100 Free Things to Do in Santa Monica – Family & Outdoor Activities

Posted September 8, 2023

Family and Outdoor Activities

1. Grab a towel, sunblock and a good book before heading out to enjoy the Southern California scenery on Santa Monica Beach, which stretches for 3.5 miles between Venice and Malibu.

2. Take a stroll on Santa Monica Pier, hailed as the United States’ oldest pier on the West Coast. The Pier is open year-round and is the perfect spot for viewing Santa Monica sunsets and taking romantic walks under the stars.

3. Catch a glimpse of the nine-story Ferris wheel at Pacific Park. It is the first and only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world and can be seen in movies such as Marvel’s Iron Man, Forrest Gump and The Sting.

4. Pay a visit to the Third Street Promenade to catch street performers and entertainers light up this pedestrian-only boulevard. Day and night, enjoy the sounds of drums, acoustic guitars and tambourines while shopping, or stop to watch acrobats, dancers, psychic cats, mimes and bubble blowers put on a show.

5. Celebrate the holiday season, from November to January, with a visit to the Shopping Cart Tree at the Edgemar Center for the Arts on Main Street, or by enjoying the tree lighting ceremony at Santa Monica Place.

6. Take friends and family of all ages to enjoy the duck pond, reflective pools and streams of Douglas Park in Santa Monica’s Wilshire Boulevard neighborhood. Stay a while and take advantage of the shady picnic tables and sandy play area.

7. Explore the best boutique shopping along Montana Avenue, a 10-block, open-air retail destination frequented by affluent Angelenos, celebrities and in-the-know visitors. This elegant tree-lined street is flush with stylish boutiques, quaint restaurants and innovative wellness experiences.

8. Cool off with the kids at the splash pad in Virginia Avenue Park during the summer months. This park is also known as a great place for pick-up basketball games.

9. Stop by one of the Santa Monica Visitor Centers to chat with Santa Monica Travel & Tourism’s friendly travel specialists and get free maps, brochures and insider tips on local restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

10. Peruse a book or magazine, scroll the internet or attend a free event (like a tomato planting workshop) at one of Santa Monica’s five libraries.

11. Cheer on the professional and student trapeze artists during a free-flying trapeze show on the Santa Monica Pier. Visit their Facebook to see the newest show themes and times.

12. Wander among the vibrant stalls of Southern California’s award-winning and largest certified, grower-only farmer’s market in downtown Santa Monica. The weekly markets sell some of the world’s freshest produce at three locations throughout the city: Arizona at Third Street, Pico Boulevard and Main Street.

13. Discover Main Street’s approach to beach life with a hip, urban edge. Peruse the lively and eclectic boutiques, chic clothing stores and design showrooms. Visit Dogtown Coffee for free music every week!

14. Watch a stunning California sunset from one of the many fantastic vantage points along the sand, or cliff level in Palisades Park.

15. Check out the grunion run on Santa Monica Beach between April and June. Pro-tip: the runs take place after the highest tides, generally during a full or new moon.

16. Take the kids to enjoy the aeronautical-themed play activities, baseball fields, and volleyball courts at Clover Park.

17. Enjoy gardens, public art, exhibitions, volleyball, beach soccer, a playground and so much more at the Annenberg Community Beach House – the only public beach house in the United States.

18. Pay your respects at the Arlington West Memorial, a project of Veterans for Peace. The Memorial offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful place for reflection. Every Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial is created on the beach just north of the world famous pier in Santa Monica.

19. Visit the Will Rogers State Beach, once home to the iconic television show Bay Watch. Accessible at the northern end of the bike path, Will Rogers State Beach offers excellent beach activities and is the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Lifeguards.

20. Explore the eclectic Pico Boulevard neighborhood at the southern end of Santa Monica.

21. Cast your line at the end of the pier and enjoy a day of fishing in our local waters – no permit required.

22. Stretch your artistic skills and let your imagination flow with a family sand castle competition on the beach.

23. Stroll through Palisades Park to take in the many historical monuments that stand testament to the city’s history and culture.

24. Marvel at the magnificent 100-year-old Moreton Bay Fig Tree at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

25. Be amazed by the various acrobats flexing their muscles at Original Muscle Beach. Celebrities such as Jack LaLanne, Jayne Mansfield and Mae West were frequent visitors at Muscle Beach and helped to establish Southern California as a body builder’s paradise and the home of the international fitness boom in the early 1920’s.

26. Pay your respects to stars like Glenn Ford and Ingrid Bergman at City of Santa Monica’s Woodlawn Cemetery, an old-fashioned cemetery with a sea of large headstones.

27. Hunt for Santa Monica’s many green-friendly businesses. City partners have joined to implement the Santa Monica Certified Green Business program. Look for these decals in storefronts showing that they meet the “green” requirement.

28. Pack a picnic and spread out on the lawn at Palisades Park.

29. Visit the end of the historic Route 66. See the spot that is home to the “End of the Road” plaque, signaling the terminus of the original US Highway that ran from Chicago to Santa Monica.

30. Check out Mid-City Santa Monica for an eclectic assortment of major businesses that call or have called Santa Monica home, like major film, television and music companies Universal and Lionsgate.

31. Celebrate summer with the city’s “Summer SOULstice,” a celebration on Main Street that offers a lively scene with many cover performances.

32. Attend a neighborhood open house! Every December, both Montana Avenue and Main Street are on display with free food, festive drinks, and holiday caroling.

33. Don’t let mobility stop you! Loan a sand wheelchair from Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals and gain access to the water’s edge.

34. Celebrate African American history with Gospel, Blues and dance entertainment at the annual Juneteenth Celebration. (June)

35. Join the parade! Celebrate Independence Day with friends and neighbors at the annual Main Street Parade. (July 4th)

36. Fire up a family barbecue at one of the many pits in neighborhood parks. (Clover Park, Virginia Park, and Airport Park)

37. Take a 30-minute walk south from Santa Monica to enjoy the colorful ambiance of Venice Beach.

38. Test your skills at croquet or horseshoe tossing at Emerson Reed Park.

39. Set up a picnic for the kids at the Ocean Park beach play area for endless hours of fun for younger kids with a climbing structure, swings, and scooping toys.

40. Join the fun of the Winterlit celebrations on 3rd Street Promenade, with ‘snow days’, carolers and other seasonal entertainment.

41. Visit the bronze plaque that acknowledges the 200-foot strip of sand that was segregated in the 1920s to 1950s. Known as Inkwell Beach, this infamous beach ran between Bay Street and Pico Boulevard.

42. Keep an eye out for the varied wildlife off the beach, including pelicans, dolphins, and rare sightings of migrating gray whales as they head south to their winter breeding grounds in the warm waters of Mexico.

43. Grab your favorite book and catch some sun at Mary Hotchkiss Park.

44. Stroll around the pond at the Water Gardens and check out the wildlife that live there.

45. Bring your furry friend to Herb Katz dog park for both of you to get some vitamin D.

46. Discover the universe with the Santa Monica Community College Planetarium during their virtual public shows.

47. Join the Santa Monica Historical Society in learning about the power of historical events during their free lectures.

48. Picnic and watch the sunset over the Santa Monica Pier at Crescent Bay Park.

49. Stop by the California Heritage Museum for their free Fridays.

50. Travel around Santa Monica in style on the free ride service, Circuit.

51. Enjoy the 263 days of Southern California sunshine with a stroll along the strand from Santa Monica to Marina del Rey to watch the boats head out to sea.

52. People watch at the promenade.

53. Head to the North Beach Playground with the kids to discover 1 of 3 universally accessible playgrounds.

54. Take your family and friends to enjoy some competitive lawn bowling at Douglas Park.

55. Enjoy the Miles of Pride light installation during the month of June. It extends from Santa Monica Place to the end of Third Street Promenade.

56. Celebrate Dia de los Muertos on the Santa Monica Pier in a “larger than afterlife” festival.

57. Take the family to South Beach Playground and experience one of Santa Monica’s universally accessible playgrounds.

Explore #58-77 of Santa Monica’s 100 Free Things to Do: Health & Wellness Activities 

Explore #78-100 of Santa Monica’s 100 Free Things to Do: Art & Music


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