As far as LA suburbs go, we can’t seem to find a better one than Santa Monica.
Known for its stellar pier and beaches, Santa Monica has all the attractions of being a southern California city with less of the traffic. While it’s missing the lovely hot springs that Eastern California has, Santa Monica is a lovely beach city with plenty to do. Even if you’re not into beaches, you’ll be able to find something here. From the nightlife and history to great culture and museums, there is something for everyone in Santa Monica. If you’re bike savvy and hoping to ditch the car for a few days, you’ll easily be able to make it work here as well. So, plan for a few extra days here, as there are so many riveting things to do in Santa Monica!
1. Walk the Santa Monica Pier
This marvelous pier will give your parents a throwback memory to carnivals from their childhood. With a myriad of coasters and arcades along this wooden pier, it is a wonderful spot for families to spend some time. From the delectable ice creams and funnel cakes to the Ferris Wheel, you can’t go wrong spending an afternoon here. For the little ones and the young at heart, there is a indoor Merry Go Round from 1922 that is still turning today.
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is also on here for you to meet your favorite ocean creatures. In case you need a little more activity, take a lesson at the Trapeze School also located on the Pier! Make sure to walk to the very end of the pier as well to find the sign signifying the end of Route 66. Whatever tickles your fancy, this pier is one of the most delightful options on our list of things to do in Santa Monica.
2. Get Moving on The Strand
Stretching from Will Rogers State Beach just north of Santa Monica to Torrance Beach in the south is a paved gateway known as The Strand. The Marvin Braude Beach Trail is only for human-powered machines though. This bike path is a wonderful half or full day activity for the whole family or solo marathoner. You will find your fellow people skating, cycling, running, and even scooting along this path. With eateries, shops, and great views along the way, this is one of our favorite ways to explore Santa Monica. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some dolphins while looking at the ocean. But if not, you’ll at least have the wonderful feeling you get after a good bit of exercise. If you’re visiting from out of town, there are plenty of scooter and bike rentals available. The perfect mix of mobility and sight seeing, this is a must-do on our list of things to do in Santa Monica.
3. Enjoy a Day at the Santa Monica State Beach
We couldn’t have a list of things to do in Santa Monica without including the beach! Being a SoCal city, the beach is one of the simple joys of spending time here. The state beach will be quite busy most days, as it is a getaway for both Los Angeles locals and tourists. From outdoor barbecues and frisbee games to surfing and the boardwalk, you can easily relax the day away here. If you need a little more activity, feel free to ride a bike around or catch a surf lesson as well.
4. Explore and Eat some Celebrity History at Chez Jay
This might sound odd, but Chez Jay is a tiny bar owned and operated by Jay Fiondella that showcases his exploits. Known as a safe harbor for celebrities, this small, unassuming shack of a bar actually houses quite impressive memorabilia. One of the most famous pieces is a peanut that Jay convinced astronaut Alan Shepard to take into space in 1971! Although Jay past away in 2008, this restaurant remains a great place to grab a bite near the pier. If you’re lucky enough, you might even run into a celebrity. Just remember, this has always been a safe haven away from cameras for them. So, stay cool and just enjoy the experience!
5. Dance, Shop, or Stroll the Third Street Promenade
Full of music, SoCal culture, beach vibes, and cute shops is the Third Street Promenade. One of the best things to do in Santa Monica, the Promenade is a wonderful few blocks strictly for to pedestrians. You can expect to have street bands and musicians performing on weekends and evenings, and almost daily in the summer. From souvenirs to boutique and vintage stores, there is a little bit of shopping for everyone. There is also a variety of restaurants, sweets shops, and ice cream stands if you just want to grab a bite.
6. Take Flight at the Museum of Flying
If you or your little ones have any interest in airplanes, the Museum of Flying is a must-do. As far as things to do in Santa Monica goes, this is one of our favorite interactive options. With a myriad of planes you can climb in and around on, you will be impressed with the freedom allowed in this museum. You can take a thirty minute flight in a World War II era plane with a surgeon if you’d like. If you like to take the controls, try your hand at the flight simulator. Just make sure you’re strapped in, because it can actually flip you upside down! There summer hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, with flight simulator tickets on sale on Fridays. So, sit up and strap in for the time of your life at the Museum of Flying!
7. Experience an Abundance of Andy Warhol at the REVOLVER Gallery
The REVOLVER Gallery is the largest museum-owned collection of Andy Warhol in the world. With over two hundred original pieces, this gallery is a beautiful site to behold. Being the leader of the Pop Art phase, Andy Warhol used bright colors, silkscreen techniques, and Campbells Soup to create a new world of art. So, take a stroll around the gallery and even buy a piece if you’d like. Many of Warhol’s belongings are also here, including his Rolls Royce. Make sure to reserve a appointment online to see the gallery. This also won’t break the bank if you bring the whole clan because it’s free admission! So, whether you’re here for the art, history, or the car, this is one of the best things to do in Santa Monica for families with teenagers and young adults.
8. Walk and Relax at Palisades Park
Over twenty five acres of park is awaiting you at Palisades. Bordered by Ocean Avenue and the sandstone cliffs of Santa Monica Bay, this is a stunning walk. One of our favorite things to do in Santa Monica is to picnic down here. This is a popular spot for the locals, so know that there will be many people exercising and walking their dogs. If you’ve been hoping for a spot to get away from the crowds of people elsewhere in LA, this is it.
9. Enjoy a Night of Laughter at Westside Comedy
While there is great nightlife all around the Promenade and Pier, seeing a show is an experience in itself. The Westside Comedy is renowned nation-wide for its excellent comedy talent. It has been featured on Comedy Central, Entertainment Tonight, Nightline for its exceptional laughs. It is also famous for being the home of the sensational “Epic Rap Battles of History” videos. Check out what shows are playing while you’re in town. If you’re lucky, common performers like Dave Chappelle, Adam Sandler, and Aziz Ansari will be around. So, strap in and get ready for a wild and hilarious ride. Because you can’t leave this place without laughing, it easily made out list of things to do in Santa Monica.
10. Tantalize your Tastebuds at Michael’s of Santa Monica
Every city has a few restaurants that are unparalleled. Michael’s is one of them. Located on 3rd street and only open for dinner, make sure to make a reservation as it will fill up fast. With a market driven menu and award winning chefs, the foodie should be pleased. Choose from their Pork Torchon or Duck Confit for dinner. But, make sure to save room for the whipped cheesecake and hazelnut chocolate ganache for dessert. Come hungry and leave happier than ever. Don’t take our word for it, though. Make sure to have a meal here as it will fuel you well for the rest of your list of things to do in Santa Monica.
With the variety of things to do in Santa Monica, you could easily spend a week here relaxing and enjoying the SoCal life.
Whether you’re a beach bum or a shopping connoisseur, there are so many things to do in Santa Monica. Between the places to walk and the stellar food, there’s no reason to rush away from here. That is unless you’re seeing some of the great sights of Orange County just to the south. But, Santa Monica is truly one of the eleven best beaches in California, so make sure to give her a few good days. Remember, on the west coast, it’s a slower pace of life. So take each of these things to do in Santa Monica at your own pace, and you’re sure to have a great time.
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