Santa Monica epitomizes Southern California’s sun-kissed lifestyle. Miles of sandy beaches, fabulous people watching and celebrity sightings are catnip for those in need of an infusion of glamour.
For visitors who embrace a car-free travel ethos, Santa Monica is the antithesis of the stereotypical image of Los Angeles as a car-crazed culture. A robust cycling community, extensive public transportation and pedestrian-only shopping streets make it easy to explore without a personal vehicle. Here’s our guide to loads of new ways to have fun in the sun, no car needed.
Miles of designated bike paths, near-perfect weather and a new bike share program make Santa Monica ideal for a two-wheel getaway. Sign up for Breeze Bike Share and you’ll pedal away on a shiny cruiser in a festive shade of green. Cycle the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, aka The Strand and soak in 22 palm-fringed miles of coastal scenery. Bike the entire trail from Pacific Palisades to Torrance or stay local and enjoy whirling by local icons like the Santa Monica Pier and Muscle Beach.
The seaside Annenberg Community Beach House is a beautiful spot offering loads of recreational possibilities. In summer, enjoy a refreshing (and free) dip in the perfect pool. Yoga classes, a kid’s playground and a full menu of cultural offering are on the year-round schedule.
Bergamot Station is Southern California’s largest gallery space. Formerly a trolley car station, the look is industrial, the vibe chic. Several dozen artists rent space here so it’s a great place for art appreciators to browse the galleries, mingle and learn about the creative process.
Herringbone epitomizes the SoCal food scene’s emphasis on freshness. The ocean-to-table menu eschews dubious fishing practices in favor of serving species whose population is not threatened. The choices are heavy on the locally sourced, so expect line-caught seafood dynamically paired with seasonal produce. Start with a crustacean from the salt & brine bar, progress to a highly original skate wing schnitzel before commencing with a decadent dessert. The atmosphere is upbeat, the service attentive. No need to open your wallet wide during happy hour (Monday-Friday from 4:30-6:30 pm) as just-shucked oysters cost only a buck. Small bites and libations are discounted too, so feast away.
Leave your diet at home; two irresistible new gourmet doughnut shops are keeping Santa Monica’s personal trainers working overtime.
Sidecar’s bevy of flavors are freshly fried and served temptingly warm. Devour a traditional butter & salt or savor a sassy huckleberry glazed.
Cross the border into neighboring Venice and head to hipster-haven Abbott Kinney Blvd. where you’ll find Blue Star. Each cloudlike confection starts with brioche dough brimming with luxurious European-style butter and sustainable ingredients. Admire the edible jewel-box display before selecting a homespun flavor like buttermilk or a more avant-garde orange-scented mimosa, infused with a kick of zesty sparkling wine.
The Third Street Promenade offers an alfresco shopping experience in the heart of downtown. Stores are heavy on national chains. If you’re looking for independently owned boutiques and forward-thinking design stores, head to hip Main Street.
If you prefer to shop for edible delights, there are numerous Farmers’ Markets overflowing with colorful produce. Each Wednesday, chefs from all over Los Angeles converge at the market on Arizona Avenue. 75 growers ensure a vast selection of ultra-fresh goodies from the fertile fields just a few hours from town.
Families flock to the Sunday morning market on Main Street, with live music, face painting and a funky food truck scene.
If you’ve got a passion for cheese, don’t miss Fig. This casually elegant spot inside the Fairmont Miramar Hotel is where cheese connoisseur Eric Brezal spins dairy-infused magic. He curates a selection of several dozen world-class cheeses including stinky, blue-veined and goat’s milk. He elevates the flavor profile by pairing each with the perfect accouterment (think pickled veggies or fresh fig conserve) and artisanal breads. Sit at the classic pewter bar and watch this master at work as you sip a glass of wine or a craft cocktail with mucho mojo.
The LEED Gold certified Shore Hotel is a new addition to the coastline, offering luxurious eco-friendly accommodations with Pacific Ocean views.
The FlyAway shuttle whisks you from LAX to Santa Monica in minutes for a mere $8. Once you’ve arrived, getting around town is no problem, thanks to the Big Blue Bus. It takes you all over the Westside and beyond for only $1.25. 2016 brings the opening of the highly anticipated light rail, linking Santa Monica to an even wider swath of the City of Angeles.
Photo credits: Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board, Fig, Herringbone, Blue Star