Santa Monica  was originally developed as a seaside retreat at the turn of the 20th century. The railroad owners built the first version of the amusement park on Santa Monica pier as an attraction to fill empty train seats on weekends. Santa Monica grew into an urban, eclectic, and prosperous beach city whose real estate values are amongst the most pricey in the world. Santa Monica is a very desirable city whose people are drawn to its accessibility and its progressiveness as a community. Today, Santa Monica is a mixture of very affluent, single-family neighborhoods, renters drawn by the high quality of life, lifelong surfers, young professionals and students.
Tourists visiting the Los Angeles region will find Santa Monica as one of the best situated locations to base their trip. There are plenty of hotel, restaurant and entertainment options, as well as close accessibility to major sights like Venice Beach, Malibu and Beverly Hills. Visitors will also note the beach cities' moderate climate; during the summer and fall, as the mercury soars to 100 in the San Fernando Valley and 90 downtown, Santa Monica usually remains at a very comfortable 75 degrees.
Santa Monica has three Visitor Information Centers  that feature experienced Travel Counselors, foreign language line, tickets to area attractions and free visitor information on attractions, hotels, dining, museums, galleries and entertainment.
Santa Monica is named for the idyllic and secluded ‘’’Kuruvungna Springs’’’ that reminded an early settler of the tears of Saint Monica (the mother of St. Augustine). The springs don’t actually fall within the city’s limits but are in West L.A on the campus of University High School. The small city began as landholdings by a few Spanish families who subdivided their properties in the 18th century to form the 8.5 square mile city.
The small city is packed with historical landmarks and buildings that attract the attention of tourists and locals alike. Beautiful seaside Palisades Park is home to a number of monuments. At one point, Santa Monica was home to the longest pier in the world, named the Long Wharf and measuring nearly 5000 feet long to accommodate large ships and even a train. The Long Wharf no longer exists, save for a plaque and a set of train tracks leading to nowhere.
The park is also home to the statue of Santa Monica by sculptor Eugene Morahan erected in 1934. It was given to the city by the federal government in honor of the strength of mothers everywhere. At 18’ high, it is now just one part of the citywide public art works program.
The 3rd Street Promenade has existed almost in its current form since the beginning of the city. 3rd St. was the original business district for Santa Monica. The street was closed to traffic in 1965 as an urban planning move to stop the exodus of businesses to the suburbs. The open air pedestrian mall experienced moderate success until its renaissance in the 1980 when the addition of restaurants, live music and special events drew in the huge crowds it currently experiences.
The famous Santa Monica Pier has been part of the city’s culture since the start of the 20th century. It was constructed in the middle of the American love affair with the amusement park. All along California’s coast, pier owners competed with each other to create bigger and better parks. There are pieces of the history of The Pier throughout its current iteration. Perhaps not as well known, the amusement park was originally built to conceal the true purpose of the 1,600 foot pier; to dispose of sewage in the ocean. Ultimately, the sewage pipeline was closed in the 1920s but the pier remained. It survived through a century filled with depression, war and occasionally waning public interest. It’s currently a must-see landmark and popular attraction for any visitor to the city.
Santa Monica takes pride in its history of artists, counterculture and beach bum attitudes. In recent years, its popularity among celebrities and the arrival of corporations like Yahoo and Google has challenged the artistic heritage of the town. However, visitors will still find bold public art projects, free cultural events, widespread live music and focus on healthy and holistic living; all in an idyllic seaside location.
The mild year-round weather is part of what attracts so many visitors to Santa Monica. It’s perched on the wide open Santa Monica Bay, a location that tempers the weather regardless of the season. With over 300 days of sunshine a year, the most inclement weather the city experiences is hail and high wind. The location is classified as a Subtropical Mediterranean climate, exchanging four demarcated seasons for temperate year round weather in a wet and dry season.
Summer in Santa Monica is typically 10-15 degrees cooler than inland temperatures. Late spring brings with it May gray or June gloom when mists off the bay will frequently settle on the city in the morning. Overcast skies are common for June, but the summer sun will frequently burn them off by noon. Average temperatures in July through October hover around 70 during the day, and drop to a low of 60 at night. The hottest temperatures occur during September. The weather can also be highly localized, with overcast skies at the beach while the sun is shining further inland. As a general rule, the beach will be 5-10 degrees cooler than even a few blocks away from Ocean Avenue.
Winter is described as “rainy season”, with the most precipitation falling November through March. The greatest average rainfall takes place in February, when the city typically sees around 3.5 inches of rain. Winter storms move in quickly from the top of the Bay in the Northwest through the city and then heading inland.
Visitors can expect that temperatures won’t stray more than 10 degrees from the average, so in the summer it likely won’t get hotter than 80 and winter nights probably won’t fall below 40. In recent years, winter storms occasionally struck the greater Los Angeles area with trace amounts of snowfall. However, Santa Monica itself is generally exempt from snow and precipitation is restricted to rain.
Counter culture creatives have always been drawn to the seaside town of Santa Monica. Musicians, actors and writers all make their way to the town at the edge of America, the terminal point of Route 66. In recent years, locals have bemoaned the decline of the alternative lifestyle in the face of increasing amounts of A-list celebrities, tech giants and wealthy corporations making their homes there. Creative intellectuals still flock to Santa Monica to live and play, drawn by the prevalence of galleries, free cultural events, bookshops and lectures. They can be found right alongside the beach bums and surfers who maintain the city’s steadfastly laid back attitude.
In terms of population, it’s still a small city with less than 100,000 people making their homes in the eight square miles. According to the 2010 census, residents are predominately white (almost 80%), with the next largest demographic being Asian (9%) and much smaller populations of African American, Native American and Pacific Islander. The city also has extremes of affluence and poverty. The median income for individuals is over 70K, but there’s a high homeless population on the beaches, in the parks and panhandling in the tourist-heavy districts.
These days the city attracts a wide variety of people, from students and hipsters to the rich and famous. Celebrities like Dennis Quaid, Jeremy Piven, Jack Black and Larry David make their home in Santa Monica, and the city’s shopping districts and restaurants are some of the best places for celebrity sightings. Amateur paparazzi can cut their teeth alongside the pros who favor the little city for getting the shots that will pay out big.
The see-and-be-seen culture of Hollywood doesn’t affect resident or visitors to Santa Monica. Instead, the vibe encourages people to do what feels good, from a focus on healthy and holistic food, the prevalence of yoga studios, or just retail therapy in the numerous shopping districts. Visitors to the city can expect locals to be warm and friendly, and shouldn’t be surprised if they find the city’s positive attitude infectious.
Santa Monica is California’s paradise; an idyllic seaside town with warm nights and sunny, beach-filled days. The small town attracts both established and aspiring authors inspired by the liberal Pacific coast lifestyle. Writing workshops, book signing and lectures are all regular fixtures in Santa Monica culture. Perhaps because of its station at the end of Route 66, Santa Monica has established itself in the American consciousness as a place where people can escape to, free of responsibilities. Novels set in the small city frequently tackle expansive themes, such as the struggle to achieve the California dream, affluence and American longing.
Santa Monica is located at the western terminus of Interstate 10 (also known as the Santa Monica Freeway), about 15 miles west of downtown Los Angeles and 7 miles north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The city is roughly bounded by Centinela Blvd to the east, Ocean Park Blvd to the south, San Vicente Blvd to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The tourist center of Santa Monica is the downtown area located near the famous Santa Monica Pier, which was once the western end of historic Route 66. By car, take the 10 Freeway to the 4th/5th Street exit, then head left toward the ocean. From the north, turn left off the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1) at the California Incline, which deposits you just a few blocks north of the pier.
Santa Monica is accessible by bus  from throughout the Los Angeles region. Take 720 (night owl line 20) from downtown LA or 704 (night owl Line 04) from Union Station. The fare is $2.25; buses run every two to ten minutes during rush hour, every ten to twenty minutes otherwise. Lines 720/20 travel via Wilshire Boulevard between downtown LA and Santa Monica, and Lines 704/04 travel via Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard between downtown LA and Santa Monica. Lines 720 and 704 are faster than Lines 20 and 04. Lines 720/20 connect to the LA Metro Red Line at Union Station and at the Vermont/Santa Monica station; Lines 704/04 connect to the LA Metro Red Line at the 7th Street Metro Center and at the Vermont/Wilshire station.
A Rapid 10 Big Blue Bus, the downtown LA express 10, runs between Union Station/downtown LA and Santa Monica . Big Blue Bus express fare is $2. Also, the Rapid 10 Big Blue Bus connects Santa Monica to the Red Line and the Blue Line in Los Angeles subway system. Good for both local and express routes, the day pass for the Big Blue Bus is $4. The Day Pass can be purchased from the Big Blue Bus driver on board the bus. The 13 Rides pass for the Big Blue Bus is also available: add $1 to include the express routes. To purchase the 13 Rides pass, go to the online store, the Transit Store, or an authorized location.
If you are arriving via LAX, you and your luggage can access the Santa Monica Downtown area for $1 by taking airport shuttle C and asking the driver to let you off closest to the stop for Big Blue Bus line 3 . Once you step off the shuttle, exit the lot, and turn right, and look for a blue triangular-shaped sign at the corner of the street. Buses arrive every 15-20 minutes on weekdays, and every 15-30 minutes on weekends; this is a regular route, the fare is $1.00. Also, Big Blue Bus line 3 connects Santa Monica to the Los Angeles light rail Green Line at Aviation Station.
Santa Monica Airport (ICAO: KSMO) is popular for general aviation and business jet travelers. Air taxi and air charter companies such as Monarch Air Group , Mercury Jets , The Early Air Way , Paramount Business Jets ,Crest Jets , New Flight Charters , Great Circle Aviation , Jetset Charter , Desert Jet  and Prive Jets  fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstreams down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals.
For commercial passengers, the closest airport is LAX just a short drive south.
The city is under 10 square miles, so getting around is fairly easy. A number of options for navigating the city are designed to be convenient and approachable for tourists. Hotels will likely have resources to help you find the best way to get where you're going, whether it’s the beach, a restaurant down the street or a district on the other side of the city.
The ‘’’Big Blue Bus’’’ services not only Santa Monica but also the west side of L.A., so travelers who are looking to do a day trip into Los Angeles don't need a car. The routes are numbered logically and run along the major boulevards or make loops around the city. The website offers a trip planner that helps bus users find exactly what route they need as well as a timetable. Depending on the route, buses come from every 10 minutes to once an hour. It’s worth it to snag one of the ‘’Little Blue Books’’ that has bus routes and schedules, or check online before heading out to make sure you’ll catch the bus when you need it.
Coming in 2016, Santa Monica will get a light rail system to relieve the gridlock of Interstate 10 from L.A. to the beach. There will be three stations in the city, as well as a bicycle path, and will get riders to downtown Los Angeles in 50 minutes. Stations will be at 26th St/Bergamot, 17th St/Santa Monica College and Downtown and 4th St/Colorado.
Santa Monica has its own regional airport, about six miles north of LAX. It services private and chartered planes, but the 227 acres belonging to the airport also include a city park, artist studios, an aviation museum and popular event venues.
Everyone knows how much L.A. residents love their cars, but Santa Monica is so small that it’s not necessary to drive in order to get around. During rush hour and on weekends, the arterial streets are still grid locked with locals and day trippers in from L.A. Visitors who don’t want to spend their whole day stuck behind the wheel can likely get where they need to go by alternative methods. Many of the districts provide parking options, for when you absolutely need your car.
The city is hugely walkable. Once you get to a district, whether by bus or car, it’s easy to stay on foot to get around. There are plenty of parks, cafes and restaurants to take a break while walking or to wait out the traffic that jams up during certain times of day.
Perhaps the best way to get around the city is by bicycle. Many of the bicycle rental companies will deliver beach cruisers, road bikes, mountain bikes, tandems and kids tag-alongs to your hotel. The beach side bicycle path is a great way to get from one side of the city to the other, as well as the car-free 3rd Street Promenade.
Throughout Santa Monica there are numerous pieces of public art to discover. From large murals to huge sculptures, there are almost 40 of these to check out.
Covering nearly 10 square miles of beachside L.A. County, Santa Monica is packed with mile after walkable mile of scenic parks, beaches and promenades. It’s also convenient to LAX, Disneyland, Universal City and Hollywood. Of the notable sites in the city, the most abundant are the works of public art. From sculptures to murals, Santa Monica believes art is a city service.
Santa Monica is composed of eight intimate neighborhoods, all with unique offerings and lots for visitors to explore. The small size of the city is walkable, so visitors can stroll through a few different districts from any of the nearly 40 hotels within the city limits.
Shopping and eating are the two major attractions of Santa Monica. Block after block of the city is filled with cafes, restaurants and shops. But there are plenty of great activities for visitors who want to shake up their vacation and take a break from sunbathing, shopping and eating.
True to the culture of California, Santa Monica is health-conscious and enthusiastic about wellness. There are several bicycle rental companies so visitors can take advantage of the beachside bike paths, as well as the paths through the many city parks. There are almost as many yoga studios as there are coffee shops. A wide variety of practices for different styles and ability levels offer something for everyone from yoga gurus to beginners. Crossfit studios and gyms are found throughout the districts for travelers who can’t miss a workout. And for a day of pampering there are spas featuring organic and holistic services.
A day the beach doesn’t have to be all sunbathing. There are surf instruction schools, volleyball nets and beach-based fitness and yoga classes. ‘’’The Strand’’’ is the path that connects all Westside beach cities, and Santa Monica visitors can bike, rollerblade or jog a few miles to the south to colorful Venice Beach.
Watching over the beach is the Santa Monica Pier, which is full of activities for families, locals and tourists. This old-fashioned amusement park features a huge solar-powered Ferris Wheel that the city has adopted as its icon. There are several rides and a small roller coasters that are all pay-by-ride so visitors can snag a few thrills without a big ticket commitment. The arcade has over 200 games, plus restaurants, shopping, fishing and even a trapeze school all keep visitors busy on the pier.
There’s a vibrant arts scene in Santa Monica. There are over 75 galleries and museums in Mid-City and several other districts feature everything from local talent to internationally-known artists. For those that can’t bring themselves inside a museum while visiting a beach town, Santa Monica provides plenty of culture plein aire. The city takes civic pride in providing public art around the city, and summers in Santa Monica are filled with special events. Live music, street performances and festivals can be found in every district and are usually free.
Santa Monica is considered the more laid back L.A. experience. For shoppers, there’s no shortage of retail opportunities throughout the city. From high end stores to national chains, independent shops with unique finds and tourist spots with souvenirs, there’s a little something for every taste in the beachside city. Santa Monica’s small size makes it easy to cover several districts while walking and there’s plenty of cafes and alfresco restaurants for taking breaks and fueling up for more retail therapy.
Skater shops are sprinkled throughout several shopping districts and are a go-to source for up-and-coming designers and fashions that can’t be found anywhere else.
Montana Avenue is known for being home to more upscale designers. Quaint storefronts for ‘’’Michael Stars’’’, ‘’’Jill Roberts’’’ and ‘’’Margaret O’Leary’’’ are tucked alongside cafes and coffee shops.
For tourists who prefer what they know, or simply need to stock up on some basics, 3rd Street Promenade is the place to find the big box stores like ‘’’Anthropology’’’, ‘’’Forever 21’’’ and ‘’’Sephora’’’. However, the street has been closed to cars since 1965 and is now just a pedestrian shopping district. There’s a definite California feel to the district, with street performers, beach views and palm tree-lined sidewalks. Tucked down a number of the streets off the Promenade are more independent retailers and specialty shops.
Pico Boulevard and Main Street both celebrate independent retailers and are filled with one-of-a-kind home decor, fashions and gifts. Because shopping is tiring work, Main Street is filled with more restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops than some of the other districts. Most of Santa Monica is eco-conscious and many of the retailers in these districts are stocked with products that highlight the reclaimed and recycled. Travelers who want to shop and feel like a local will enjoy the laid back surfer feel through these districts, where locals go for fresh produce at the farmer’s markets and get their daily coffee fix.
For unabashed tourists or devoted fans of California boardwalk culture, Santa Monica Pier is a must-do shopping spot. Visitors can take a ride on the iconic ferris wheel before a meal at one of the many restaurants and stop by a few of the souvenir shops for stocking up on postcards, t-shirts and trinkets for everyone left at home. There's great views of Malibu and South Bay and after dark shoppers can grab a beer and take in the live music frequently on the Pier.
Shoppers who are more foodie than fashion diva have Santa Monica's farmer’s markets. ‘’Travel + Leisure’’ named the four weekly markets in the city some of the best in the country. Rub elbows with locals, L.A. residents and chefs while shopping fresh produce, meat, flowers, cheese and all kind of gourmet treats.
Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Avenue
Eating by the beach is a must-do for any Santa Monica visitor. There are lots of quick-bite options for beach-goers looking to grab a stash before settling into the sand for the day. Those looking for more formal dining options have plenty of places to catch the ocean breeze while chowing down on fresh seafood and local produce.
Main St. is a charming strip next to Ocean Avenue that’s packed with shopping and a dozen cafes, a few bars and plenty of restaurants. For the health-conscious, there are a couple juiceries, and for everyone else there are a few ice cream shops.
Downtown and 3rd Street Promenade
The Promenade is one of the main shopping and tourist drags in the city. In addition to some national chains and casual dining options, you can find some of the most highly-regarded restaurants and cafes in Los Angeles. Many local favorites and great cafes are just off of 3rd Street.
The upscale retail neighborhood billed as Santa Monica’s answer to Rodeo Drive has plenty of places for dedicated shoppers to refuel. Cafe’s, juiceries, ice cream and chocolate shops are all available for a quick stop. There are also several casual dining options, national chains and upscale local favorites.
This district is the place to go when you’re craving Mexican. For travelers on their way to the beautiful ‘’’Palisades Park’’’, there are also several doughnut shops, bakeries and delis to stop for picnic supplies.
They city’s arts district keeps its dining casual. Delis, burger joints and diners can all be found here, along with a couple national chains.
With the Santa Monica Community College and High School both located on Pico Boulevard there are plenty of casual dining options and national chains. There’s also several pizza options, ice cream shops and sandwich joints.
Ocean Park Boulevard
The southernmost district in the city offers visitors everything from Mexican to Japanese and Italian cuisine.
After the shops close for the evening and the sun goes down, Santa Monica lights up with plenty to do. From clubs and dancing, to dive bars and lounges, there's a little something for every personality. Unlike the see-and-be-seen L.A. nightlife, Santa Monica’s attitude is much more beach-casual. Relaxed dress codes are far more common and you won't find strict requirements for entry.
Happy Hour can start as early as noon, but in general the city's drink discounts start around 5 p.m. and wrap up happy hour around 7 p.m. 3rd St Promenade has some of the best happy hour deals in the L.A. area. Along with great people watching, it’s easy to score a drink and an appetizer for around $10.
While in California, a stop at a ‘’’wine bar’’’ is a must. There are several beachside options in the Ocean Avenue district where travelers can pair their glass with a picture-perfect sunset. The wine bars throughout the city tend to be much quieter, even in the late-night hours, than other bars and lounges. Whether for romance and reconnecting with friends, Santa Monica’s wine bars maintain a beach-casual feel, so travelers can focus on the vino and the company rather than being dressed red-carpet ready.
Santa Monica also knows how to do ‘’’dive bars’’’ just right. Pico Boulevard, with its college and locals crowd, has dive bars where drinkers can get a draft beer, play pool and catch the game. Many of the dives have happy hours specials for those looking for a casual place that doesn’t expect them to change out of their beachwear.
Live music can be found all over Santa Monica. Both Downtown and Main Street have venues that showcase local musicians every night of the week, so vacationers heading out mid-week still have a few options for catching live talent. Blues, jazz and funk can all be found in the Ocean Boulevard district. Pico Boulevard is the place to go to dance the night away.
Leave the car at the hotel when you head out for the evening. The city is walkable, but there’s also bicycle rentals and convenient bus routes.
Santa Monica is largely sustained by the tourism industry and to that end there is no shortage of hotels throughout every district in the city. Visitors will find that accommodations on the beach and close to the water are more expensive than those further inland. Santa Monica as a whole is more expensive to stay than other areas of Los Angeles. However, getting around the city is a breeze and visitors may be able to skip a car rental. Both the beach as well as shopping and attractions are within walking distance from most neighborhoods, and many hotels come with additional services such as spas and restaurants. Travelers on a budget may consider visiting off-season in October-February; you risk more rainy days but also avoid crowds and can find cheaper accommodations.
Districts further away from the ocean and high-end retail districts will tend to be cheaper. The arts district, Mid-City is about 20 blocks from the beach, but is on several bus routes and the beach is also easily accessible by bicycle. Pico Boulevard lets travelers with small budgets rub elbows with upscale accommodations, the boulevard neighbors luxury hotels to budget options. The Santa Monica Airport Area has affordable rooms as well as a coffee shops and eateries within walking distance.
Main Street has maintained its artsy bohemian feel despite Santa Monica’s booming popularity over the past 20 years. There are affordable hotels located just blocks from the beach and hotels in this district are walking distance to many restaurants, shops and galleries. Main Street also attracts more locals than some of the other districts, so travelers who prefer to experience authentic local color may prefer staying in this district. The Santa Monica Pier area has affordable hotels mixed in among some of the more luxury establishments, they tend to be smaller with less remarkable views but are still close to the best parts of the city.
Wilshire Boulevard is home to many of the luxury hotels. Just blocks to both the beach and the 3rd Street Promenade the hotels located in this district likely have restaurants and spas on the property. Downtown Santa Monica is off the beach, but many of the hotels in this district feature stunning Pacific Ocean views. Also expect to find top rated restaurants and to be within walking distance to popular attractions, the beach and The Promenade.
With its small size and affluent local population, Santa Monica is a relatively safe city to travel. According to reported crime statistics in 2014, the chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime, such as armed robbery or assault is approximately 4 in 1000. As expected in tourist-heavy locations, it is more likely to be a victim of a property crime, especially in crowded and busy locations. The Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Blvd beach areas have considerably more reported property crimes than the districts further inland.
Santa Monica also has a large population of homeless. Attracted by the mild year round climate, the beaches and parks are some of the few places for them to sleep without being harassed. Locals recommend steering clear of the beach at night, when larger groups of homeless might congregate. Panhandling takes place along ‘’’the strand’’’ path connecting the Westside beaches, as well as in parks and on the 3rd Street Promenade. While an unpleasant encounter with the homeless isn’t common, tourists should stay aware of their surroundings, and keep to main and busy thoroughfares after dark.
When heading out to the beach for the day, leave the cash behind. Try to keep valuables to a minimum and make sure someone is watching over personal belongings at all times. Keep your cell phone on your body, carry minimal cash and stick to using credit cards on the Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade to keep a low profile and avoid being targeted.
Visitors should also be aware of local laws, including bans on smoking in public places, and on the Pier. Street parking is heavily regulated and parking authorities are quick to issue tickets for expired meters and illegal parking. There are a number of public parking garages throughout the city so it’s relatively easy to avoid the street parking.