Set near an array of Southern California’s most exciting destination, Santa Monica is the perfect home base for visitors planning to take a day trip to one (or more). Plus, all regions can be reached via public transportation. Here’s how to make the most of your time at some of the area’s top attractions. By Robin Jones and Georgia Perry
Marina Del Rey
Distance: 4 miles
What to do: This seaside community is home to the world’s largest man-made small-craft harbor and is an ideal port for launching sunset cruises, parasailing trips, or whale watching excursions. Stroll through and check out the 6,500 boats that call the Marina their home while they’re not out traversing the high seas.
Distance: 12 miles
What to do: The mile-and-a-half stretch of Sunset Boulevard that passes through West Hollywood, California has been renowned since the 1930s for its glitzy array of nightclubs, music venues, and colorful billboards.
Distance: 13 miles
What to do: Options abound for surfing, hiking, or simply soaking up the good vibes in this neighboring oceanside city, home to some of Hollywood’s elite and well loved by locals and visitors alike for its warm, sandy beaches.
Distance: 15 miles
What to do: Called “the intersection of luxury, fashion, and entertainment,” the three-block stretch of Rodeo Drive between Wilshire and Little Santa Monica Boulevards is world-famous for its high-end shopping.
Universal Studios Hollywood,
Distance: 20 miles
What to do: Opened in 2014 and 2012, respectively, the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and Transformers the Ride 3-D are the latest kiddie crazes—at least until construction crews put the finishing touches on the six-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter, slated to open in 2016.
Knott’s Berry Farm,
Distance: 40 miles
What to do: Opening in summer 2015, Voyage to the Iron Reef features mysterious sea creatures in 3-D animation that riders can shoot to rack up points. Plus, both the classic Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride have been fully restored and are as fun as ever.
Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure,
Distance: 43 miles
What to do: Disneyland rings in its 60th anniversary this summer with the Paint the Night parade, a nightly after-dark extravaganza featuring a virtual constellation of LED lights, along with a blockbuster fireworks display. — Robin Jones and Georgia Perry