Heading over to the westside of Los Angeles.? Have you recently moved near the area and want to explore the local attractions? Or maybe you’re just visiting from out of town.
Whatever the scenario, you’ll be pleased to find that the possibilities for entertainment are as limitless as the sunshine.
Whether you’re looking to get some exercise, find some killer photo ops, or explore a hidden gem or two, check out the below list of things to do in Santa Monica to help get you started.
Rundown starts after the jump (and remember we’re talking about Santa Monica proper here so for purposes of this list we’ll exclude items from cities like Venice or even locations such as the Getty Center / Villa).
[RELATED: 40 Fun & Free Things to Do in Los Angeles]
1. Take a Walk on Third Street Promenade
The promenade is popular among both tourists and locals. You can do endless shopping, but if you get tired or have to wait for someone who spends hours in one store, the promenade also has talented street performers to keep you entertained. The newly updated mall also has a dining terrace where you can eat gelato while people watch on the outdoor top floor.
2. Enjoy Sunshine at Pacific Park on the Pier
Pacific Park is one of the fewest places where you can ride carnival rides even when it’s not fair season. Pacific Park holds the world’s only solar powered ferris wheel, a roller coaster overlooking the ocean, and other fun family rides all on the pier.
3. People Watch at the Beach
On the left side of the pier facing the ocean, you can find some of Los Angeles’ most athletic citizens displaying their talents as they balance on one another and do triple flips over each other. If you want to practice your own gymnastic skills, there are a set of rings and balance beams for you to try!
4. Visit the Bermagot Station Arts Center
If you’re looking to fulfill the right side of your brain and let your artistic side run wild, visit the Bermagot Station which holds multiple galleries, including the Santa Monica Museum of Art, and a café. What makes this art complex better? It’s free to the public.
5. Shopping on Main Street
Main street not only has dozens of unique shopping stores (both thrift and high-end), but it hosts the beloved Urth Café, Angel City Books where you can buy both books and vinyl records, and on Sunday morning, check out Farmer’s Market ( & catch some celebrity sightings).
6. Instagram at the International Chess Park
Settle in and play chess just south of the bier along Ocean Front Walk at this little park, with a human sized chess board. Test your brain to other challengers or have a fun photo shoot with huge chess pieces (sweet Instagram potential here)!
7. Hang Out at the Annenberg Community Beach House
Set on a 5 acre beach front property, the Annenrbery Community Beach House started as a mansion built by William Hearst and has now become a public space for families to visit for free. Although the grounds of the house are free, there is a small fee to use the public pool.
8. Relax at Palisades Park
This park is different than most – it stretches along the bluff overlooking the Santa Monica beach, is filled with art and sculpture, has plenty of trees to relax under and gardens to have picnics, and the best part is the food trucks that stay there to satisfy your hunger. It is conveniently located between the ocean and the promenade – letting you rest between the best of both worlds.
9. Exercise on the Boardwalk
Along the Santa Monica Boardwalk you have options to run with your dog, skate, bike, even rent a segway to enjoy the ocean breeze. It would be nearly impossible to get bored with so many performers and sights all around you.
10. Climb the Santa Monica Stairs
In the middle of multi-million dollar properties, there is a hot spot among celebrities and locals that can give you one of the best lower body workouts. They are located on 4th St and Adelaide Dr.
11. Learn to Fly Trapeze
At the Trapeze School New York on the pier, you can take a class to learn how to throw yourself 23 feet in the air! Who doesn’t love a thrill?
12. Catch a Free Comedy Show
Looking for laughs? You’ll want to check free performances of The Grind at Mi’s Westside Comedy Theater. Free improv shows on Mondays at 8PM and 10PM and Thursdays at 10PM followed by an improv jam. Listed as one of our 10 best free comedy shows in Los Angeles.
13. Have a Drink at a Rooftop Bar
Looking for a cocktail with a view? Try Suite 700, which sits perched atop the Shangri-LA Hotel in Santa Monica. With panoramic views of the city and ocean, we list this spot as one of the 10 best rooftop bars in all of Los Angeles. A perfect date spot if you’re looking to impress.
14. Explore the Marine Life at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
For just $5, you can feel a spiky sea urchin, a sea star, and get close to a swell shark at the Santa Monica Aquarium, directly below the carousel near the pier. Learn about the marine creatures that live in the ocean for an educational experience!
15. See Santa Monica Through the Camera Obscura
Next to the entrance of the pier in Palisades Park, there is a building called “Camera Obscura.” In it, you will pass through a senior recreation center and into a room where you can take a look through a camera that was built over a hundred years ago. What you will find can be left to the imagination – this place is a hidden gem amongst the hustle of Santa Monica.
16. Plane Watch at Santa Monica Airport
At the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, there are two observation decks, where you can not only see the planes land and take off at a close view, but you can bring the family and have the little one sit inside the cockpit of a real airplane! Located on the property is the Museum of Flying, where you can learn about the history of flying and have your children learn with interactive exhibitions.
17. Shop Fresh at the Farmers Market
Shop at the largest grower-only certified Farmers Market in Southern California on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The market was first opened in 1981 and has been such a huge success that on top of selling high quality fresh produce, the Sunday morning market also includes booths and activities for children!
Though we highlighted some great stuff, there’s always more things to do in Santa Monica than you can list on one page. Let us know in the comments below what some of your favorite things to do are!