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Top Santa Monica Attractions

Looking for places to see in Santa Monica, California? We’re the perfect beach town, offering a balance of seaside charm and coastal sophistication. At just 8.3 square miles, the city is walkable, laid back and full of attractions, so you’ll wonder what’s next.

Your itinerary can be as busy or as casual as you like: fill your days with museum-hopping and world-class shopping, or relax on the beach and watch the world go by. Here are some of our top Santa Monica attractions and things to do.

What attractions does Santa Monica offer?

The long, wide expanse of Santa Monica Beach is distinguished from other Southern California shorelines by the sheer extent of activities available. Both the sand and the ocean are clean and beautiful, making for some grade-A beachcombing, swimming and surfing.

But that’s not all. Bike down the Marvin Braude Bike Trail with the wind at your back and the crash of the waves in your ears, try your hand at a game of beach volleyball or stop to enjoy the outdoor activities offered at the Annenberg Community Beach House.

After a day out, stick around for the finest Santa Monica attraction of all: a fiery beachside sunset.

Santa Monica Beach Attractions

Though it’s one of the most popular Southern California attractions, the 3.5 mile Santa Monica Beach offers plenty of room for year-round beach goers. Manned lifeguard stations, paved walkways, restrooms and restaurants are plentiful and easy to find.

biking riding at santa monica beach
places to see in santa monica

Bike it

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as the South Bay Bicycle Trail or The Strand, is a 22-mile paved trail that starts in Santa Monica and ends at Torrance County Beach. It passes through Venice, Hermosa, Redondo Beach, Marina del Rey, El Segundo Beach and Manhattan Beach. Bicycle rentals, bike tours and hotel loaner programs are available for visitors.

Surf it

Bay Street, just south of Hotel Casa del Mar, is a popular surf spot. Rentals and lessons adjacent to the beach offer beginners an introduction to Southern California surfing.

Pump it

Located on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier, Original Muscle Beach was established in the early 1930s. It quickly grew from a few tumbling mats and gymnastic bars to the epicenter of the 20th century’s growing fitness movement. Today, the collection of rings, bars and other retro equipment is popular as ever.

santa monica pier
Sun, fun and a little rum

Santa Monica Pier Attractions

For visitors to Santa Monica, Santa Monica Pier is a no-brainer. Dive in and explore the Pier’s Pacific ocean views, souvenir shops, arcade with more than 200 games or get a bite at one of the restaurants. If you are looking for some excitement, check out Pacific Park, a full-service amusement park. The park’s solar-powered, over-water Ferris wheel makes it the only one of its kind in the region. The park also features a five-story West Coaster roller coaster and nine-story Pacific Plunge tower ride. More than 6 million visitors a year stop at this iconic Santa Monica attraction.

Make memories and grab photos at some of the state’s most Instagrammable spots, including the official end of Route 66 sign and the instantly-recognizable blue and yellow Santa Monica Pier sign.

For those completing a trip along Route 66, don’t forget to stop at Santa Monica Travel & Tourism’s Visitor Information Kiosk along Palisades Park for your official Route 66 certificate.

By day, marvel at the historic Looff Hippodrome Carousel, check out the street performers, or snag a stick of puffy cotton candy. The views of Malibu and the South Bay are outstanding and make for the perfect evening when watched with the perfect drink in hand. Stick around past sunset and you might just catch live local music to the sound of the nearby waves.

The Santa Monica Pier is a must-visit Santa Monica attraction that really sets Santa Monica apart as an ideal destination for families and visitors of any age.

Just for fun

Ocean Front Walk is a wide, paved footpath lined with shops and restaurants. Kids love the South Beach Park that includes a stone-walled sandbox, concrete Viking ship and interactive dragon’s head. A row of volleyball courts is are available at Ocean Park North Beach on a first-come, first-served basis.

volleyball at santa monica beach

Dine near the Pier

The Santa Monica Pier has 7 restaurants, ranging from fine seafood to classic American dishes. Thanks to the unique location over the Pacific Ocean, visitors come for the views as much as the food.

Santa Monica Pier Eateries

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Fish the pier

Fishing from the Santa Monica Pier is a popular pastime with local residents and visitors alike. Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle offers gear, poles and bait for fishing in the Pacific Ocean. No fishing license needed.

Learn the History

Walk to the end of the Santa Monica Pier and you’ll not only find yourself at the Western-most tip of LA, but various shadowboxes hung along the historical walls highlight some of the Pier’s most iconic history, including a homage to Route 66, lifeguard culture and innovation, and more.

Visit the Aquarium

Grab a bit of shade and play with the underwater locals under the Santa Monica Pier at Heal the Bay Aquarium. This all-ages aquarium features over 100 local marine animal and wildlife species. While you’re there, don’t forget to visit the touch tanks, with hermit crabs, sea urchins and cucumbers and check out the shark nursery.

Retail therapy

Santa Monica’s fashion scene has everything shoppers want: name brands, global couture and independent boutiques. Visit the quaint shops of Montana Avenue—Lucy, Splendid, Ruti, Citron—or head to Nordstrom’s glittering storefront at Santa Monica Place before hitting up the famous Third Street Promenade.

Boutiques in Santa Monica

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Arts and culture

Santa Monica boasts many museums and art galleries. Our art scene goes far beyond four walls with plenty of public art and sculptures, plus street performers. One of Santa Monica’s must-visit attractions is Bergamot Station, an old train depot containing some 30 galleries. In summer, check the events calendar for live events, farmers markets and outdoor concerts.

mural on mainstreet


Stick around past sunset and watch the city transform. Locals from all over the LA area head to Santa Monica, where the combination of walkability and variety of nightlife make for a memorable evening no matter what the occasion. Start with happy hour on a rooftop bar overlooking the Pacific Ocean, like The Coco Club at The Beacon or Elephante, and end the night dancing at Circle Bar or saddled up to the counter at one of the city’s long-standing dive bars, such as Chez Jay.

Stay in Santa Monica

With so many must-do activities and things to do in Santa Monica, why not extend your stay at one of Santa Monica’s 40 hotels?

Santa Monica Hotels

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I spend a day in Santa Monica?

To spend a day in Santa Monica, begin with a stroll along Santa Monica Beach and grab breakfast on Ocean Avenue. Then, head to the Santa Monica Pier to enjoy the amusement park and aquarium, and have lunch at one of the many restaurants on the pier or grab a quick bite from official food vendors with the blue and white umbrella flag. Afterward, walk along the Third Street Promenade to explore shops and street performers before visiting Santa Monica Place for high-end and mid-range stores. End the day with a beautiful sunset view from Palisades Park, overlooking the ocean, and enjoy the blufftop walking path or play on the expansive grassy areas. For more ideas, check out our trip planner.

What is a must-see in Santa Monica?

If you’re looking for a lively neighborhood in Santa Monica, Downtown Santa Monica is definitely it. This area boasts two of the city’s largest shopping destinations: the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place. Walk a block to Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Beach, visit Santa Monica’s popular farmers markets and dine at a variety of restaurants ranging from fine dining to grab-and-go options. With so many stores and restaurants to choose from, you’re sure to have a great time exploring this part of town.

Additionally, if you’re interested in exploring more of Santa Monica’s cultural scene, don’t miss the furthest inland neighborhood known as Mid-City. This is the arts and entertainment hub of Santa Monica, and is home to a number of the largest entertainment companies. Mid-City also is where you’ll find one of the largest contemporary art collections in Los Angeles, Bergamot Station, which was formerly a railroad station but now houses a plethora of different art galleries. It’s a must-visit destination for art enthusiasts and those looking to experience the creative side of Santa Monica.

What area of Santa Monica is walkable?

Known for its walkability throughout the city’s 8.3 square miles, visitors to Santa Monica can easily explore the city’s eight distinct neighborhoods. Many people enjoy walking between Downtown/Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier/Ocean Park neighborhoods to see the city’s major sights, and for those looking for a more local experience, Montana Avenue boasts quaint, tree-lined streets for more local shopping, dining and wellness experiences.


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