Like the tides of the Pacific just a few blocks away, Main Street is characterized by a slow shift in personalities: By day, it’s a favorite of up-at-dawn locals, who come for breakfast or coffee after a sunrise surf session or to patronize the eclectic collection of businesses with their dogs and children in tow. Visitors can join in, easily filling an afternoon at laid-back patio-lined cafés and indie boutiques. In the evening, trendy restaurants and watering holes glow with a lively mix of options for nightlife lovers.
This Santa Monica fixture and one of chef Wolfgang Puck’s most popular restaurants, Chinois On Main, is a revelation in Asian fusion cuisine. Well-known dishes like Mongolian beef and Cantonese duck as well as exotic appetizers and sides are elevated by classic French cooking techniques.
Rub elbows with members of the skateboard and surfing community at Dogtown Coffee. This local favorite serves a health-focused, all-day breakfast and lunch menu. The coffee is organic and micro-roasted and the setting is quintessentially Santa Monican.
Serving burritos, tamales, and tacos until midnight or later, Holy Guacamole is a cozy eatery will satisfy your craving for delicious and authentic Mexican fare without making a big dent in your wallet.
Adore Japanese food? Make a point of visiting Sunny Blue. This petite shop known for its tantalizing variety of homemade omusubi (rice balls) with fillings that range from simple spicy salmon to ume fruit with shiso leaf and sour plum.
A carefully curated assortment of greeting cards, personalized invitations, stationery, and gifts (perhaps a timeless leather-bound travel journal for the budding writer in the family?) awaits at Arts and Letters. This fun and browse-worthy shop that has a loyal local clientele.
Feast your eyes on Love Adorned eclectic inventory of designer vintage, contemporary, and bridal jewelry, plus unique accessories, home goods, books, and artisanal items you won’t find anywhere else.
From classic Converse to high-tech Air Jordans, the broad selection at Undefeated promises a triumphant search for the perfect pair of sneakers. Round out the outfit with a cool jacket and cap and you’re good to go.
Whatever gear, clothing, or accessories you need for riding the boards (surf, body, soft, or skate), you’ll find it at ZJ Boarding House, a 30-year Santa Monica institution. Conveniently located only one and a half blocks from the beach, it’s a surfer’s must-stop shop.
California Heritage Museum is a unique museum that features revolving exhibits of photography, art, pottery, and furniture related to California history and culture is its own artifact: The museum itself has been built into a late 19th-century house.
One of three Santa Monica locations, Cha Spa is a group-friendly day spa provides affordable, stress-busting foot and body massages performed by California-licensed massage therapists, nail services, and your choice of healthful teas, all in a serene atmosphere.
Finn McCool's Irish Pub & Restaurant is a real-deal Irish pub serves up fun seven days a week from noon to midnight (or later). Take in live music or comedy while sampling from the pub’s 200 whiskeys and sharing a plate of crispy Irish potato skins with a companion.
Everything you need for a memorable visit starts at the Santa Monica Walk-In Visitor Center, where knowledgeable, welcoming staffers provide the most up-to-date information, tips, maps, and guides available. (Check out the center’s ever-changing selection of city-themed merchandise!)