It’s no secret that Santa Monica is the premiere shopping destination of Los Angeles, thanks to areas like the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place. Whether you are picking up fresh produce and tasty snacks at one of the many farmers markets or finding beachy decor for the home on Main Street, you’re bound to run into residents of Santa Monica going about their daily routine. By Juliana Shallcross
Santa Monica’s Main Street has long had a very local, surfer vibe to it and that continues with its shopping offerings. Even if you’re not a surfer or skater, a must-stop is at ZJ Boarding House, which is considered Santa Monica’s original skate and surf shop. Just down the street is Angel City Bookstore, featuring an impressive collection of vintage and rare books and vinyl. Another uniquely local spot, Mindfulnest, largely features locally made art, sculptures, jewelry, gifts, and accessories. While many people know about the Downtown Santa Monica farmers’ market, Main Street has its own, more intimate farmers’ market every Sunday morning.
An ideal spot for leisurely Santa Monica shopping is Montana Avenue, the heart of a vibrant residential neighborhood just off Ocean Avenue. The shops and cafes begin at 7th Street and continue for 10 blocks to 17th Street. As you stroll along the tree-lined street, check out fashion boutiques and specialty stores such as Splendid, Kiehl’s Since 1851, Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture, Benefit Cosmetics and Planet Blue. Here, too, there are a number of uniquely Californian, Santa Monica shops, such as Limonaia, featuring unique gifts and accessories from around the world. In between that shopping, curb your appetite with something sweet from Sweet Lady Jane, which has been serving Santa Monica’s sweet tooth for more than two decades.
Stretching from the ocean all the way into downtown and beyond, Pico Boulevard houses several iconic Santa Monica shops. One of these is the 30-year-old Vidiots, an independent DVD/video rental shop that has more than 50,000 rare and hard-to-find titles, as well as free screenings of new and old classics. Just popping into the teal-brick store feels like an instant throwback to 1985, when Vidiots first opened. Another historic spot further east on Pico is McCabe’s Guitar Shop, which has been in business since 1958. In addition to selling and renting musical instruments and offering lessons on a variety of instruments, McCabe’s also hosts live music nights. Over the years, many famous folk artists have performed there, including Joni Mitchell, Beck, and Tom Waits.
Running parallel to Pico is Wilshire Boulevard, a main thoroughfare in Santa Monica that boasts block after block of great stores. Shops here range from brand names such as Sur La Table, to the rare and exquisite boutiques such as 23rd Street Jewelers and Haute Seconds, a designer resale shop. Also on Wilshire is Vanilla Bake Shop, featuring a variety of sweets to treat yourself to, from a variety of unique cupcakes, like Marshmallow Graham, to icebox desserts. If you can’t find what you need in Downtown Santa Monica, chances are you’ll find it on Wilshire.