Bordered by two major thoroughfares, Wilshire and Olympic boulevards, this easily accessible neighborhood gets plenty of attention for its arts and entertainment offerings, particularly Bergamot’s galleries and The Broad Stage’s shows, as well as top-notch eateries. No wonder it’s home to a growing offering of interesting restaurants and shops.
Choose the supper-club-style ambience of The Iroquois Room or the lush yet casual elegance of The Garden Courtyard when you visit this fine-dining venue, The Buffalo Club. The menu satisfies even the most well-traveled palate (try the boeuf bourguignon, marinated for 48 hours prior to cooking).
Housed inside an old Quonset hut, Pono Burger uses local, organic ingredients in its juicy burgers and taps into its chef's Hawaiian heritage with sauces featuring guava and Kona coffee.
This sleek, airy Vietnamese restaurant, Tiato, doesn’t shy away from simplicity. The owner, Catherine An (whose mother owns the renowned Crustacean restaurants), specializes in home-style cooking using the bounty from the café’s garden. It’s open for breakfast and lunch only.
Geekiness is a badge of honor at this longstanding hobby shop, Aero Hobbies, an area institution and community meeting space that’s packed with tabletop games galore. Check out the game nights Wednesday through Sunday, when kids of all ages break out board games, paint airplane models, or play Star Wars X Wing.
Named after Santa Monica’s popular surfing spot at Bay Street, this mom-and-pop store, Bay Street Boards, keeps Dogtown spirit alive with personal service by lifelong surfers. Browse the boards (full and half-day rentals are available), or just stop by to chat and chill with the locals.
The Santa Monica skateboarders who famously put the sport on the map in the ’70s are still here in spirit. This skate shop, Rip City Skates, has been going strong since 1978 and is about as authentic as you can get, offering boards, accessories, and clothing that totally rips.
Occupying a former stop for Santa Monica Air Line streetcars, Bergamot Station, a sprawling arts complex is impressive in both variety and scale. However, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate, with forty or so art galleries all within steps of each other. The on-site Bergamot Cafe is a perfect place to refuel with coffee and sandwiches after an art-filled day.
Founded in 2008, the stunning Broad Stage has grown to become the most prominent theatre in Santa Monica, presenting top-tier drama and musical productions, plus opera, jazz, modern dance, chamber music, and more. Check out The Edye, a smaller, adjacent stage, for spontaneous performances by developing artists.
18th Street Arts Center is one of Santa Monica’s best-kept secrets. This under-the-radar arts community is home to a vibrant residency program and draws talent from around the world. You can view artwork at two on-site galleries that are open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., or check the website for special events.