A Guide To Downtown Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica

If you are tired of the concrete jungle of LA, you can always make your way to the west of downtown to the charming beach community of Santa Monica. This is one of the most popular beach resorts in California, and a destination worth exploring by all kinds of travelers. The endless miles of pristine beaches, the family entertainment options, the culinary diversity, the open-air art, and the general relaxed vibe are just but a few of the attractions that make it dear to the hearts of most travelers. If you are planning a trip down here soon, then read below for a comprehensive guide to Downtown Santa Monica.

Things to do / Highlights

Santa Monica – Third Street Promenade (a) 06 Sept 2017
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cayambe used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Once you are in Santa Monica, you will never run out of ideas of what to do or see. Here are some of the highlights worth checking out:

Ice at Santa Monica

It may not be winter in Santa Monica, but that will not stop you from having a little fun on the ice at Downtown Santa Monica. At the corner of 5th Street and Arizona Avenue, you will find a gorgeous winter wonderland that goes by the name Ice at Santa Monica. This is one of the best entertainment venues as well as the best ice skating rinks that you will find within the downtown area. It is a great destination for wholesome family entertainment.

Sample fresh produce at the Farmers Market

Every Wednesday and Saturday, you will have the pleasure of sampling some of the region’s freshest produce at the Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market. There is a variety of healthy produces that features fresh fruits and vegetables, and a horde of dairy products. The farmers’ market also features small food kiosks that you can use to catch a taste of the region’s culinary diversity.

Shop at Third Street Promenade

When in Santa Monica, it will be irresistible to go shopping, and for that, your destination should be along Third Street Promenade. This is an elegant street with more than 140+ eclectic mix of shops and cafes that will most certainly satisfy your shopping appetite in Santa Monica. Whether you are interested in fashion, household goods, kids’ stuff, or you want to sample the culinary delights the town has to offer, a trip to this particular location will never disappoint you.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is full of fun activities that will treat you to incredible fun during your visit. Start by visiting the Pacific Park for carnival game rides, awesome food, and some thrill on the Sea Dragon Swing. Next, head over to the Hippodrome for a ride on the hand-carved wooden carousel. If you are visiting with the young ones, a trip to the Heal Bay is a must. This will be a great source of entertainment as well as marine education that will be most thrilling to kids. And, if you want a way to explore more of Santa Monica Pier in a short time, then you can rent bikes and ride along the paved paths to Manhattan beach or Torrance County beach.

What to eat

Grilled Lobster
Source: Photo by Flickr user Thank You (21 Mil... used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Santa Monica boasts incredible culinary diversity, especially if you are a seafood aficionado. This is home to some of the best seafood options in the country.

Lobster Restaurant

While here, you must try out the dishes at the historic Lobster Restaurant for their legendary steamed lobster and king salmon, which will always be accentuated with the epic sea views as you dig deep into your dish.

Orto Santa Monica

This is another great joint to visit – this is where you will find the highly publicized “best dozen oysters on the half shell” as it was once described by the LA Times.

If you are not so much into seafood, then you will still have plenty of options at your disposal. Start off by digging into a roasted goat at Tar and Roses. The Godmother sandwiches at Bay Cities Italian Deli and Double HiHo cheeseburger at HiHo Cheeseburger are the other options you must not miss when sampling the culinary diversity in this city. Other must-try dishes include prime ribs at Golden Bull, blueberry cornmeal cake at Huckleberry Bakery and Café, and ravioli at Fritto Misto.

Things to buy

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

A trip without souvenirs or a sample of the shopping experience will never be complete. When in Santa Monica, you can collect as many unique items as you wish. Here is a brief look at some of your options-:

Unique art pieces

A trip down to Bergamot Station will put you right inside of the largest art gallery complexes and cultural centers in southern California. In addition to admiring the various pieces of art in the numerous contemporary art galleries that you will find here, you can also pick up a souvenir or two to remind you of the trip.

Rare comic books

Head over to the oldest comic bookstore in LA – Hi De Ho Comics and sample an assortment of collectibles, ranging from board games to magic cards, and graphic novels. This is where to shop for wonderful gifts for your kids back home.

Handcrafted goods

Visit Limonaia along Montana Avenue for beautiful handcrafted products collected from various parts of the world. From handbags and tableware to cashmere throws and extremely unique jewelry, you are guaranteed to be inspired by the owner’s incredible collections of handcrafted goods in this store.

Travel tips

Santa Monica - Downtown - Beach
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Cayambe used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Know when to travel

Santa Monica has moderate weather for most parts of the year and with its Mediterranean climate, the highest temperatures normally kick in from September. The summer months are synonymous with most tourists, while March is mainly for students who come in for the Spring break.

Getting around Santa Monica

There are two airports in Santa Monica – Los Angeles International Airport and Santa Monica Airport. The latter specializes in local flights, so most tourists will be coming in through LAX. There are taxis in Santa Monica for those who will not be renting cars, though there are share ride buses as well as municipal buses to help you find your way from the airport and around the city.

Customs and etiquette

Santa Monica doesn’t have a lot of hustle and bustle and is fairly laid-back. The sidewalks aren’t very busy, and with basic etiquette, you won’t find any difficulties interacting with the locals. When you are visiting service joints such as salons, spas, and restaurants, expect to tip between 15% and 20%. For the dressing, Santa Monica has a beachy vibe, so the dressing is rather casual – jeans, layered tops, and jewelry will do.

How to get there

Big Blue Bus 4036
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sam P 98 used under CC BY-SA 4.0

By self-drive

If you are within the United States and you have the ability to, you can always drive yourself to Santa Monica. The time and duration will depend on how far away you are from Santa Monica. If you don’t have a car, you can always rent one and drive to Santa Monica.

By flight

As mentioned earlier, Santa Monica has two flights that cater to both international and domestic flights. Again, depending on your current location, this is another option available at your disposal when coming to Santa Monica.

By public transportation

Santa Monica has a very good public transportation system, primarily featuring Big Blue Bus and LA County Metro. With these two, you will get easy and efficient transportation within and to the greater LA area.

Downtown Santa Monica information

Santa Monica State Beach P4060277
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alexander Migl used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Downtown Santa Monica

Address: 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States

Website: Downtown Santa Monica

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Department of tourism: Visit Santa Monica

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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