Things to do in Santa Monica

Things to do in  Santa Monica

The walk of fame

Balancing laid-back beach vibes with a carnivalesque atmosphere, Santa Monica is one of Southern California’s favorite playgrounds. The young at heart find their bliss on the Santa Monica pier, which features a vintage theme park, while the stylish set flocks to the Third Street Promenade for coastal-chic shopping. There’s also room to spread out on Santa Monica’s wide, flat beach—in fact, it's one of the top things to do here—where outdoor aerobics classes coexist with beach volleyball games, surfers, and sunbathers.

Top 6 attractions in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Beach and Pier

Set along California’s Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica has two claims to fame: the Santa Monica Beach and pier. At Santa Monica Beach, miles of sand host playgrounds, parks, picnic areas, staffed lifeguard stations, and the original Muscle Beach. Nearly 8 million visitors frequent the area each year, most of whom follow the boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier, whose neon-lit arch and ferris wheel are instantly recognizable from film and TV.More

Los Angeles Palisades Park

This 26.4-acre (1-hectare) park located along Ocean Avenue is perched above sandstone bluffs in Santa Monica. The waterfront Palisades Park offers guests the opportunity to explore the coast in a delightful outdoor setting. Whether it’s meandering along its paved paths, stopping to smell the roses in the rose garden, or admiring the Pacific Ocean from atop the promenade, the park is a welcomed respite.More

Third Street Promenade

A commercial fixture in Santa Monica since the 1960s, this open-air, car-free three-block-long pedestrian mall (on Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway) was re-designed in 1989 and officially named the Third Street Promenade. Only two blocks east of the amusements of the Santa Monica Pier, the promenade is one of the most popular tourist destinations on LA's Westside.More

Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Most locals call this epic ribbon of seaside concrete the Santa Monica Bike Path or The Strand. The skating-, jogging-, biking- and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare stretches alongside the Pacific Ocean from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades to the far end of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, in Torrance.More

Santa Monica Place

One of the greatest draws to Los Angeles are its abundant shopping options. Santa Monica Place offers just that (and close to the beach!) The open-air shopping mall is in the heart of Santa Monica and is just two blocks from the beach and pier. You can feel the sun and the ocean breeze as you walk through the shops.Luxury department stores such as Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom sit beside brand names such as Jonathan Adler, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, and Kate Spade. The entire area was remodeled and reopened in 2010 complete with modern upgrades. Frequent community events always draw a crowd, as do the many upscale dining options.A rooftop dining deck offers both ocean and mountain views, allowing for shoppers to take in the scenery of the area while they visit. There is also an ArcLight Cinemas, one of the most favored movie theaters in the Los Angeles area.More

Heal the Bay Aquarium

Tucked under the Santa Monica Pier, this tiny aquarium aims to educate passing visitors about ocean conservation and the marine life of Southern California. Though small compared to other big-name aquariums, it's a quick and easy way to connect with hundreds of native species, from jellyfish and sea stars to octopi and moray eels.More

Top activities in Santa Monica

Private Therapy Sailing Adventure

Private Therapy Sailing Adventure

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Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Adventure Tour
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Malibu Wineries Private Tour
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Malibu Wineries Private Tour

Santa Monica & Venice Bike Tour
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Vacation Photographer in Santa Monica

Vacation Photographer in Santa Monica

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All about Santa Monica

When to visit

Summer is a beautiful time to visit Santa Monica, but it’s also when prices are higher, and the beaches are packed with people. A visit in fall, especially in September, is recommended, as most crowds have headed home in time for school to start. Warmer weather usually sticks around until mid-October. If you’re on a budget, visit anytime from December through February when accommodations tend to be more affordable, and the city’s downtown features an ice-skating rink until January.

Getting around

There are options for getting around Santa Monica without renting a car, taking a taxi, or using a rideshare. The city itself is walkable and also offers a Breeze Bike Share service and e-scooters. If you’re looking to hop from the Santa Monica Pier to downtown Los Angeles or other stops, just hop aboard the city’s Metro E (Expo) Line. Guided tours also offer opportunities for sightseeing with transportation.

Traveler tips

Most people flock to Santa Monica for the beach and its seaside pier, but the city also is home to many impressive street-art graffiti displays. The city boasts more than a hundred murals (and counting!) packed into its 8.3 square miles (21.5 square kilometers). Some areas worth checking out during your visit include downtown / 3rd Street Promenade and Ocean Avenue. First-time visitors may want to start at 315 Colorado Avenue, as well as take a stroll under the pier.

Local Currency
US Dollar ($)
Time Zone
PST (UTC -8)
Country Code

A local’s pocket guide to Santa Monica

Erin Green

Ever since Erin’s college days just down the street at UCLA, Santa Monica has been her go-to place for fun, sun, shopping, and bar hopping

The first thing you should do in Santa Monica is...

go to the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Grab an ice cream or some oysters, find a comfy seat, and do some hardcore people watching. Get inspiration from the ocean, roller skaters, and aromas from beachside restaurants.

A perfect Saturday in Santa Monica...

starts with grabbing brunch on Montana and a matcha from La La Land Kind Cafe, then heading to the beach. In the evening, get spruced up and have dinner and drinks at the Ivy and look for movie stars.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

playing games on the Santa Monica Pier. Once you start getting into it, your inner child breaks free and your competitive drive kicks in. Be ready to get your heart set on that giant teddy bear, and you just might win it.

To discover the “real” Santa Monica...

hit the bar scene. The ears on the walls of the oldest bars in town have stories for days, and so do the bartenders and regulars. Hit up places like Big Dean’s Ocean Front Cafe, Alhambra Cocktail Lounge, and The Golden Gopher.

For the best view of the city...

head to Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue. Sit next to the Civil War Cannon and check out the views of the Santa Monica Pier and the beach along the coast. Another perk of the Palisades? It’s completely free.

One thing people get wrong is...

thinking that you’re guaranteed to see a celebrity. But it’s always worth a shot—so visit those cocktail bars, shop on Third Street, keep your eyes open, cross your fingers and toes, and you just might spot a celeb or two.


People Also Ask

What is Santa Monica known for?

Santa Monica is known for the sunbathers lounging on its sandy beach, locals playing arcade games and fishing along the Santa Monica Pier, shoppers browsing on Third Street Promenade, and famous people dining and drinking at its hip and happening restaurants and bars.

How do I spend a day in Santa Monica?

Start your day in Santa Monica with a stroll on Ocean Front Walk to the beach and Santa Monica Pier. Pick up donuts at Sidecar or meander down Montana Avenue. Shop at Third Street Promenade, eat somewhere trendy, and visit Abbot Kinney in Venice for sundowners at a funky bar.

Is Santa Monica Pier free?

Yes, Santa Monica Pier is free. But to experience the attractions, that’ll cost you. Ride prices vary, but an all-inclusive wristband is the best deal if you’re riding more than a few. Walking the pier, chatting with fishermen, and watching the pastel sunsets over the Pacific are always free.

Is Santa Monica better than Venice Beach?

No, Santa Monica isn’t better than Venice Beach. Both neighborhoods have distinctive things to do. Venice has the canals and a hip beach vibe, while Santa Monica has more of a city feel and happening nightlife. Luckily they are close to each other, so you can visit both.

What is so special about Santa Monica Pier?

Santa Monica Pier is the western terminus of Route 66 and a historic California landmark since 1909— two qualities that make it special. Besides the history, the Santa Monica Pier is home to the Pacific Wheel, carnival games, vendors, restaurants, fishermen, good vibes, and a place to watch the sunsets.

Is Santa Monica worth visiting?

Yes, Santa Monica is worth visiting. There’s sightseeing on the Santa Monica Pier, walking or cycling along Ocean Front Walk, shopping on Third Street Promenade, and eating your way from one restaurant to another. Immerse yourself in the Santa Monica scene, and you might see some movie stars, too.

Frequently Asked Questions
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