As far as LA goes, Santa Monica is probably the best choice for those who want a city/beach vacation. Santa Monica has 3.5 miles of coastline and an appealing laid back atmosphere. It’s also more tranquil than neighboring Venice Beach, and much closer to downtown LA and West Hollywood than Malibu. Santa Monica is a particularly good choice for families traveling with kids.
If you’re flying into Santa Monica, you’ll be only eight miles north of Los Angeles International Airport, which means less hassle, less travel time on the freeways.
The Santa Monica Pier is the site of the Pacific Park amusement park’s iconic solar-powered Ferris wheel, a five-story West Coaster roller coaster, and the 1922 Looff Hippodrome Carousel. Chances are you’ve seen a half dozen movies set at the Santa Monica Pier – from The Sting to Falling Down. The pier really comes alive at night, and is the site of movies and live concerts during the summer months.
Since Santa Monica is right on the beach, it offers up quintessential LA, with rollerbladers and skateboarders traversing the paths, and a wide stretch of sand and sea offering such activities as beach volleyball, surfing, and paddle boarding.
I wouldn’t recommend anyone go completely car free while visiting LA, but it would be easy to go car free for a couple of days in Santa Monica. The network of public transportation can carry you to major sites and neighborhoods throughout the city. For example, downtown LA is only 13 miles away. After a long day of sightseeing, the coastal town ambiance of Santa Monica can be very relaxing.
The town is also very walkable, with lots of dining, shopping, entertainment, and more than 75 museums and art galleries. Much of the retail activity is centered in Santa Monica’s downtown. This is where you’ll find the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place, two of the largest shopping areas in the city, with the greatest concentration of high-end shops and little boutiques. There are also lots of restaurants and cafes; and entertainment, such as nightclubs and movie theaters.
If travelers are looking for an over-the-top dining experience, they can book reservations at two Michelin stars Melisse, overseen by superstar chef Josiah Citrin.
There are various farmer’s markets throughout Santa Monica, including twice-weekly in Santa Monica’s downtown, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. These have become really popular with locals and visitors alike. Even if a visitor has no intention of preparing their own meals during their vacation, the farmer’s markets have great products that travel well. Neighborhood chefs can also frequently be found at the markets, regaling the crowd with cooking demonstrations.
Santa Monica for Families: A Perfect Day … Family fun at this Southern California city on the beach