How to Spend a Week
in Santa Monica

As any Santa Monica local will tell you, it could take a whole lifetime to experience the attractions, shops, restaurants, and events in this beachfront city. Trying to cover everything in a week is an impossible task for even the most seasoned traveler. This, however, is great news: Your trip to Santa Monica comes with a built-in excuse to come back!

It is possible, though, to cover a lot of ground and experience all of Santa Monica’s neighborhoods during your weeklong stay. After booking a room in one of Santa Monica’s 40 hotels – all located within 4 miles of the beach! - peruse this day-by-day guide with local tips on things to see, do, and eat during your Southern California adventure. By Caila Ball-Dionne

Sunday: A Peer at the Pier and Ocean Ave

SEE

No trip to Santa Monica is complete without a stop at the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. This must-see attraction offers activities for the whole family, including the Santa Monica Pier Carousel, Playland Arcade, the Pacific Park amusement park, Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, and even a West Coast expansion of Trapeze School New York!

DO

Rent a bike at the nearby Santa Monica Bike Center (rentals start at $20), and take a ride along The Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The South Bay Bicycle Trail or The Strand, a 22-mile stretch between Will Rogers State Beach and Torrance County Beach. This flat, paved route offers beautiful views and ample spots to pause for photo ops. Park your bike at the Annenberg Community Beach House, a unique community center that is open daily and is free to the public. The Beach House’s activities include a playground and splash pad for the kids, beach access, courtyard, view deck, and volleyball courts. If your trip falls between Memorial Day and Labor Day, there is even an historic pool onsite for an added fee.

EAT

After a long bike ride and day at the Pier, reward yourself with authentic Mexican steak and seafood at Red O. This upscale eatery from Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless also offers an extensive list of specialty cocktails, and also allows guests to bring in their own wine at no corkage fee on Mondays.

Monday: Ocean Park Boutiques and Wilshire Boulevard Parks

SEE

Get inspired by artisan fashion at Minnie T’s, which carries high-end, LA-chic pieces from around the world. You might even pick up an avant-garde designer good for your Santa Monica souvenir at this upscale boutique.

DO

Challenge your travel companions to a game of lawn bowling at Douglas Park, a beautiful recreation center in the Wilshire Boulevard neighborhood. This free community center also boasts tennis courts and a fly fishing area for the active set, and stunning reflecting pools for those in search of relaxation.

EAT

Hopefully you worked up an appetite with all of that shopping and outdoor fun! Hit up The Counter for a customized gourmet burger with all of your favorite fixings. (For a lighter option, try the Southeast Asian Ahi burger—and don’t forget to wash it all down with a banana split shake!)

Tuesday: Stroll Down Main Street

SEE

Make sure you can ace a “California 101” class with a visit to The California Heritage Museum at the historic landmark Roy Jones House. Take in exhibitions featuring the history and cultures of the people of California.

DO

For coffee lovers, the Main Street neighborhood is a java cornucopia. Jump-start your day at Bulletproof Coffee, whose namesake offering blends grass-fed butter into a strong cup of Joe, or sip on a luxurious espresso with a side of house-made seltzer at Espresso Cielo. Then, move on to a fair trade java at the ethically focused Groundwork Coffee Co., before ending with an organic blend at local surfer-skater hangout Dogtown Coffee.

EAT

The best food trucks in the LA area take over Main Street during the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot. Located in the parking lot of The California Heritage Museum, this culinary gathering has gourmet offerings for casual foodies every Tuesday from 5:00pm to 10:00pm.

Wednesday: Shop Farm Fresh and Fashion on Third Street

SEE

Ever wonder where the top local restaurants pick up their produce? See for yourself at the Farmers Market, the largest grower-only market in Southern California. Bring a reusable shopping bag, and peruse the produce, meat, and artisanal food every Wednesday from 8:30am to 1:30pm.

DO

Isn’t it about time you did some (more) shopping? The Third Street Promenade and the adjacent Santa Monica Place fit a trip’s worth of fashion and luxury into a three-block, pedestrian-only stretch. Enjoy the music and performances of local buskers while you shop.

EAT

In addition to being a fashion destination, the open-air Santa Monica Place features an expansive Dining Deck with views of the ocean, the city, and the mountains. The Dining Deck has both casual eateries and upscale, chef-driven restaurants for whatever your palate might be craving. Have a quick bite before taking in a movie at ArcLight Cinemas, a state-of-the-art theater located right in Santa Monica Place.

Thursday: An Eyeful of Mid-City Arts

SEE

Take in local art during your day in the Mid-City neighborhood. Located in a former train station, Bergamot Station is Southern California’s largest gallery complex and cultural center, housing contemporary galleries and a café. Though a visit to this 8-acre art center may take up a large part of your day, you can ambitiously try to add the 18th Street Arts Center, Arena 1 Gallery, or Frank Lloyd Gallery to your day of visual arts.

DO

With fresh inspiration from all the Mid-City art, unleash your inner Picasso at Paint:Lab. Make a reservation in one of the many classes available for adults, teens, and kids, or even try a “Brushes & Bites” class, which pairs paint with wine and cheese!

EAT

Foodies looking to indulge in some of Santa Monica's insider bites should make a stop by Bay Cities Italian Deli for The Godmother. For those looking for their fill of Mexican cuisine and a killer salsa bar, head over to Tacos Por Favor.

Friday: Manis and Mouthwatering Confections on Montana Avenue

SEE

Time to schedule a couple of hours of sitting into your otherwise on-the-go week! Catch a screening of an independent movie, festival favorite, or classic film at the vintage, single-screen Aero Theatre. Current show times and events can be found on the theater’s website.

DO

Pamper yourself before dinner with a stop by one of Montana Avenue’s top beauty destinations. First, book a treatment at Bellacures, a “hands and feet spa” that offers specialty manicures and pedicures including Moisture Rich, Anti-Aging, All Natural and Rockstar. After, go glam at Drybar, a blowouts-only salon. Don’t worry, gentleman: You can primp too, with a shave or haircut at the classic Esquire Barber Shop.

EAT

Indulge in the most delicious desserts at Sweet Lady Jane Bakery. This cafe and bakery combo made the 2015 and 2016 "Oprah's Favorite Things" list for its creative use of the finest baking ingredients available anywhere.

Saturday: Pico Boulevard Pilgrimage, Beaches and Burgers

SEE

Fans of mid-century modern design should take a pilgrimage to the Eames Office Gallery. This space features ever-changing exhibitions, photography, and artifacts from designers Charles and Ray Eames.

DO

It’s time to soak up every ray of sunshine you can on your last day of the trip! Work on your tan at Santa Monica State Beach, a 3-mile stretch of sandy perfection that is free to the public.

EAT

Before heading to the airport, have an early dinner at Upper West. This contemporary American restaurant offers up innovative dishes (think octopus carpaccio and miso glazed duck and apple meatballs), and has happy hour from 5pm to 7pm on Saturdays.

 

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