-by Jackie Alvarez
t the heart of the Santa Monica experience are eight distinctive neighborhoods, each infused with a wealth of personality and visitor attractions. At just 8.3 square miles, it doesn’t take long to discover the world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment in each of Santa Monica’s eight distinct neighborhoods. Set out on a shopping tour on Main Street, up Montana Avenue, or along the famous Third Street Promenade. Dine your way down Pico Boulevard, discover Mid-City’s arts scene, or visit landmarks like the Santa Monica Pier.
Downtown Santa Monica / Third Street Promenade
Just a few blocks east of the Pier, Santa Monica’s downtown hub is a destination for shoppers looking for everything from designer duds to home décor. With more than 100 restaurants, Downtown is also a diner’s paradise. The famous Third Street Promenade, an open-air, pedestrian only street features dozens of retailers, offers lively street entertainment and events like outdoor movie screenings and popular farmers markets. Neighborhood landmarks include the historic Georgian Hotel and the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
Santa Monica Pier area / Ocean Avenue
Ocean Avenue is famous for the gem located at its southern end: The 106-year-old Santa Monica Pier, with its oft-photographed Ferris wheel, is justifiably popular with visitors thanks to a mix of amusement rides and games found at Pacific Park, the venerable theme park at its tip. Ocean breezes and miles of sandy beach distinguish this neighborhood, while diverse dining options and beaches populated with tanned surfers, sun worshipers, and body builders top the list of reasons to spend a day in this neighborhood. Don’t miss the chance to snap a picture on the Pier in front of the End of the Route sign for the legendary Route 66, which officially ends its 2,500-mile journey just a few blocks away.
Think of Montana Avenue as a laid-back alternative to Rodeo Drive. This tree-lined shopping district is known for its upscale boutiques, trendy restaurants, and historic movie theater. Linking the northwest edge of town, just a few miles from Ocean Avenue, the Santa Monica Pier, and Third Street Promenade, this 10-block stretch boasts more than 150 boutiques and retailers. During the daylight hours the street hums with stylish locals and visitors sipping espressos in chic cafes and browsing at shops from high-end designers – all with a friendly and welcoming local vibe.
Known for its charming neighborhood feel, this sun-drenched street beckons coffee lovers, shoppers and health fanatics. Set just two blocks back from the Pacific Ocean, Main Street stretches nearly a mile, with a unique laid-back collection of restaurants, boutiques, coffee shops and salons. Independent retails and small local chains – many with a health-conscious focus – anchor the tree-lined blocked between Pico Boulevard to the north and the city of Venice to the south. On Sundays, families and residents flock to Heritage Square for the bustling farmers market, which features live music and free valet parking for cyclists. Just two blocks to the west is Ocean Park Beach, a five-acre park just south of the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
Accessed by major thoroughfares Wilshire Boulevard and the Santa Monica 10 Freeway, Mid-City is a burgeoning arts district anchored by destinations like the 18th Street Arts Center and Bergamot Station, the home to more than 40 art galleries. A diverse array of dining options adds to the neighborhood’s appeal. Arriving in May 2016, the Exposition Light Rail will also ferry visitors to the streets here, with a new stop at Bergamot Station.
Ocean Park Boulevard / Santa Monica Airport Area
With its restaurants, parks, museum and shops, the Santa Monica Airport and nearby Ocean Park Boulevard provide fun for all. The Santa Monica Airport – which services private and charter planes – has long been home to an aviation museum, the Museum of Flying. First opened in 1974, the museum was completely refurbished in 2012 and houses a trove of historic aircraft and a modern flight simulator. Other attractions include a garden of native plants, a twice-monthly antique market, two restaurants and two observation decks. To the north, Ocean Park Boulevard runs all the way from the sand to the city’s eastern edge. Tucked among numerous residents, you’ll find delicious, locally owned restaurants, some of the city’s best shops, and aviation-themed Clover Park’s spacious recreational fields and green spaces.
Anchored by landmarks like Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica College, and Virginia Avenue Park, Pico Boulevard’s shop- and café-lined blocks are at the heart of city life. This bustling boulevard connects Santa Monica State Beach to the west and downtown Los Angeles destinations like Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center to the east. Hotels (both luxury and economy) line the blocks, as do a rich variety of restaurants and boutiques. Neighborhood landmarks include Virginia Avenue Park and Santa Monica College. Santa Monica High School, whose notable alums include Robert Downey Jr., Rob Loews, and Carson Daly, also resides on Pico Boulevard.
This well-traveled thoroughfare claims landmark restaurants, cutting-edge workouts, and good oldfashioned retail therapy. Beginning at Ocean Avenue and running all the way through Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and into downtown Los Angeles, Wilshire Boulevard is one of the most well-known streets in town. It borders the Third Street Promenade on its southwestern edge, and the hugely popular Douglas Park, known for its playing fields and lawn bowling.
About Santa Monica Travel & Tourism
Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT), formerly Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau, is a non-profit organization designed to increase visitor expenditures, tourism revenues and local employment opportunities through the promotion of Santa Monica as a travel destination. For travel and accommodation information or a free copy of the official Visitors Guide, the public can write to the Santa Monica Visitor Center, 2427 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405; call (800) 544-5319 or (310) 393-7593; visit www.santamonica.com; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow SMTT on Twitter @GoSantaMonica or become a Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/visitsantamonica.
Author: Jackie Alvarez
Santa Monica Travel & Tourism
“On the Road”” is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, timely travel deals and events, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
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