Most families will visit Santa Monica for more than a single day, but if a day is all you have, here’s an itinerary that will enable you to pack a lot of experiences into 24 hours.
Santa Monica has 38 hotels from the budget-friendly Sea Shore Motel to the luxurious Shutters on the Beach. All of these hotels are located within four miles of the beach, but if your family intends to make the most of sea, sand, and sunshine, consider booking a hotel on the beach or within a few blocks.
Wake up and breakfast with the farmers at one of Santa Monica’s farmer markets, held on different days throughout the week. The markets are Downtown Farmer’s Market, Grand Central Market, Main Street Farmers’ Market, and Pico Farmers Market. Not only will your family see all kinds of delectable produce on display, there are also local chefs on hand whipping up culinary specialties. The Downtown Farmers Market is the biggest of the markets, and its food tent on Arizona Avenue is where most of the restaurants set up.
Head over to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Exhibits at the aquarium include interactive displays, touch tanks filled with animals found in tide pools and several large tanks featuring animals and habitats found in the Santa Monica Bay.
At Perry’s Café and Rentals, families can rent bikes and then take off along Santa Monica’s Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The South Bay Bicycle Trail.
When you return your bikes, you’ll be in perfect position for lunch on the beach, at Perry’s Café and Rentals. One of the joys of Santa Monica is its proximity to the beach – it’s a true city/beach destination. For the rest of the afternoon, enjoy a few hours of relaxation on the beach, enjoying the great views of Topanga Canyon, taking another bike ride along the paths adjacent to the beach, and observing the colorful local scene.
Return to your hotel (if you’ve booked one) and freshen up for the evening. Head out for a stroll along Santa Monica’s famous Third Street Promenade. Here there are plenty of options for shopping, and young kids will get a real kick out of the promenade’s huge topiary dinosaurs.
For dinner, dip into The Counter, a burger restaurant that allows diners the option to customize their own hamburger. The Counter makes the mind-boggling claim that they have over 312,120 different burger combos.
Now it’s off to Santa Monica’s iconic attraction, the Santa Monica Pier. If you’re driving, there’s parking on the pier deck, accessible via the ramp at Ocean and Colorado. There are also two lower lots accessible via Appian Way. Chances are your family has seen the pier in a number of Hollywood movies. The seaside setting is marvelous, the lights are dramatic, and the diversions are numerous. Definitely check out The 1922 Looff Hippodrome Carousel, a designated National Historic Landmark. There are also plenty of amusement park rides, arcade games, and snack bars if the family gets hungry.