. The projected image of the outside scene appears on a circular table-like surface in the center of the room. Visitors can adjust the focus by tilting the table. Located in Palisades Park, the Camera Obscura is part of a community center that offers art workshops suitable for all ages.
In North Santa Monica, away from the beach, you’ll find this world-renowned creative space. What was once a railroad station and later a warehouse complex, the city of Santa Monica bought the property (which had been abandoned) in 1994, turning it into the Bergamot Station Art Complex. Here you will find numerous galleries and workshops, with rotating exhibitions by artists from all over the world. Best of all: exhibits and parking are free.