Stretches of Pico Boulevard, a main artery connecting Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles, have begun to look more like an art exhibition as of late: The local business improvement district, paired with the award-winning nonprofit Beautify Earth, has adorned buildings here with a variety of striking murals. The people bustling through the area are equally diverse, drawn to a mix of small galleries, live music venues, shops, and a variety of restaurants offering temptations for almost any palate. Accessible from the three Metro Expo Line stations in town, Pico ends at the beach and links Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College, and Virginia Avenue Park—home to a beloved Saturday farmers market.
An essential stop for any beer lover, The Brixton is a modern gastropub that features shareable plates of American comfort food to complement the craft brews and wine on tap. Settle into a cool black banquette while nibbling on impressive flatbreads and short rib melts.
Honey lattes and cold-brewed coffee are the name of the game at Lo/Cal Coffee& Market, but you can satisfy cravings, too, with pastries and other goodies to go. The modern, high-ceilinged space is the perfect spot for refueling after a day at Virginia Avenue Park across the street.
Join the line at Sweet Rose Creamery for some of the city’s best ice cream, made by hand in small batches daily. Husband-and-wife owners Josh Loeb and Zoe Nathan, of the Rustic Canyon family of restaurants, source fresh fruit and veggies from local farmers markets for their seasonal scoops.
One of the most critically acclaimed Italian restaurants in the U.S., Piero Selvaggio’s Valentino reinterprets classic Italian dishes with farm-to-table cuisine that is simultaneously natural and complex. Host a special event in one of the establishment’s five elegant private dining rooms.
And, one more can't miss is the newest duo of restaurants to the neighborhood, Lunetta and Lunetta All Day. On one side, you have Lunetta Dining Room and Bar for a fine dining experience, and on the other, is Lunetta All Day, a casual modern diner where you can get breakfast for dinner any day of the week.
Leave the mall crowds behind and shop with the locals. At this eclectic store, Brat, Westsiders buy edgy leather jackets, vintage-inspired dresses, and novelty gifts. Owner Nancy Kaufman will help you find that perfect voodoo doll keychain—and wrap it for free, too.
This laid-back gift shop, Chris + Mary, is owned by a couple who love their Santa Monica community—and it shows. The cheery store is stocked with high-quality home goods, accessories, and clothing made by local artisans.
Founded in Huntington Beach in 1957, this SoCal institution, Jack's Surfboard, is where locals stock up before hitting the surf. Find an epic selection of surfboards, skateboards, cool threads for men and women, and other essential gear.
Be a part of the neighborhood scene at the Virginia Park Farmer's Market where families, foodies, and famous chefs converge on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Though smaller than the other farmers markets in the city, the parking is easy (there’s also a bike valet), and there is live music most weekends.
With an art scene as prominent as Santa Monica’s, it’s no surprise there’s a treasure trove of small galleries to discover. Don’t miss the intersection of Pico and 32nd. Check out the work of local artists at Blue 7 Gallery and browse fascinating letterpress art at Church of Type.
Both a guitar shop and concert venue, this musician’s wonderland draws people from far and wide. McCabe's Guitar Shop is home to one of the largest selections of stringed instruments for sale in California, the adjacent stage has hosted world-famous artists like Beck, Bruce Springsteen, and R.E.M.
Home to the Santa Monica Theatre Guild, Morgan-Wixson Theatre is a charming playhouse that showcases the diversity of the local theatre scene with plays, youth musicals, and more. With just 201 seats, it’s a great opportunity to catch the city’s rising talents at an intimate venue.
The 38-acre main campus attracts more than just students, and it’s easy to see why. Santa Monica College is home to a planetarium that hosts family-friendly shows on Friday nights. Catch free lectures from leading experts (the Distinguished Scientists series is a highlight), or swim laps in the Olympic-size public pool. Ping-Pong tables, basketball, and badminton courts are also available.
This quintessential neighborhood bar boasts live bands, dozens of craft beers, and satisfying comfort food, but that’s just the start. Interesting events take place nearly every evening at TRiP, from trivia night and stand-up comedy to racy burlesque shows.