Santa Monica is a beach side city on the furthest westside of Los Angeles and about a half hour or hour (depending on traffic from Hollywood). Santa Monica is bound by San Vicente Blvd to the north, the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) on the west and Ocean Park to the south. Santa Monica is a very diverse area, with some areas very conducive to shopping, dining, sightseeing and relaxing. Santa Monica is home to an eccentric group of residents, from young professionals and executives to surfers to artists. The main sites to see in Santa Monica are the 3rd Street Promenade, Ocean Avenue, Montana Avenue, Santa Monica Pier and the beaches. There are many ways to get to Santa Monica from where ever you are in Los Angeles. There are a variety of hotels in the city, many lie on Ocean Avenue and afford spectacular views of the Pacific ocean. Santa Monica has some of the best shopping around, from boutique clothes and shoes to items from all over the world only found in specialty stores. The temperatures is mostly cool and the 60s and 70s all year round and is easy to get to other parts of LA. If visiting Hollywood in summer, there is a huge difference in the temps in the Hollywood area compared with the beaches.
3rd Street Promenade
The 3rd Street Promenade is an exciting part of Santa Monica. About a third of a mile long, the Promenade begins at 3rd and Wilshire and ends on 3rd and Broadway. The Promenade is closed off to vehicle traffic and is full of stores, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters, live performers, fountains and more. There is something for everyone, from families and children to adults looking to shop and dine.
The 3rd Street Promenade is home to a variety of shopping. Retailers include: Diesel, Restoration Hardware, J.Crew, Old Navy, Pottery Barn Banana Republic, MAC Store, Zaros, Sephora, Apple Store, Urban Outfitters and H&M to name a few. The stores line both sides of the walkway and are easily accessible. There is also a Borders, Barnes and Noble and two movie theaters. Currently in renovation there are plans to open a massive shopping/entertainment complex at the intersection of the Promenade and Broadway. Dining options are plenty along the Promenade. There are foods of every culture and taste from Johnny Rockets, to Sushi to American. Many of the stores found on 3rd street are also in Hollywood and Highland and along Hollywood's Melrose Avenue, however they try to carry different inventories from each other to give each location a special appeal.
Parking at the Promenade is usually easy. There are seven parking garages that offer free parking for 3 hours before 6pm that line both 2nd and 4th streets. After 6pm there is a $3.00 flat fee. There is also meter parking available on Santa Monica Blvd, Wilshire, Broadway, Arizona and Ocean Ave. However, some of these meters only run for 15 to 30 minutes. Be sure to check all signs and placards when parking at a meter in this area.
3rd Street Promenade Adjacent
On either side of the 3rd Street Promenade (2nd and 4th streets) you will find a continuation of unique shopping and dining. It is also in this area where you will find many relaxing spas that can give a first class massage, facial and revitalizing baths. The more popular of these spas is Burke Williams on 4th street and Exhale on Wilshire and Ocean Avenue.
Ocean Avenue by far is one of the prettiest stretches of coast roads in the world. Lined with hundreds of beautiful healthy
and vibrant palm trees, multi million-dollar homes and high rise condos and luxurious hotels and fine restaurants. A visit to Santa Monica is not complete without a stroll on Ocean Avenue. Beginning at Ocean and San Vicente Blvd and ending at Ocean and Pico, there is a variety of things to see and do. Palisades Park, beginning at Wilshire and Ocean Avenue and extending to San Vicente and Ocean is a great place to walk, run or just lay out. The park has a spectacular view of of the Santa Monica beach and bicycle path on the cliff below. On a clear day you can see clear into Malibu and down to LAX. The view of the Santa Monica mountains jutting into the Ocean are spectacular. On the east side of Ocean Avenue are a variety of high rise condos, restaurants and hotels. From San Vicente to Wilshire it is almost exclusively condos. Beginning at Wilshire and moving south, on both sides is where the hotels and dining options begin. Some hotels to check out are the Fairmont Miramar, Lowes, Shutters, Vice Roy, Georgian and Casa Del Mar. As for dining along Ocean Ave there are many options. From the Ivy at Shore (upper scale American), to Sushi Roku (as name suggests, Sushi) to Rebecca's (assortment of foods) there is something for everyone. It is also very easy to transverse from Ocean Avenue to Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds for additional dining options.
Montana Avenue runs off of Ocean Avenue and extends 4 miles into the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. Along the Santa Monica stretch are a variety of fine shops, restaurants and quaint/upscale housing areas. Montana Avenue is the area of Santa Monica where you are most likely to find an A-list celebrity either window shopping or walking their dog. On either side of the street the sidewalks are crowded with locals and visitors hanging out at outdoor cafes, checking out the shops and just enjoying the ocean breeze and sunshine. The shops themselves range from small clothing boutiques to fine and home furnishing sellers that have only the highest quality and rare pieces that are brought in from all over the world. There are also a variety of antique and art shops. Like the rest of Santa Monica there is a also a choice of relaxation spa and beauty venues. Parking along Montana Avenue can be somewhat tight and there are meters that line the stretch. There maybe additional parking on the side residential streets of Montana, but be careful, some of these streets are by permit only. Be sure to check posted signs and placards to avoid getting a ticket or being towed.
SANTA MONICA PIER
The Santa Monica Pier is definitely a must see if you have are visiting with kids or little ones. The pier, is now one hundred years old and juts out on to the Pacific Ocean. There are a variety of fun attractions on the pier from a ferris wheel to famous arcade to aquarium. The Pier is home to a variety of events and exhibits throughout the year. There are also a variety of dining options, most very affordable from burgers to fried seafood and pizzas.
The Aquarium- The Aquarium has a variety of things to do and see. It is located at beach level right below the Carousel. The aquarium is home to dozens of marine animals and plants. Some of the more popular attractions are a touch tank where you can interact and touch a variety of marine life such as sea stars, crabs, snails and sea cucumbers. There is a shark tank where you can get up close and personal with thornback rays and horn/swell sharks. During Shark Sundays there is a feeding time at 3:30pm which is popular. The largest exhibit, the 2,200 Pier Tank displays the sea animals that inhabit the ocean right below the Santa Monica Pier. Other attractions in the Aquarium are the Kelp Forest Tank, Rocky Reef Tank and Octopus Tank.
Pacific Park-Is an amusement park on the pier that is home to a variety of rides and fun. The most famous attraction in Pacific Park is the Pacific Ferris Wheel. Pacific Ferris wheel is the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel and gives visitors a 360 view of the Southern California coastline. At its height the Ferris wheel sends riders to a height of 130 feet and moves 2.5 revolutions per minute. More than 6,000 multi-colored bulbs line the wheel and special effects helps to light the ferris wheel up for miles along the coast. There is also a roller coaster in the park and several rides for kids such as bumper cars and circular flying rides.
Bicycle Rentals-The pier is one of many locations along the beach where you can rent a bicycle for the day and ride on the paths that go all the way down to Venice beach to the south and all the way up to the Pacific Palisades to the north.
Arcade-The Santa Monica Pier is home to a legendary arcade that has been featured in movies and tv. No visit to the pier is complete without a stop at the Play arcade for a little fun and adventure.
Santa Monica Beaches
The beaches of Santa Monica are easily accessible from any point along Ocean Avenue and the Pacific Coast Highway. The beaces span over 5 miles, are extremely clean and a fun place to see the ocean on a budget or with the family. The Santa Monica bike path weaves its way through the sand from the Pacific Palisades area all the way down to Venice beach. Although the weather is favorable all year round to go to the beach, the beaches only see serious action with crowds May through September.
GETTING TO THE PIER
The Pier is easily accessible off of Ocean Blvd and is located at the intersection of Colorado Ave and Santa Monica Blvd. There is legendary neon sign, welcoming visitors to the pier at the entrance. At night the entire pier lights up and the ferris wheel can be seen up and down the coast.
GETTING TO SANTA MONICA:
Two ways: 1. Take the 405 north to the 10 and follow signs to Santa Monica and go west on 10. Exit 4th street, make a right and travel north into the city. 2. Take Lincoln Blvd from Sepulveda and it will terminate in the city.
From Beverly Hills/West Hollywood/Hollywood/Silverlake
Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Olympic Blvd and Pico Blvd will all take you from these areas straight into the heart of Santa Monica where they each terminate at the beach. Note that although Sunset Blvd parallels these main routes, after entering the Brentwood area, it curves to the northwest away from Santa Monica.
From the San Fernando Valley:
Take the 405 south and exit either Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd west and it will take you straight into the city and terminate that the beach.