Fun Things To Do In Santa Monica (California) — For Los Angeles and the surrounding Los Angeles County, Santa Monica is the most popular seaside destination. It’s a lovely city with consistent sunshine and a long stretch of coastline. The city draws over seven million visitors each year thanks to its location, which is less than 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles.
Santa Monica is bustling with undeniable excitement. The lapping waves on its western boundary provide energy, as well as visceral thrill from the pedestrian-friendly downtown district, which is bustling with activity well into the night. Palisades Park, set above a coastal bluff overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Monica State Beach, exemplifies the city’s nautical spirit.
Walking down the Santa Monica Pier, which also serves as the beachfront terminus of Historic Route 66, is a must-do on any visit. Many Southern California vacations are defined by this tourist-friendly boardwalk, which features amusement park rides as well as miles-long views of the ocean.
So, why not pack your bags and begin planning your next Southern California adventure with these fun things to do in Santa Monica (California)?
Are you looking for the best things to do in Santa Monica (California)? Santa Monica is the ideal seaside town with a diverse range of activities. Santa Monica, more than Malibu or Venice Beach, captures the perfect combination of seaside charm and coastal elegance. As a result, it is a very appealing travel destination. With only 8.3 square miles, Santa Monica is a highly walkable city with a laid-back vibe.
Santa Monica has a diverse range of attractions, so you’ll never be stuck for things to do. Your plan can be as complex or as easy as you want it to be. Fill your days with museum-hopping and shopping in world-class stores, or simply relax on the beach while you watch the world go by.
What Are The Things To Do In Santa Monica (California)?
Santa Monica is one of the world’s most well-known (and popular) beach resorts. Santa Monica offers family entertainment, a casual ambiance, and easy access to Los Angeles in addition to its unending coastline.
There aren’t many better venues to learn about California’s beach culture than here. Make a sand castle for yourself and spend your days soaking in the sun, playing volleyball, or learning to surf. Rent bikes and ride them along the Strand to Venice Beach, or rent roller skates and skate the length of the Santa Monica Pier, or check out all of the amusement park rides.
The beaches, restaurants, cafes, and sunny tourist attractions of Santa Monica are well-known. If you enjoy the sun and the bustle of a small but lively town, there are a variety of places to visit, things to see, as well as things to do.
If the beach isn’t your thing, there are lots of art galleries, stores, and restaurants to visit, as well as live dance and theatrical performances throughout the summer. Universal Studios, Disneyland, and the dazzling lights of LA are all just a short drive away. Santa Monica is the ideal location for discovering new activities in Southern California. There are plenty of exciting things to do in Santa Monica, whether you’re a surfer or prefer a stroll down the iconic pier.
Are you unsure where you should head first? No sweat!
Here are our picks for the fun things to do and places to visit in Santa Monica (California):
1. Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is undoubtedly one of California’s most famous landmarks. Located along Route 66’s beachside stop, it’s great for the whole family (including pets) and offers a variety of activities. Pacific Park, which contains a roller coaster, and, of course, the lovely Ferris wheel that lights up beautifully at night, are among the pier’s attractions.
There’s the Playland Arcade for fun games, a carousel with a long history, and the quirky and fascinating Santa Monica Pier Aquarium to discover. You can also hire a bike, visit a gift or beach shop, or simply wander down the pier and take in the scenery. Musicians perform all along the boardwalk, and it’s always busy enough for individuals as one of Santa Monica’s most famous attractions.
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
2. Santa Monica State Beach
Santa Monica State Beach stretches approximately 3.5 miles along the California coast, separating the shore from the rest of the city. It’s packed with activities, and it’s undoubtedly one of the fun things to do in Santa Monica (California).
You can hire bikes, go to a picnic area, swim under lifeguard supervision, take your kids to the playground, or book water sports equipment at this fantastic state beach. There are also numerous walkways that allow you to simply wander through the beautiful sand, with chess tables, volleyball courts, and small scenic areas.
Naturally, this beach is popular for doing typical beach activities like building sandcastles, sitting on the sand beside the ocean, going for a quick swim, and working on a tan. It provides nothing less than the ideal beach experience, which is why it’s a great place to unwind.
Address: Ocean Ave at Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
3. Annenberg Community Beach House
The Annenberg Community Beach House, located just north of the Santa Monica Pier, is a large public facility. It began as a privately owned beach mansion in the 1920s, during California’s Gold Coast era, and belonged to none other than Marion Davies.
The Annenberg Community Beach House is now owned by the state, and it’s one of Santa Monica’s top attractions. It’s been transformed into a cultural center by the ocean, and it’s a fantastic spot for anyone looking for a weekend getaway.
There are playgrounds, beach cords, a splash pad and a swimming pool at this beach house, all soaked in the rich and joyous beach town splendor of the roaring 20s. It still has the reputation of being the hub of the beach community, just as it did when Marion Davies owned it. There are even free tours and rotating art exhibits!
Address: 415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica, CA 90402, United States
4. Looff Hippodrome
The Looff Hippodrome is named for its founder, Charles Looff, a well-known German. In the late 1800s, Looff was based in Brooklyn, but he was known all throughout the country for designing some of the most elegant and magnificent carousel rides.
After completing his works on the East Coast, Looff relocated to Long Beach, California, where the Santa Monica Pier was progressively gaining popularity. The city of Santa Monica was investing much in the improvement of that pier at the time, and commissioned Looff to perform his magic.
They handed him the entire pier to work with, and he and his sons started building Pleasure Pier. Looff’s concept included constructing a hippodrome amusement park. In Greek history, a hippodrome was essentially an open-air stadium.
Hippodromes were traditionally used for chariot races, but Looff had grand plans for the “stadium,” which included circle swings, a magnificent carousel, a roller coaster, a café, a dance hall, as well as a Wurlitzer. The pier’s most exciting highlight was the entertaining and thrilling entertainment site.
Before Looff died in the middle of a new building for extensions to his masterpiece, the Looff Hippodrome was a huge success. All new upgrades were halted, although the existing rides remained operational and popular. When the community considered deconstructing the pier in order to build a resort, a set of powerful storms nearly destroyed the two-story oval structure first.
The Pier Restoration and Development Task Force, which was founded in 1983, eventually succeeded in obtaining historical landmark designation for the Looff Hippodrome. It was later restored to its former splendor, however it still lacks the important Looff carousel, which was replaced with a 1922 model. The Looff Hippodrome is still one of the most desirable places to visit in town, despite its changes over the years.
Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
5. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area consists of delightful Mediterranean sightseeing options and is regarded as one of the most attractive places to visit in the United States. The mountains abruptly and strikingly reach the sea, creating one of California’s must-see tourist sites, stretching from Oxnard and beyond.
There are numerous activities to enjoy in this national leisure area. Riding a horse, participating in sports, mountain biking, or visiting a recreational area are all options. You can go surfing in the water below or even climb a mountain on the same day!
There are over 20 parks in the area, with Point Mugu State Park, Topanga Creek State Park, and Malibu Creek State Park among the most popular. With all of its campgrounds and attractions, the majority of its 500-mile stretch is open to the public.
Address: 401 W Hillcrest Dr, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360, United States
6. Third Street Promenade
Third Street Promenade is in the heart of downtown Santa Monica, serving as the town’s commerce and entertainment centre in a very California fashion. It extends three blocks east of the Santa Monica Pier and is completely traffic-free. This pedestrian-friendly haven is a nice spot to go for some urban sightseeing.
Third Street Promenade, which is effectively an outdoor shopping mall, is packed with shops, boutiques, cafés, and more. You’ll find well-known retail and restaurant chains, as well as some more unique local options. A large number of street musicians provide entertainment, much to the delight of the gathering, as they demonstrate their skills. Keep an eye out for events conducted throughout the year!
Address: 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
7. Santa Monica Farmers Market
The Santa Monica Farmers Market is open every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday throughout the year, regardless of the weather. So if you go this weekend, you’ll be sure to witness the finest of what the area has to offer in terms of local goods. The Farmers Market has become a tradition in this California hamlet since 1979. Local produce, nuts, flowers, freshly caught fish, locally harvested cheese, locally harvested meat and more are all available for purchase.
The Farmers Market also hosts a variety of events, including street musician performances and live culinary demos. Fresh and hot meals are served from several stalls all through the market, providing lots of options for a fast savory snack. This is one of the locations you should visit because of the diverse products and amazing selection!
8. California Heritage Museum
The California Heritage Museum is housed in a mansion built during the Victorian era. Its structure is known as the Roy Jones House, and it welcomes tourists to Santa Monica by providing them with all kinds of knowledge about the amazing and diverse state, rendering it one of the best places to go on vacation to get this kind of education.
The heritage museum includes a wide range of subjects. It’s full of cultural influences from all across the world. It is home to celebrities, rural areas enjoy modern conveniences, and renewable energy is farmed in vast dry sand. It’s quite amazing!
This museum examines all of the causes that contribute to the state’s current situation. This place has it all, whether you want to study about the ecology of the Pacific Ocean, the state’s cultural history, the Golden Age of Cinema, the architecture of the Roy Jones mansion, or even the origins of skateboarding.
The Jones family’s history and the house’s legacy are highlighted in this permanent exhibit. Throughout the year, temporary exhibits revolve, each conveying a story through documents, artifacts, images, and memorabilia. There’s so much to see and do here that it’s one of the most fun things to do in Santa Monica (California).
Address: 2612 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405, United States
9. Route 66 End of the Trail Sign
Many things make Santa Monica, California famous, but one of them is a simple road: Route 66. It’s perhaps the country’s most renowned route, and it was once just one stop on the East-to-West migration path. The rambling, winding road became less popular when the Interstate Highway System was established, but 85 percent of it is still in use today.
Few people realize that Route 66 comes to an end at Santa Monica, which is where the Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is located. Highway 66 was formally decommissioned in 1985, and there have been many rumors regarding where the original sign is located, with some suggesting it is just a movie prop.
Although the Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is not an official highway sign, it is still a popular tourist attraction in Santa Monica. It’s also entertaining to guess about its various rumors, and it’s one of the town’s free attractions. The road will lead you through old-fashioned diners with neon lights, and it’s rather nostalgic to drive down and admire the world left behind at the end of the road. With that in mind, this is a fantastic destination to visit if you’re looking for something a little different in town.
Address: 330 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
10. Palisades Park
Palisades Park is unquestionably one of the nicest places to visit in California! It’s a bluff-top park that gives you the most amazing views of the coastline, located between Ocean Avenue and the gorgeous beach. This 26-acre park is a favorite of both locals and tourists.
Rose bushes, palm trees, seaside vistas, and seating spots can be found all around, making this one of the greatest town spaces in town. Palisades Park is also connected to a variety of other attractions and contains several of its own, including art installations, pétanque courts, and beach access. Remember to take a walk to Inspiration Point on the northern side for the best views!
Address: Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
11. Bergamot Station Arts Center
Bergamot Station Arts Center is known not only in California, but throughout the world as a creative location full of art and beauty. This property served as a train station between 1875 and 1953, after which it was used for various warehouse functions in the manufacturing and packaging sectors.
The abandoned lot was eventually purchased by the city of Santa Monica, and its five acres were reopened as the Bergamot Station Arts Center that we know today in 1994. It’s packed with changing exhibits that feature a mix of contemporary and classical works from artists from all around the world.
Because parking and admission are both free, it’s known as one of the most enjoyable and fun things to do in Santa Monica (California). The building’s architecture is quite stunning and well worth examining. As you near the end of your tour, you’ll come upon a cafe selling hot drinks and delicious treats — a fitting finale after all that art!
Address: 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404, United States
12. Museum of Flying
Aviation enthusiasts, take note! The Museum of Flying is perhaps one of the most interesting locations to visit in California. It measures 22,000 square feet and is conceptually located near the Santa Monica airport. The Museum of Flying showcases the evolution of technology in the aviation sector over time, documenting its changes, development, and growth.
A diverse collection of displays and exhibits allows for extensive coverage, making it one of Santa Monica’s most informative attractions. This museum has a diverse collection of airplanes on display. You’ll see jet age craft, a replica Wright flyer, and a Boeing 727 nosepiece.
Many of South California’s aviation companies are represented, including Northrop, Hughes Aircraft, Boeing, Lockheed, and North American. The children’s area with hands-on exhibits, an aircraft display plaza outside, the theater with documentaries and films, guided tours, and also an interactive flight simulator are all fantastic things to do here!
Address: 3100 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405, United States
13. Pono Burger
Pono Burger offers a unique alternative to the normal greasy, fatty burgers found everywhere else in California. It specializes in healthy burgers and other meals produced with 100 percent organic, locally sourced ingredients. The beef is grass-fed, the burgers are hand-crafted, and you may order craft beer, fries, milkshakes, and sandwiches to go with your burger.
Chef Makani, a Hawaii native, runs Pono Burger, which has a joyful, vibrant, and eccentric atmosphere. It’s stylish, inviting, and utterly delectable. Pono Burger is just one of the best things to do in Santa Monica for lunch or dinner, so stop by for lunch or supper!
Address: 829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
14. Santa Monica Camera Obscura
The Santa Monica Camera Obscura is located in Palisades Park, right in the center of town. It is contained within a small room with a lockable door. Simply knock on the door next to it and you’ll be given a key in exchange for temporarily leaving your driver’s license at the front desk. A big white disk with a wheel sits in the modest room.
It allows you to project an image onto the disk by shifting a mirror and lens from a turret. The image merely adopts the shape of whatever is currently going through the outside. The Camera Obscura is regarded to be one of the first optical inventions in the world, dating back to ancient Greece.
According to some experts, Renaissance painters would have used it and similar technology to transmit images onto their paintings. Such cameras became popular tourist attractions along the sea in both America and Europe throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Robert F. Jones built this camera in 1898, and it was given to this California community in 1907.
It was set up in the Adult Recreation Center after 50 years of photographing the world on the beach and pier. Today, the center, which is still housed in its mid-century structure, serves the art and cultural community by hosting events and seminars. Its centerpiece is the Camera Obscura. Only a few of these cameras are still operational in the country. To think that this hidden gem is so close to a popular tourist spot! As a result, this is one of the places you should visit, particularly if you are interested in photography.
Address: 1450 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
15. Santa Monica Stairs
The Santa Monica Stairs were never intended to be a tourist destination in California, but the hidden gem neatly tucked into an unassuming residential area has recently acquired popularity, particularly among the fitness-oriented people. Over 300 concrete and wood steps make up the public promenade, and anyone climbing up or down will feel the heat in their legs. The particular details of this distinct and uncommon spot include 199 concrete steps and 170 wood steps spanning two sets of stairs.
The concrete stairs have a banister for stability, but the wooden stairs are broader, so it’s really up to you which one works best. If you’re lucky, there could be some grab-and-pay water bottles at the top of the steps, offered for $1 on an unsupervised honor system. It’s not uncommon to see individuals exercising on the stairs, and this could be one of the unintentionally cool things for tourists to try at least once while here.
Some seasoned experts can be seen doing pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, or simply jumping rope between their laps of the stairwell. Keep in mind that because this is a residential area’s stairway, there are no facilities, so if you need to use the restroom, you’ll have to rush over to Ocean Avenue.
Address: 699 Adelaide Dr, Santa Monica, CA 90402, United States
16. Tongva Park
Are you looking for the best and most enjoyable things to do in California? Tongva Park is a six-acre park in the southern section of Santa Monica Pier, right off Ocean Avenue. This urban park has everything you need for a pleasant and relaxed evening, with just enough activities and sights to keep you busy but not too much.
The location was previously a parking lot, but Los Angeles transformed it into a green space. Gardens, sculptures, playgrounds, a fountain, and picnic areas provide for enjoyable treks across the space, and the complementing ocean breeze from the California coast is always a plus. It’s calm and modest, yet it does the trick as an exquisite and idyllic built area to relax your feet and mind.
Address: 1615 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
17. Sweet Rose Creamery
Sweet Rose Creamery, a small and quaint establishment, serves some of California’s greatest ice cream. Shiho Yoshikawa, an executive chef, and his business partners Josh Loeb with Zoe Nathan first opened it in Brentwood Park in 2010. It now has five locations in the neighborhood, each of which uses organic, locally sourced ingredients to make high-quality treats.
Sweet Rose Creamery has a wide variety of flavors to choose from. Classics like chocolate and mint chips are available, as well as more unusual flavors like cherimoya coconut and sweet potato swirl. There are also dairy-free sorbets available, with flavors including kiwi and horchata coconut. Sweet Rose Creamery is among the most highly rated ice cream shops in the area!
Address: 225 26th St #51, Santa Monica, CA 90402, United States
18. Santa Monica Place
A trip around Santa Monica Place is perhaps one of the fun things to do in Santa Monica (California), if you enjoy shopping. It includes both well-known and lesser-known businesses and eateries. The shops you may recognize, such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, have local twists, which is very interesting.
For example, local designers create both stock accessories and fashion trends, and Bloomingdales has more than a hundred original art pieces on display. Head up to the rooftop for a fun dinner and a great eating experience. There are so many different cuisines to pick from that you’re bound to discover something you enjoy!
Address: 395 Santa Monica Pl, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
19. Broad Stage
Broad Stage has been a part of the Santa Monica Performing Arts Center since 2008. It seats 500 people and is the most sophisticated and technologically advanced performing arts venue in this California town. It’s also the largest, and its diverse range of performances makes it the best venue in town for stage shows!
The Broad Stage’s calendar is filled with musicals, theatrical events, symphonies, dance acts, as well as orchestral performances. It’s a wonderful spot to go for great entertainment at any time of day or night. Are you looking for something a little more intimidating? Make your way to The Edye, an adjacent theater that hosts performances.
Address: 1310 11th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States
jAdis should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Santa Monica (California) if you’re seeking for fun things to do in Santa Monica (California). It’s a one-of-a-kind place that is chock-full of science fiction artifacts and paraphernalia, antique scientific instruments, and an ever-growing collection. Parke Meek, an antique collector and well-known furniture designer, founded jAdis. He and his girlfriend Susan Leiberman founded jAdis together three decades ago.
It began as a science “museum” that primarily centered on Meek’s interesting private collection of all kinds of scientific curiosities before expanding to include a prop rental service. Meek’s items have appeared in a variety of series and films, including The X-Files, Batman and Robin, and Waterworld. jAdis also has several fascinating copies, such as a headpiece from the Lost Children’s town and a Metropolis robot.
jAdis was closed to the public for a long period, only open to private collectors and movie studios, but it was reopened for a few hours weekly with a $1 entry fee a few years later. Meek passed away in 2010. jAdis continues its practice of offering low-cost admission to the general people. It is presently run by Leiberman, who also owns a store next door, and Mel Bloch, a longtime Meek friend.
Throughout the store, there is a mix of memorabilia and objects developed by Meek himself. Throughout this highly unique store, you’ll find Van de Graaf generators, switchboards, Tesla coils, antique orreries, celestial spheres and more!
Address: 2701 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405, United States
Visiting other areas of California? Why not check out some of the most amazing things to do in Gilroy?
Where to Stay in Santa Monica (California) for Sightseeing
• Oceana offers a coastal hideaway on Ocean Avenue for an exquisite vacation in Santa Monica. The hotel provides a tranquil oasis amid all the action, being just minutes away from the beach, boardwalk, and downtown eating.
It has 70 personalized suites with an excellent but relaxed decor that complements the seaside setting. The hotel features a full-service spa, complimentary outdoor yoga, and beach butler service. On-site dining options include two full-service restaurants.
• The Santa Monica Proper Hotel’s laid-back luxury is evident the moment you enter into the well-lit living room that doubles as the hotel’s lobby. The hotel’s pleasant coastal-inspired design is highlighted by the ocean breeze and dazzling sunshine.
The rest of the facility, including the 271 rooms and suites, is furnished with organic materials. Other resort amenities include a rooftop pool, a full-service spa, and on-site ocean-view restaurants, in addition to an undeniably luxurious style.
• Another magnificent hotel with a great location is the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot. The beach, pier, and 3rd Street Promenade are all within easy walking distance. The hotel offers luxurious spaces to ease up between adventures, in addition to its outstanding location.
Standard rooms and suites with views of the city or the ocean are available for overnight stays. Two on-site restaurants, one with patio seating and another with a full French-American menu, draw both visitors and the public alike.
• One of the closest hotels to the Santa Monica Pier is the Shore Hotel. Despite its central position, this hotel maintains a reasonable rate. The hotel is also known for being one of the few Gold LEED overnight accommodations.
Solar energy production, stormwater treatment, as well as in climate management are just a few of their sustainable efforts. Each accommodation has a balcony and plenty of natural light, with most rooms offering views of nature or the ocean.
• Located in a quiet neighborhood just a few blocks from downtown, The Ambrose Hotel provides a more authentic Santa Monica experience. It’s close enough to all the tourist attractions while being far enough away to unwind after a day of sightseeing.
The hotel’s California craftsmanship is evident throughout, particularly the elegant outdoor courtyard. Traditional king rooms to luxury king studios with personal terrace and fireplace are available for overnight stays.
• Ocean View Hotel, located across from Palisades Park and a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier, offers a lovely stay at a more inexpensive price. The hotel takes pleasure in its coastal decor and beach elegance aesthetics.
The pleasant lobby area, as well as all 67 rooms, reflect this style. Nespresso coffee makers in each room, pillow-top mattresses, and ocean views all contribute to a relaxing visit.
• The Santa Monica Motel is usually a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers or anybody who likes a good price. The beach is only seven blocks away from this elegant beach resort. It has a great reputation for hygiene and customer service, which adds to its overall worth.
Single-queen rooms and double-bed rooms are available. Free internet service as well as complimentary coffee in the lobby are among the convenient features.
• The Rest Haven Motel, which opened in 1938, still has inexpensive overnight rates. The motel has a variety of rooms and cottages, each with its own decor and decorations. Flat-screen TVs, fans, and internet connection are among the amenities in the rooms.
The 3rd Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier are both a short drive or 20-minute walk from the motel when it’s time to explore the city.
• The Ocean Lodge Hotel, located near the Santa Monica Pier, is one of Ocean Avenue’s top hotel deals. This popular budget-friendly motel has 20 newly remodeled rooms with a light and fluffy coastal decor.
Throughout the day, the lobby serves complimentary coffee and tea. Free internet service and surfboard rentals are two additional perks that contribute to the overall value.
As more people opt for well-spaced outdoor activities, Santa Monica provides a wide range of options. Going to the coast is always a fantastic idea, whether you’re wanting to relax and listen to the waves or ride them on a surfboard. No matter when you visit, Santa Monica’s stunning 26-mile coastline and sunny year-round climate tempt even the most fierce indoor cat to go outside.
The beachside California community, just 15 miles from Los Angeles, is filled with open-air shopping and restaurants, farmers’ markets, more than 100 miles of bike lanes, 20 parks, and a stretch of break that attracts surfers of all levels.
Santa Monica has maintained its beach town attractiveness over the years, despite the addition of luxurious beachfront hotels, excellent restaurants, and high-end stores. Today, you may have the best of both worlds: wide California beaches with surfing and volleyball, as well as a sophisticated city-within-a-city feel.
Santa Monica attractions definitely represent the best of the town. They’re vibrant, culturally diverse, wonderful for shopping and dining, and sprinkled with a dash of history. When it comes to what to see, where to go, and what entertaining things to do, you’re definitely spoiled for choice.
Hopefully, this list has assisted you in selecting your favorite activities in one of California’s best towns!
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