15 Best Things To Do in Santa Monica

If you have recently moved to Santa Monica in California, or have decided to pay a visit to the sandy, coastal city in the west of downtown Los Angeles, be assured there are quite a few places you can feast your eyes on. The city is home to the iconic Santa Monica Pier, and some beaches overlooking the azure blue waters of the Pacific. Dominated by palms and promenades, the opportunities for enjoying your weekend here are as endless as the sunshine on Santa Monica. If you find yourself soaking in the brilliant sun of the beaches of Santa Monica anytime soon, go through this 15 best places to visit in Santa Monica and explore best tourist attractions in Santa Monica.

Here's the list of Santa Monica points of interest and 15 best things to do in Santa Monica:

1. Visit the Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is the most famous location in the history of Santa Monica. The century-old wooden pier overlooks the vast expanse of the Pacific ahead and offers a picturesque view from the pier. The spot has made recurring appearances in numerous TV shows and movies. There are other attractions on the pier, but the place itself, with the small shops and scattered cafes, is a great venue to spend some time. 

2. Take rides at Pacific Park

Pacific Park sets a year-long festive feel to the city of Santa Monica. The carnival is on 365 days with fun family games, large carousels, an exciting roller coaster that takes you high up enough to see the ocean and also the gigantic Ferris wheel. This particular one is the world’s only solar power-run Ferris wheel. So Pacific Park is not only providing you with entertainment, it is taking care of the environment as well.

3. Explore the Santa Monica Aquarium

Directly beneath the Pacific Park on the pier, the Pier Aquarium is an absolute delight for those who love animals. You can experience from close quarters how sea creatures like sea urchins, sea stars and some others look, move, eat and live. There is a shark in the aquarium as well. Remember to take a close look at it while you are there.

4. Enjoy the Santa Monica State Bea

The Santa Monica State Beach is the first place you should visit once you step into the sunny city. It stretches for three and a half miles on both sides of the Santa Monica Pier. With warm, grainy sand, scattered palm trees and frequent sunbathing spots, you can spend hours on this lovely beach and not get tired of the sea, sand and sun. Additionally, there are volleyball courts, water sports rentals, bike rentals and manned lifeguard stations for all sorts of convenience.

5. Take a walk along the busy Third Street Promenade

The Third Street Promenade is the lifeline of Santa Monica. The palm-lined district is closed off to vehicles so that pedestrian tourists can roam around freely enjoying the plethora of shopping destinations, eating places, cafes, clubs and bistros that are scattered across the promenade. No matter what else you do, a visit to the Third Street Promenade is must catch the pulse of the bustling Santa Monica.

6. Go organic with Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

The Santa Monica Farmers Market is a traditional organic mart that takes place in two locations on Saturdays, and one each on Sundays and Wednesdays. The market is famous all-over America for the fresh, farm-grown products they sell throughout the year, along with locally harvested meat, fish and cheese. The best part of the market is, the commodities are all seasonal and fresh, and their price varies depending on demand and availability.

7. Pay a visit to the Camera Obscura

You will not find the mention of Camera Obscura in the modern tour plans of Santa Monica, but once it used to be a great attraction. Beside the Palisades Park on Ocean Avenue, in a building called Senior Recreation Center, there is this attraction called Camera Obscura. It is a camera set in a dark room that offers a grainy, but fascinating view of the cacophonous traffic, the beach, the people and the ocean that you just left behind, but without all the noise. It is a vintage spot, and worth visiting once.

8. Learn about aviation in the Museum of Flying

Located near the Santa Monica Airport, the Museum of Flying is a 22,000 square foot area exhibiting an array of display items and collectables related to the emergence, evolution and expansion of the aviation industry. The exhibits include the Wright Flyer and a Boeing 727 nosepiece. Do remember to enjoy the interactive flight simulator guided by the staff.

9. Go trekking in the Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains rise from just behind the city. Take some time out of your scheduled itinerary and spare a day for trekking the walking trails of the mountains. There are about 20 parks in the region, offering various recreational opportunities and great camping sights.

10. Satiate your sweet tooth at the Three Twins

Three Twins is a popular ice cream chain, but the shop in Santa Monica is a favourite haunt of the locals as well as the tourists. Their ice creams are completely organic, and feel very authentic to taste. Grab a bench and enjoy a cone before the scorching Santa Monica sun melts it.

11. Climb up the Santa Monica Stairs

This is a simple affair compared to the rest of them, but some places just gain that sort of popularity. The Santa Monica Stairs are two flights of staircases running up to the Adelaide Drive. Many people prefer this place for a quick morning workout, running up and down the stairs. You can do that, or you can walk slowly up the stairs and enjoy the view of the ocean from the drive at the top.

12. Relax at the Palisades Park

With the shades of big trees, patches of greenery and art and sculpture installations, the Palisades Park is a relief from the heat of the beach in front and the crowd of the Promenade behind. You can spend some quiet time here to enjoy a picnic or have something from the food trucks that stay stationed here.

13. Visit the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome

Adjacent to the Pier, there is a large open-air building called the Looff Hippodrome. Do not get fooled by the name, since hippodrome originally means a Grecian stadium for horse and chariot racing. The etymology of this site is metaphorical since the dome was built by a person called Charles I.D. Looff and his son to start a giant carousel in around 1916. 

14. Click photos at the International Chess Park

The Ocean Front Walkway will lead you to this small park with a human-sized chess board and chess pieces. Play with the big figures and pose along with the king or the knight for fun. This is a photoshoot that should certainly go into your holiday album. You can also settle down and play a few rounds in the actual boards.

15. Go down the memory lane at Angel City Books, Main Street

The Angel City Books on the Main Street is quite an impressive shop, selling everything from old classics to new bestsellers. But the bigger attraction is their huge collection of vinyl records, which are almost a collector’s item nowadays. For the lovers of books and music, this place should be on the list of 15 best things to do in Santa Monica.

Given that the city of Santa Monica is only a few minutes drive away from Hollywood, it is one of the most iconic places you can ever find in California. You might even spot a few places you have seen on the screen. Make sure to take pictures, and make your friends envious.

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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Santa Monica, California

Must see places in Santa Monica ranked on popularity. Here is the complete list of best attractions in Santa Monica and point of interests to visit.

  1. Santa Monica Beach

    #1 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Santa Monica Beach

    Tags: Beach, Mountain, Walking Area

    Address: 1116, 4th St, Santa Monica, CA 90403, United States

    Timings: 01:00 am - 11:45 pm Details

    Santa Monica State Beach is an iconic destination. Visitors from all across the world are fascinated by the pristine stretches of sand, sturdy waves and the wonderful view of the Santa Monica Mountain...Read more

  2. 26 Mile Bike Path

    #2 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    26 Mile Bike Path

    Tags: Beach, Biking Trail, Walking Area, Entertainment

    Address: Along Santa Monica Beach, California

    Timings: 01:00 am - 11:45 pm Details

    Locals and tourists, young and old, enjoy the ride on the 26 mile long bike path that connects Santa Monica Beach to Venice Beach and Marina del Rey. You can even jog or gently stroll along the path....Read more

  3. The Misfit Restaurant And Bar

    #3 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    The Misfit Restaurant And Bar

    Tags: Bar, Food And Drinks, Restaurant, Fine Dining

    Address: 225 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Timings: 12:00 pm - 11:45 pm Details

    One of the restaurants you have to visit in Santa Monica is The Misfit Restaurant and Bar! From a cool ambience to an insanely cheerful staff, this is one place you should not miss. The bar menu consi...Read more

  4. Santa Monica Mountains

    #4 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Santa Monica Mountains

    Tags: Beach, Mountain, National Park, Entertainment

    Address: Santa Monica, California

    Timings: 09:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    The Santa Monica Mountains are a part of the Transverse Range in Southern California. Located along the Santa Monica Beach, the mountains host an ample range of activities. Go trekking in the Malibu C...Read more

  5. Santa Monica Public Library

    #5 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Santa Monica Public Library

    Tags: Library, Landmark

    Address: 601 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401

    Timings: 10:00 am - 09:00 pm Details

    A heaven for book lovers, make it a point to visit the Santa Monica Public Library. Caution: If you are an avid reader, you might end up spending an entire day over there!

  6. Woodlawn Cemetery, Mortuary And Mausoleum

    #6 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Woodlawn Cemetery, Mortuary And Mausoleum

    Tags: Landmark, Cemetery, Architecture , Tomb

    Address: 1847, 14th St, Santa Monica, CA 90404, United States

    Timings: 08:00 am - 04:00 pm Details

    Apart from the beautiful architectural features of the Mausoleum, the cemetery also has tombs of celebrities who been laid to rest here. Pay your respect to the souls of Glenn Ford, Leo Carillo, Irene...Read more

  7. Aqua Surf School

    #7 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Aqua Surf School

    Tags: Beach, Water Body, Adventure Sport, Water Sport

    Address: South of Santa Monica Pier, 2701, Barnard Way, Santa Monica

    Timings: 07:00 am - 06:00 pm Details

    Santa Monica beach had many spots where beginners and 1st timers can try their hand at surfing. The Aqua Surf School is a great place where they give beginners surfing lessons. They also have surfing ...Read more

  8. Museum Of Flying

    #8 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Museum Of Flying

    Tags: Library, Specialty Museum

    Address: 3100 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, California 90405

    Timings: 10:00 am - 05:00 pm Details

    Established in 1974 as the Douglas Museum and Library by Donald Douglas Jr, the second President of the Douglas Aircraft Company, the museum has an enviable collections of aircrafts like the Boeing 72...Read more

  9. Tacos Punta Cabras Restaurant

    #9 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Tacos Punta Cabras Restaurant

    Tags: Restaurant

    Address: 2311, Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404

    Timings: 11:00 am - 08:00 pm Details

    Established in 2013 by two wacky chefs, the Tacos Punta Cabras Restaurant serves fresh seafood tacos, tostadas, cocteles and agua fresco. Once you visit this place, no one will judge you if you go in ...Read more

  10. International Chess Park

    #10 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    International Chess Park

    Tags: Park, Landmark, Entertainment, Play

    Address: Promenade near Santa Monica Pier, Ocean Front walk, Santa Monica

    Timings: 10:00 am - 06:30 pm Details

    Come and put your grey matter to use at one of the built-in chess tables, or watch intense rivalries among the regulars, including some master-level players. Santa Monica’s International Ch...Read more

  11. Mt. Olive Lutheran Church

    #11 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Mt. Olive Lutheran Church

    Tags: Church, Religious Site, Educational Site, Entertainment

    Address: 1343 Ocean Park Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

    Timings: 08:00 am - 07:00 pm Details

    Founded in 1942 by Pastor A.O. Aasen, the Mt. Olive Lutheran Church will mesmerize you with its holy and sere atmosphere and its intricate architecture. Flower arrangement classes, classical music sem...Read more

  12. Anti Nuke Sculpture

    #12 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Anti Nuke Sculpture

    Tags: Landmark, Monument, Entertainment, Concert

    Address: Santa Monica Civic Centre

    Timings: 24-hrs Details

    The Chain Reaction Sculpture or the Anti Nuke Sculpture is a peace monument and public art sculpture made up of stainless steel and fibreglass surrounded by concrete. The sculpture show...Read more

  13. Hillstone

    #13 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica

    Tags: Bar, Restaurant, Adults

    Address: 202 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA

    Timings: 11:30 am - 10:00 pm Details

    The Hillstone is a terrific restaurant and bar in California, largely known for its great food and service. The place is very well decorated and set up. They have a very comfortable bar, right in fron...Read more

  14. Dogtown Coffee (dtc)

    #14 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Dogtown Coffee (dtc)

    Tags: Cafe

    Address: 2003 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405, USA

    The Dogtown Coffee DTC in California, USA is a very famous eatery. This place is well known for their coffee which they develop locally. They provide healthy and low- calorie food. Along with the coff...Read more

  15. Baby Blues Bbq

    #15 of 812 Things To Do in Santa Monica
    Baby Blues Bbq

    Tags: Food And Drinks

    Address: 444 Lincoln Blvd, Venice, CA 90291, USA

    Baby Blues BBQ is a popular joint which is known for serving delectable food items in a casual environment combined with good music and a friendly ambience. The regionally inspired menu of the restaur...Read more

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Top Santa Monica Activities And Tours

Explore the best things to do in Santa Monica. These are the most preferred tourist activities.

  • Whale Watching Day Cruise Santa Monica, Redondo, and Palos Verdes Bay
    Whale Watching Day Cruise Santa Monica, Redondo, and Palos Verdes BayNew on TripHobo

    Duration: 3 Hrs

    Join us aboard the 65 ft/45passengerexcursion vesselto experience the spectacular adventure of whale watching and nature crui...

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  • Save 10% The Perfect Los Angeles Tour
    The Perfect Los Angeles Tour2 Reviews

    Duration: 6 Hrs

    Surf City Tours offers"The Perfect LA Tour."Learn about the city, and get out to explore the best parts on your own. This is ...

    Book Now
  • Santa Monica and Venice Beach Segway Tour
    Santa Monica and Venice Beach Segway Tour13 Reviews

    Duration: 2 Hrs

    Join us for a one-of-a-kind experience of Southern Californias beach culturefamous worldwide for its surfers, body builders, ...

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  • Save 20% Shop and Dine Santa Monica Place
    Shop and Dine Santa Monica Place

    Duration: 8 Hrs

    A tour which promises to give the customary satiation to the taste bud, along with working up an appetite for you as well. Yo...

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