How to Spend 1 Day in Santa Monica
Located west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica is a quintessential California beach town and offers plenty of activities. You can sunbathe on the sand and also enjoy Santa Monica Pier, home to the Pacific Park® amusement park, Looff Hippodrome carousel, and an aquarium. Plus, check out Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym built in the 1930s.
Morning: Go for a Bike Ride
Before the afternoon sun heats up, go for a bike ride around Santa Monica. Rent a classic beach cruiser, or join a guided electric bike tour, which will allow you to cover more ground with less effort. Pedal along the city’s iconic beach, making sure to stop at the Santa Monica Pier, or jump on a Segway and zip around the area. Guided tours typically combine sights in Santa Monica with stops in nearby Venice Beach. Ambitious bikers can also ride down the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which locals call the Strand. It’s a 22-mile-long (35-kilometer-long) paved trail that starts in Santa Monica and ends at Torrance Beach.
Afternoon: Hit the Beach
Visitors from near and far flock to Santa Monica for its expansive, well-maintained beach. In addition to sunbathing, you can catch some waves or hop on a paddleboard; beach-side vendors offer rentals and surfing lessons for beginners. There is also a beach butler service that will bring you lounge chairs, a small table, an umbrella, a cooler, and a wind guard for a fee. Or you can hit up the Annenberg Community Beach House, which is a public facility that doesn’t require membership and features a children's play area and a pool. You can also grab lunch at one of the many beachside cafes.
Night: Get a Bird’s-Eye View
The Santa Monica Pier and its Pacific Park amusement park are a good time anytime, but at night the pier comes alive with fun, family-friendly entertainment. Make sure to catch the panoramic views of the coastline from the top of the Pacific Wheel, the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. There are also carnival-style rides and games; food vendors serving up popcorn, cotton candy, pretzels, churros, and more; and souvenir shops. The pier is also home to the Playland Arcade, a classic arcade with popular games like Skee-Ball. Be sure to get your fortune told by the famous Zoltar machine before you leave.