The beach town of Santa Monica has a lot to offer. Santa Monica is about 10 miles north up the coast from LAX Airport, and if you head roughly east for about 12 miles you’ll pass through Beverly Hills into Hollywood.
Santa Monica features the end to the historic route 66, which is actually the Santa Monica Pier (pictured above).
It’s the western-most point of America that Forrest Gump runs to on perhaps the most raggedy leg of his journey (see below) and there is indeed a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. right on the boardwalk, placed there by Forrest himself to commemorate his good friend Bubba.
We could go on-and-on naming movies with scenes in Santa Monica (Beverly Hills Cop 3, The Truth About Cats & Dogs, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. The Sting, Surf Ninjas, etc.) but it will suffice to say that Santa Monica has become a huge part of the identity of Los Angeles and the entertainment industry in Hollywood as a whole. The beach-side area stretching between Santa Monica and Venice Beach is roughly referred to as “Dogtown” by some locals and skateboard enthusiasts, proving that Santa Monica is home to much more than the Hollywood crowd. Santa Monica has some of the best shopping, restaurants, beach strolls, bike rides, sun tans, beach combers, and gnarly surfer dudes & chicks. It’s time to dig into some of the finer points and learn more, but first please have a step inside our office with the interactive map below.
The embedded Google map below places you directly inside our office in the heart of Santa Monica. Our tours depart from Poseidon Surf Shop, which is just a block down from the Santa Monica Pier. Feel free to walk outside and look around a bit.
Can You Provide Me With a General History of Santa Monica, As If You Were Doing a Middle-School Assignment?
Yes, absolutely. It’s said that in 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a Spanish Conquistador dropped his anchor in Santa Monica Bay. Fast forward a couple hundred years through Spanish colonization of present-day California and the city of Santa Monica was founded in 1875, July 10, by a wealthy U.S. Senator and a businessman who came here during the gold rush to sell mining supplies and raise cattle. Santa Monica wasn’t selected as the port for the city of Los Angeles, which might have been disappointing to those invested at the time, but this decision allowed Santa Monica to grow into the endearing community beach-town it is today with a vibrant history and an even more vibrant community.
What Is There to Do In Santa Monica?
Santa Monica has a little bit of everything, and your options are always changing. We post articles on a monthly basis that highlight some of the things going on around town so we definitely recommend checking those posts out for more details.
The Santa Monica Pier is the must-see when visiting Santa Monica, and the pier is central to most other attractions so you’ll generally want to start from here. There are rides and carnival games on the boardwalk, tons of good food, and a beautiful beach that stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions. There are lifeguards stationed in Santa Monica during the Summer, and Surfing or jumping in the water is always an option.
The 3rd-street Promenade features great shopping in a unique outdoor environment, and a quick stroll down the beach will land you right in the heart of Venice Beach. We’ll save that for another post, but it’s definitely well within walking distance.
Want to rent a surf, paddle or boogie board in Santa Monica? Visit https://www.poseidonstandup.com/ for board rentals and lessons right next to the Pier. (pro-tip: our tours depart from Poseidon Surf Shop in Santa Monica, so consider making a reservation while you’re down there for the tour if you haven’t already.)
Visiting Santa Monica – What to Do As a Tourist in Santa Monica
If you’re coming to Santa Monica for the first time, especially if you can’t stay for long, you’ll want to get the most out of it. You can find Malibu just north, and Venice Beach just south of Santa Monica, but we’ll keep all of our suggestions within city limits for this post. You can visit the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, and the 3rd Street Promenade all without ever having to move your car or catch an Uber, so this is an easy chunk to check off the list. Check out some other locations below and look out for future updates on this post with more details on each of these locations.
- The Santa Monica Pier: You really ‘ought to know what this is by now. Visit this link if you plan on visiting the pier before or after your tour and want a quick traveler’s guide
- The 3rd Street Promenade: Beachside shopping & dining.
- Palisades Park: The Palisades Park sits atop a cliff overlooking the Santa Monica State Beach. It isn’t far, at any point you can jump on the stairs or the incline and go down to the beach and the pier, but it’s a beautiful view and a good place to go for a walk.
- Annenberg Community Beach House:
- Tongva Park: directly across the street from our office Tongva park sits with some amazing sculptures, picnic benches, play area for the kids, and its own babbling brook.
- Montana Avenue:
- Bergamot Station Art Complex (free admission, free parking): This creative complex used to be a train station back in the 50s, find amazing rotating art exhibits across a number of different galleries and workshops. Completely Free*