Best Places to Visit in Santa Monica
Santa Monica is the best beach destination in Los Angeles and surrounding Los Angeles County. It is a beautiful city with constantly sunny weather and wide beaches. Due to its location being less than 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles, the city welcomes more than 7 million visitors each year.
An undeniable excitement comes from Santa Monica. Surf on the western border energizes it, while the pedestrian-friendly downtown offers an instinctive thrill that buzzes late into the night. Experience the nautical spirit at its best at Palisades Park, perched atop a coastal cliff overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica State Beach.
No visit would be complete without getting off the Santa Monica Pier, which is also the waterfront terminus of historic Route 66. This tourist-friendly boardwalk defines many Southern California vacations, including amusement park rides and miles of ocean views.
Pack your bags and start planning your next Southern California vacation with the Best Places to Visit in Santa Monica and make your trip enjoyable.
10 Best Places to Visit in Santa Monica
Let’s explore the top 10 Most Beautiful and Best Places to Visit in Santa Monica:
1. Santa Monica State Beach
Santa Monica State Beach stretches for 5.6 miles on either side of the iconic Santa Monica Pier. One of the best beaches in the Los Angeles area, it’s less than 15 miles from Hollywood and attracts millions of beach visitors each year to spread their towels on the sand.
Santa Monica Pier divides the beach into North Santa Monica State Beach and South Santa Monica State Beach. There are different access points on either side of the beach, but each is suitable for activities such as sand castling, surfing and sunbathing.
Fun spots south of Santa Monica State Beach include Chess Park and Carousel Park. Pristine Muscle Beach is also south of the pier and has a variety of fitness equipment, including gymnastic rings. Santa Monica State Beach also has more convenient oceanfront parking.
Amenities such as the Annenberg Community Beach House north of the marina offer extensive beach amenities such as a volleyball court, beach seating and swimming pool. North Santa Monica State Beach can only be accessed by getting off the pier or footbridge from Palisades Park on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Address: Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, California
2. Marvin Braude Bike Trail
Also known as The Strand, the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail spans the entire Santa Monica coastline. It stretches from Will Rogers State Beach north of Santa Monica to Torrance County Beach. Sailing on this wide stretch of sand is one of the most popular things to do while visiting.
The trail is popular with cyclists, walkers, runners, roller skaters and anyone without a bike. The trail is divided into hiking and biking trails along busy sections of the trail, including the Santa Monica beach. As it is the most used sidewalk in the city, this track is sure to have some benefits.
The real appeal of the Marvin Braude bike path is its length. This 22-mile route connects every beach in Santa Monica Bay with just about every nautical activity in the sun and a bonfire destination in the evening. Whether you’re looking for the best waves, the quietest spot, or any number of beach volleyball courts, The Strand ties it all together.
3. Palisades Park
Visitors and residents alike tend to head to Palisades Park. Located on Ocean Drive overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica State Beach, this 26-acre coastal cliff park offers manicured grounds and uninterrupted ocean views.
Palm trees rose bushes, and plenty of places to relax along the concrete roads of this iconic urban area, plus a footbridge across the highway and into the ocean. Palisades Park also has unique facilities such as camera obscura, boules fields, and public art installations.
Palisades Park is also a link to many other attractions in the area, including the Santa Monica Pier. On Ocean Drive and further inland, the bustling streets and 3rd Avenue promenade of downtown Santa Monica round out the ocean activity. While the entire landscape of Palisade Park is stunning, the actual Point of Inspiration on the north side of the park is well worth a visit.
Address: Ocean Drive, Santa Monica, California
4. Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is a classic landmark in the city and the waterfront terminus of historic Route 66. It’s surrounded by Santa Monica State Beach, and this family and dog-friendly pier is packed with fun things to do and loads of people to watch.
Pacific Park on the Pier is probably the most impressive attraction, thanks to the iconic Ferris wheel and roller coaster soaring above the boardwalk. The Ferris wheel is especially noticeable at night as it illuminates the pier from afar. This marine amusement park also features the popular Playland Arcade, which adds a nostalgic twist to this Central Beach attraction.
Other attractions at the pier include bike rentals, beach and gift shops, and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, hidden under the carousel building. Much of the experience of visiting the marina is just walking around and admiring the ocean views and people watching, including the many musicians playing on the boardwalk.
Of all the special events that take place on the pier, the Twilight Festival on the pier is one of the biggest, with live music from all over the world. This famous concert series takes place in the evenings throughout the summer.
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
Official website: https://santamonicapier.org/
5. Third Street Promenade
Downtown Santa Monica is the Third Avenue Promenade. This pedestrian-only shopping area has ample foot traffic and lots of fun. When this bright space really shines, shops, restaurants and talented street musicians line up on every block. But day or night, this trendy retail strip will definitely grab attention.
Besides shopping, dining and entertainment venues such as the cinema and the augmented reality museum, the promenade has beautiful views. Dinosaur fence sculptures, photo booths, and various seating positions define the beauty of this downtown area.
Address: 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California
6. Venice Beach
Venice Beach is a southern city on the border with Santa Monica, connected by the Marvin Browder Bike Trail, also known as the Strand Beach Path. Venice offers a unique coastal charm that is more bohemian in spirit. The waterfront district is highly respected for street art and the style the community represents.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is a scenic partner tourist destination. The tourist trail that surrounds the beach is filled with several unique showcases and sidewalk vendors on the boardwalk. No visit would be complete without taking a walk on the beach and experiencing the flavors and ambiance of this creative seaside city.
Venice Beach’s bike paths are curved and filled with many sandy spots. Public art and tasteful graffiti surround this bike path, along with other amenities such as playground equipment and a basketball court. Like Santa Monica State Beach in the north, the sand is wide and welcoming, with plenty of room to deal with the busy crowds.
7. Annenberg Community Beach House
Located just north of the Santa Monica Pier, this expansive public beach resort originated in the city’s Gold Coast era in the 1920s and was once the oceanfront private mansion of actress Marion Davies. The state of California now operates this beachfront cultural center that includes sand courts, playgrounds, splash pads, and seasonal swimming pools. The on-site Marion Davies Guest House offers free tours and rotating art exhibits.
Address: 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica, California
Official website: https://www.annenenbergbeachhouse.com/
8. Santa Monica Farmers Market
Santa Monica offers four different farmer’s markets throughout the week, rain or shine. There are two different markets on Saturday and two more on Wednesday and Sunday mornings.
These acclaimed farmers’ markets have been treasured urban traditions since 1979. In addition to local seasonal produce, the farmers market features special events such as live cooking demonstrations, street musicians, and hot baked treats, adding delicious flavor to the whole experience.
Official website: https://www.smgov.net/portals/farmersmarket/
9. Tongva Park
Located on Ocean Drive south of the Santa Monica Pier, this expansive city park spans six acres and is filled with gardens, sculptures, and the ocean. It’s a great place for a relaxing moment to take a break from the city center and enjoy an afternoon picnic away from the beach crowds. Adjacent to Tongwa Park, the newly completed Kengenser Square adds an acre of natural space for you to explore fountains and babbling streams.
Address: 1615 Ocean Drive, Santa Monica, California
Official website: http://tongvapark.smgov.net/
10. Santa Monica Stairs
Made of wood and concrete steps, the Santa Monica Staircase is located in a quiet residential area less than a mile from the ocean. They were once a hidden gem in the neighborhood, but the secrets to a fun workout may have been revealed on this long ladder. Even with limited parking, crowds exercising on the stairs are not uncommon. It’s no secret that the more than 300 steps of this public walkway leave visitors with a palpable thigh-burning sensation.
Address: 699 Adelaide Avenue, Santa Monica, California
Hope you like our choice of the best places to visit in Santa Monica. If you think there are some more beautiful places to visit in Santa Monica, we should cover them. Write us below in the comment box.