- Location: Santa Monica is on the coast, on the western edge of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. See directions below
- How Long: Anywhere from an hour to a day, depending on your interests
- Best Time to Visit: Busier on weekends, more laid-back on weekdays. The beach and pier are nice at sunset.
- See It Now: Photo Tour
Sitting where the edge of the Santa Monica Bay curves toward the west, Santa Monica is perhaps best known for its pier and amusement park, one of the few oceanside parks left in California. There's more to see here, and we especially like the old-fashioned carousel.
Santa Monica Points of Interest
- Santa Monica Pier: Home to the Pacific Park amusement park and classic carousel and sitting in the middle of nice, wide beach, this place seems like quintessential California.
- Shopping: Third Street Promenade is often mentioned as a popular place to go in Santa Monica, but unfortunately, it's lined with the same kind of chain stores you can find at home and popular with panhandlers who aggressively hassle visitors for money. Montana Avenue between 7th and 18th Streets is a better bet, with lots of local boutiques to browse in, along a tree-lined street. Follow Ocean Ave. north from downtown to its intersection with Montana and turn right.
- Perry's Legends Beach Bike Tour: Learn a little about Santa Monica and Venice Beach history on Los Angeles' only bike tour.
- Santa Monica Farmers Market: A favorite of locals and visitors alike and a good place to pick up picnic supplies and fresh fruit.
- Frank Gehry House: The famous architect lived in Santa Monica in the late 70s and early 80s, turning his traditional little house inside out. You'll find it at 1002 22nd St. (at Washington Ave.). It's a private home, so please be courteous to the current owners, enjoying it from the street.
- Will Rogers State Park: The famous humorist's home and ranch cover 186 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, with plenty of hiking trails, horseback riding trails, free spectator polo matches on Sundays. You can also take a tour of Rogers' home. Follow California Highway 1 north to Chautauqua Rd.
- Malibu: Malibu's beachfront homes look quite glamorous on television, but here's the part no one tells you about: if houses face the beach, then their back doors face the highway that passes them. It makes for a rather unattractive drive. North of the main part of town, the views open up and you'll find some very nice beaches, including Zuma Beach which is one of the best in the Los Angeles area for surfing and clean water.
Santa Monica Tips
Like any beach area, Santa Monica will get quite cool after the sun goes down, Take an extra layer or two of clothing, no matter what the temperature during the day.
I have read quite a few accounts of women who feel unsafe in downtown Santa Monica at night, and I agree. It's fine during the day and the pier is always busy and well-iighted, but you may want to go somewhere other than downtown for evening entertainment..
Santa Monica With Kids
Kids will love the amusement park and aquarium on the pier. For something a little unusual, don't miss the Camera Obscura located at 1450 Ocean Ave.
Getting to Santa Monica
From I-405, you can take Santa Monica Blvd. west, which gives a chance to see more of town. You can also follow I-10 west. Exit at Lincoln Blvd for downtown and Ocean Avenue or follow it to where it merges with California Highway 1 to get to the boardwalk, pier and beach.