santa monica things to do

Top Santa Monica Attractions

Looking for things to do in Santa Monica? 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 activities.

Santa Monica beach activities

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.

Hit the beach

Though it’s one of the most popular Southern California attractions, the 3.5 mile beach offers plenty of room for summer crowds. Manned lifeguard stations, paved walkways, restrooms and restaurants are plentiful and easy to find.

biking santa monica beach
santa monica beach

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 and Redondo 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. Easy accessibility, a sandy beach break and a spread-out lineup make it the perfect place to practice your alley oop. 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, the 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 open-air collection of rings, bars and other retro equipment is popular as ever.

santa monica pier
Sun, fun and a little rum

Santa Monica Pier

Looking for things to do in Santa Monica? The Santa Monica Pier is a no-brainer. Dive in and explore Pacific Park, a full-service amusement park with tons of restaurants, bars and souvenir shops, plus an arcade with more than 200 games. The park’s solar-powered Ferris wheel makes it the only one of its kind in the region.

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 pretty outstanding and make for the perfect evening when watched with a beer 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.

Located on the pier, the Pacific Park amusement park features a five-story West Coaster roller coaster, the nine-story Pacific Plunge tower ride, the only over-water miniature golf course, and the nine-story Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel: the only over-water Ferris wheel in California and the first solar-powered wheel in the world. More than 6 million visitors a year stop at this iconic Santa Monica attraction and popular photo spot.

Just for fun

The Ocean Front Walk is a wide, paved footpath lined with shops and restaurants. Kids love the stone-walled sandbox and concrete Viking ship and interactive dragon’s head. A row of volleyball courts is available on a first-come, first-served basis. The Trapeze School of New York (TSNY) offers a high-flying, fun-filled learning experience. Classes are 2 hours long and taught in groups of up to 10 people. No prior experience is needed to start.

Three women playing beach volleyball in on Santa Monica Beach
A man swinging above the pier at Trapeze School New York TSNY - Los Angeles in Santa Monica

Dine near the Pier

The Santa Monica Pier has 7 restaurants, ranging from fine seafood to classic American. 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. Pier Bait and Tackle offers gear, poles, and bait for fishing in the Pacific Ocean.

See the sights

A National Historic Landmark, the 1922 Looff Hippodrome Carousel is where Paul Newman worked in The Sting.

Play the games

The Playland Arcade is packed with over 200 games and attractions in Santa Monica, from the classic to the contemporary. Play PacMan while your kids try out Dance-Dance Revolution. . . or vice versa.

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 Third Street Promenade.

Boutiques in Santa Monica

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Arts and culture

Santa Monica boasts more than 75 museums and art galleries. Our art scene goes far beyond four walls with plenty of public art and sculptures, plus street performers. Must-visit Santa Monica attractions include L&M Arts, a branch of the New York City gallery by the same name, and Bergamot Station, an old train depot containing some 35 galleries. In summer, check the events calendar for live events, farmers markets and outdoor concerts.

santa monica art classes
santa monica arts culture

Nightlife

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

The view of the Pacific Ocean from Elephanté in Santa Monica
onyx at shangri-la

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 41 hotels?

Santa Monica Hotels

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Explore itineraries, local tips, hot spots and curated adventures to make sure you get the most out of your Santa Monica experience.

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