Pico Boulevard

This bustling thoroughfare connects Santa Monica State Beach to the west and downtown Los Angeles destinations like Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center to the east. Hotels (both luxury and economy) line the blocks, as do a rich variety of restaurants and boutiques. Neighborhood landmarks include Virginia Avenue Park and Santa Monica College. Santa Monica High School, whose notable alums include Robert Downey Jr., Rob Lowe, and Carson Daly, also resides on Pico Boulevard. By Elizabeth Jenkins

Eat

With gourmet, small-batch ice cream flavors like salted caramel, malted chocolate, and ginger, Sweet Rose Creamery provides a delicious escape on hot summer days. Save room for addictive brownie bites, vanilla bonbons, and homemade marshmallows. Set near Virginia Avenue Park, Lazy Daisy Café serves huevos rancheros, apple walnut chicken salad, or ahi tacos among other flavorful fare. Named one of the most “heavenly” Italian restaurants by USA Today, Valentino Ristorante has been a local standby for classics like lasagnetta and veal piccata for more than 40 years.

Shop

Acapillow Home Furnishings got its start 20 years ago crafting handmade pillows from vintage fabrics. Today the shop has expanded to offer eclectic home furnishings such as upholstered chairs and wooden side tables, not to mention French soaps and scented candles. Known for its signature yoga accessories like mats, knee pads, and padded carry straps, YogaRat is the place for local yogis to gear up for their next session. Just steps off Pico Blvd, Brat offers adorable new and vintage clothing and accessories, plus zany touches like tutus, fishnets, and petticoats that can transform an everyday outfit into appropriate costume-party attire.

Play

McCabe’s Guitar Shop boasts “the largest collection of stringed things in California” and performances from the likes of Lucinda Williams and Junior Brown. Knock back some pins at the recently renovated Bowlmor Lanes, featuring glow-in-the-dark lanes and comfortable banquettes. Waiters deliver everything from draft beer to margherita pizza straight to your seat. To the east, Virginia Avenue Park, home to a popular Saturday farmers market, features a sunny, skylit library plus nearly 10 acres worth of lighted basketball courts, playgrounds, a splash pad, and large grassy areas perfect for a soccer match or just soaking in some rays.

Local’s Tips

Grab the kids for a pool day at Santa Monica College. The community college has two pools open to the public: a splash pool and fitness pool with a high dive. UnUrban Coffee House is a true neighborhood gem, Almost every night of the week the funky space hosts open mic live music, poetry readings, and more.

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