The Best Day Trips from Santa Monica
Set near an array of Southern California’s most exciting destinations, Santa Monica, CA is the perfect home base for visitors planning to take a day trip to one (or more). As an added bonus, many destinations can be reached via public transportation. Here are our favorite day trips from Santa Monica to some of the area’s top attractions.
1. Santa Monica to Los Angeles
Downtown Los Angeles is rich in art and culture and is definitely worth a quick Santa Monica trip! To spend a full day in L.A., start at The Broad museum to peruse its acclaimed contemporary art collection, and then check out the outstanding works at The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)’s two downtown locations: MOCA Grand and MOCA Geffen. From MOCA, go for a ride on Angels Flight, DTLA’s 1901-established funicular (where Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone kissed in La La Land) to Grand Central Market for a bite to eat.
Enjoy world-class theater, dance, music and opera productions at The Music Center, a performing arts complex that encompasses the Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and a Frank Gehry–designed structure that’s a work of art itself, Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Plan ahead and see a concert at the L.A. LIVE entertainment complex’s Microsoft Theater or STAPLES Center (or just stop in for a meal or to experience the club scene). Visit the GRAMMY Museum® to get immersed in the history of American music, visit the iconic Bradbury Building (from Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer) or The Last Bookstore.
Distance from Santa Monica to Los Angeles: 16 miles (25.7 km)
Getting There: Take the Metro E (Expo) Line light rail from downtown Santa Monica.
2. Santa Monica to Malibu
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. Along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) between Santa Monica and Malibu is The Getty Villa, where a replica of the Villa dei Papiri, a Roman country house buried in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., houses more than 44,000 Etruscan, Greek and Roman antiquities. Set in a canyon with a view of the Pacific Ocean, the tranquil villa grounds include four authentic gardens with fountains, arbors and reflecting pools. Next, visit the historic Adamson House & Malibu Lagoon Museum to examine a 1929 Spanish Revival–style waterfront estate built on a site once inhabited by the Native American Chumash tribe.
Distance from Santa Monica to Malibu: 5 miles (8 km)
Getting There: You can drive along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway or ride the Los Angeles Metro Bus 534, then the Getty Villa has a passenger van that will come to transport guests up the hill (no need to walk).
3. Santa Monica to Beverly Hills
Perhaps the most iconic of Beverly Hills’ sights is the famous Rodeo Drive, world-famous for its high-end shopping. Between Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, Rodeo Drive has been called “the intersection of luxury, fashion, and entertainment,”. Visitors will find showrooms for internationally renowned brands such as Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Dior, Harry Winston, Prada and Versace.
At the nearby Paley Center for Media, visitors can immerse themselves in the history of the entertainment industry with exhibitions that explore the evolution of broadcast technologies. Wander the grounds of Greystone Mansion & Gardens, a Tudor Revival estate built in 1930.
Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the mansion and its 18.3 acres serve as a park where visitors can roam, tour, or attend events, including live musical performances. Also nearby is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the La Brea Tar Pits, and the Peterson Automotive Museum.
Distance from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica: 10 miles (16 km)
Getting There: There are a few ways you can get to Beverly Hills, but we recommend you take the Starline Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Hollywood and sight-see your way to Rodeo Drive.
4. Santa Monica to Hollywood
Underneath the iconic Hollywood Sign, Hollywood is all about the stars. Located at the intersection for which it is named, Hollywood & Highland is a buzzing entertainment and shopping hub where Jimmy Kimmel Live is filmed and where many movie premieres take place. Immediately recognizable is the elegant staircase leading to the Dolby Theatre®, where the Oscars® are held each year.
Take a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where hundreds of movie stars have left their handprints and signatures along the sidewalk. While you’re there, tour one of Hollywood’s most famous sites, the TCL Chinese Theater, which has been a fixture since 1927. Stop by the iconic nearby-to-Hollywood Griffith Observatory for a breathtaking view of Los Angeles and an array of space and science-related exhibits.
Distance from Hollywood to Santa Monica: 14 miles (22.5 km)
Getting There: Take the Starline Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
5. Santa Monica to West Hollywood & Sunset Boulevard
The home of the famous Sunset Strip offers revelry at exclusive clubs and concerts at the legendary Troubadour and The Roxy Theatre. 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. Shop in the stylish Design District, anchored by the 1.6 million square-foot Pacific Design Center. Explore Santa Monica Boulevard restaurants and nightlife with a stop at The Abbey, one of the most popular gay bars in the United States.
Distance from Santa Monica to West Hollywood: 12 miles (19.3 km)
Getting There: Take the Metro Rapid Bus from downtown.
6. Santa Monica to Venice Beach
Just a few miles south of Santa Monica is Venice Beach. This bohemian neighborhood is definitely worth a day trip – stroll along the iconic Venice boardwalk, which comes alive daily with a colorful array of fortune tellers, beach volleyball players, tattoo artists and street performers. Stop by the world famous beach side skate park, cruise the Venice canals, and keep an eye out for the historic murals around town. Or travel inland to Abbot Kinney Boulevard to visit art galleries, boutiques and upscale restaurants.
Distance from Santa Monica to Venice Beach: 1 mile (2 km)
Getting There: Walk or bike along the scenic beach bike path or take the Big Blue Bus.
7. Santa Monica to Disneyland
Ever since a certain mouse set up shop in Anaheim back in 1955, fans have flocked to Disneyland. Today, the happiest place on earth now encompasses the original park as well as Disney California Adventure Park. For a special experience, check out one the Disneyland After Dark nights, which feature after-hours park access, specialty entertainment, and more, all revolving around different themes like superhero night and ’90s night.
Distance from Santa Monica to Disneyland: 40 miles (69 km)
Getting There: The shortest way to get from Santa Monica to Disneyland is to take a car – take the I-10 E to the I-5 S.
8. Santa Monica to Universal Studios
The magic continues at Universal Studios Hollywood, where today’s blockbuster films are still made on the studio backlot. Topping the lists of rides and attractions are the Backlot Studio Tour, Jurassic World: The Ride® and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Grab a Butterbeer at Hog’s Head, pick up your own magic wand to take home or explore the grounds of Hogwarts castle. If you’re in town in the fall, be sure to check out Halloween Horror Nights.
Distance from Santa Monica to Universal Studios: 22 miles (35 km)
Getting There: For those who are traveling car-free, Universal Studios Hollywood is conveniently accessible via the Metro Rail system from Santa Monica. Simply take the Metro Expo to the Red Line!
9. Santa Monica to Catalina Island
Located 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles is the idyllic Santa Catalina Island. The island offers ocean views and plenty to do, including snorkeling with Garibaldi, California’s state fish, boat tours, fishing, relaxing, golfing, or exploring the island’s main town, Avalon. Rent a bicycle or golf cart to explore the town or take a hummer tour to explore the interior of the island and see some of the island’s buffalo!
Distance from Santa Monica to the San Pedro Port: 30 miles (48 km) by car then 22 miles (35 km) by ferry.
Getting There: There are multiple ferries every day from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Newport Beach to the larger town of Avalon and smaller rustic village of Two Harbors.
10. Santa Monica to Marina Del Rey
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. For those who need a workout on vacation, try YOGAqua’s 90-minute classes that combine SUP and yoga, giving new meaning to the word “balance.” Post-workout, savor a cocktail or dinner aboard a Hornblower Cruise.
Distance from Santa Monica to Marina Del Rey: 3 miles (4.8 km)
Getting There: Just 3 miles from Santa Monica, you can bike or walk along the scenic bike path to Marina Del Rey!
11. Santa Monica to Knott’s Berry Farm
In Buena Park where the eponymous preserves originated, Knott’s Berry Farm puts a magical spin on the history of the American Northwest with attractions like its Wild West Stunt Show and Native American– inspired, special effects–enhanced Mystery Lodge experience. The latest of its 10 roller coasters is HangTime, featuring a 150-foot-high midair suspension, five inversions and a 96-degree beyond-vertical drop. Voyage to the Iron Reef features mysterious sea creatures in 3-D animation that riders can shoot to rack up points. There’s also a new ride, built in 2021 – Bear-y Tales, a 4-D interactive ride that’s perfect for families. Plus, both the classic Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride are as fun as ever.
Distance from Santa Monica to Knott’s Berry Farm: 38 miles (61 km)
Getting There: The best way to get to Knott’s Berry Farm from Santa Monica is to drive a car. Take the I-10 E.
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