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CityPASS Home  »  City Traveler Blog  »  Exploring and Enjoying Santa Monica

Exploring and Enjoying Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica as seem from the Santa Monica pier. Photo credit: Derek KT W beyondphotography.net.tc

As the second largest city in the United States, the Los Angeles area has a lot to offer visitors. The reality is that you could spend years in L.A. without seeing all that there is to see. From Hollywood to Anaheim and Ventura to Long Beach, the possibilities are endless. Making a weekend trip is even more daunting, especially if it’s your first time to the area. A good strategy is to pick one area to focus on when visiting, rather than trying to do too much. With that in mind, I’ll focus on Santa Monica, which is one of Los Angeles’ more enchanting communities.

Things to See

Part of the fun of any city is exploring for yourself, so it’s highly recommended that you take some time to just wander the streets of Santa Monica. Of course, you’ll also want to check out the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is over 100 years old, and features restaurants, beautiful ocean views, and sport fishing.

Another great attraction in downtown Santa Monica is the Promenade, which has some of the best shopping in LA. If you’re looking for some new threads, check out the stores there by Seven, American Apparel, Burberry, and Hugo Boss. They also have some excellent dining, including Xino Modern Chinese, and a variety of street performers that will keep the little ones entertained.

Where to Stay

There are a lot of great hotels to stay at in Santa Monica, but most of them are fairly expensive. The best value you will find is the Holiday Inn at the Santa Monica Pier. Rates are a little over $100 a night during the week, and around $160 on the weekends, and they offer unparalleled access to downtown Santa Monica. For added savings, try using a Travelocity promo code to save 10% or more on your stay.

A nighttime view of Pacific Park at the Santa Monica pier.

Where to Eat

The great thing about staying right by the pier is that you’re only a few blocks from downtown Santa Monica, which is filled with unique restaurants and bars. For breakfast, try Le Pain Quotidien. This charming little bakery offers wonderful organic meals made with fresh local ingredients. Their entrees are particularly excellent, especially the Roasted Asparagus and Goat Cheese Omelet.

If you enjoy drinking wine, a great spot for dinner is Upstairs 2, also located near downtown. This restaurant is a wine drinker’s Mecca, and they organize their menu selections based on the type of wine you want to drink. Some can’t miss items here are the Cold Cucumber Soup, the Monkfish Croquettes, and the King Crab Ravioli. If you find any wines that you particularly enjoy, you can purchase them in the giant wine store located downstairs.

Going Out

Santa Monica has an endless supply of nightlife, so you’re bound to find something that’s right up your alley. If you want a glass of wine, Pourtal is an excellent place to start your night. They have over one hundred wines, including many from unique regions such as Germany, Israel and Slovenia, and they also feature a light menu.

If you’re looking for a more rowdy experience, check out Busby’s. This bar has a very authentic west coast vibe, and is filled with beautiful people and reasonably priced drinks. They also have pool tables, arcade games, and a great dance floor.

Third Street Promenade decorated for the holidays.

For those who desire a slightly more upscale experience, try checking out Copa d’ Oro. The ambiance and service there are excellent, but the highlight is definitely their cocktails. If you need convincing, just take a look at the Mestizio. This potent masterpiece contains Chinaco Blanco Tequila, Crème de Ginger, Basil Ruby Red Grapefruit, and Organic Agave Nectar. It’s not just a drink, it’s a work of art!

You can make a hundred trips to Santa Monica without experiencing everything the area has to offer. The key here is to not get overwhelmed, but rather to be open to adventure. The recommendations here are all great points of departure, but don’t be afraid to explore on your own.

Santa Monica is one of Stefan Georgi’s favorite areas of LA. He highly recommends using a Travelocity promo code when booking a hotel near the pier.

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