Los Angeles by the sea is one way to describe Santa Monica but it is so much more than that. Despite sitting on the edge of one of the biggest, most cosmopolitan cities on earth and having a population of over 90,000 itself, it has a real small-town American feel.
There can be no better way to end any day is sitting at the end of Santa Monica Pier watching another perfect sunset over the Pacific Ocean. This is the focal point of the whole area, the end of Route 66 that runs through the middle of America. Restaurants, bars and amusements are the order of the day, whilst the Aquarium will keep the kids amused. Just think Southend-on-Sea with sunshine.
Many visitors will drop in and out of Santa Monica as part of a wider trip to Southern California. Sitting just a few miles from the exclusive areas of Beverly Hills, the smart neighbourhood of Brentwood and north of the hipster community of Venice Beach, the population of Santa Monica swells as the sun rises, and contracts at dusk.
Whilst the beaches teem with life all day, with muscle-men rubbing bronzed shoulders with Baywatch-inspired lifeguards and families playing in the surf, as the sun goes down there is a serenity about the place. For the romantics among you, there is no better place for a stroll hand in hand with the sand beneath your feet. If you fancy something different then head onto Muscle Beach to flash the abs or rent a Segway from 1660 Ocean Avenue.
Just two roads behind the ocean road you will find the heartbeat of the city – the 3rd Street Promenade. Here you will find bars, restaurants and shops which come alive when people leave the beach. At the south end is the Santa Monica Place Mall where many of the major brands have outlets. There are few better places in the US to shop, eat and drink in a small area.
You don’t have to wander far to grab a drink or some food in Santa Monica with almost every option catered for under the sun. Most of the big hotels have decent restaurants, albeit quite pricey such as the Fairmount Miramar Hotel, often the haunt of the stars. Sultry blonde Jean Harlow rented one of the Miramar’s bungalows in the early 1930s, and years later another famous blonde, Marilyn Monroe, frequently retreated to the Miramar when she wanted to disappear from the media. Want to splash the cash to impress someone more? Head to Shutters On The Beach on the beach, surprisingly, where the views guarantee sunshine and sand. A cheaper place to head for a bed for the night is Hotel Carmel on the corner of 2nd and Broadway.
The Commons Ale House at 129 Broadway is certainly a place to head for if you fancy being overwhelmed by local brews, as too is Barney’s Beanery on 3rd Avenue Promenade which also has the added benefit of some fantastic chicken wings and large TVs abound. Trastevere is a superb spot for Italian food (on the corner of 3rd and Santa Monica Boulevard whilst if you want to splash out then head to Water Grill on Ocean which has some of the best seafood and steak in town. If you are missing your slice of England then head to Ye Olde Kings Head pub on Santa Monica Boulevard where the walls are adorned with celebrities who have popped in for a full English over the years. This is the place to head to watch Premier League or Rugby, whilst the shop next door stocks emergency Marmite should you need it.
Most people who arrive in Santa Monica only have two things on their mind – sunshine and relaxing. The main things to do revolve around grabbing a spot in the sunshine, cracking open a beer and simply letting the world slip away into the Pacific Ocean horizon.