One of the first images that always comes to mind when we think of Santa Monica is the opening credits for the 70’s sitcom “Three’s Company” when Jack, Janet, and Chrissy bike down the boardwalk, checking out the scenery (and all the beautiful people) and acting as though they don’t have a care in the world. In reality, this popular beach city embodies the roommates’ attitude towards life- when you’re in sunny Santa Monica, it’s all good. This laid-back SoCal beach town mixes in a heavy dose of big city sophistication, making it feel like the ultimate playground for kids and adults of all ages.
…where to chow down and then unbutton the top button
I’m actually eating a Stella Barra pizza as I write this, if that’s any indication as to how big a fan I am. This buzzy spot on Main Street serves artisanal pizzas and salads in a lively, modern bistro setting.
For a city located on the water, Santa Monica has a surprisingly low number of restaurant offerings right on the beach. The Lobster makes up for that, with its expansive dining room and bar, sprawling ocean views, and equally sprawling menu of delights from the sea. Tip: Try the lobster.
This colorful beach shack feels like a fun-filled marriage between Los Angeles and the Caribbean. It’s quirky and cozy, and the jerk chicken enchiladas are a menu favorite. BYOB – which adds to the casual (inexpensive) vibe.
Tucked away behind an unassuming “not so little door,” is this beautiful French restaurant that gives you the sensation of eating in a secret garden. You can order appetizers (love the Burrata and Prosciutto and the Goat Cheese Lavender Tart) to share or one of their fantastic steaks. And since it’s right across from the Brentwood Country Mart, you might even spot a celeb or two.
Upscale burger and beer but without the fuss. The signature Office Burger is topped with blue cheese, arugula and carmelized onions. The fries (sweet potato or regular) are served in a cute little shopping cart. The craft beers are plentiful with over 30 on tap. Just don’t ask for ketchup or any substitutions — it’s kind of an unwritten rule.
No trip to Santa Monica is complete without fish tacos. And while there are a lot of great dive spots, our vote is for Marix because it combines great Tex Mex with a really fun, casual atmosphere, just steps from the beach.
… where to drink up and get down
This place feels like you’re hanging at a casual house party at your super rich friend’s bohemian beach bungalow. It sort of epitomizes what makes LA awesome – it’s low-key, chic, and sundrenched. Go on a Sunday afternoon for sunset and people watching over a pitcher of their Bitchin’ Sangria.
It’s the local sports bar without the seedy vibe, so if you need to catch your game, call ahead and reserve a table … and a TV. BUT, it’s also a great place to do a casual date night (you can order dishes like Baked Brie and Ahi Tuna) or opt for bottomless mimosas during Sunday brunch. Things can get rowdy.
This is a great addition to the Main Street scene because it mixes a classic wine bar experience with the Ocean Park neighborhood beach vibe. Order up at the counter (typical SM cheese, brussels sprouts and kale options are available), snag a table on the back patio, relax and enjoy the breezes.
Gonna be honest. This place made the list because of its former tenant, Bar Copa. Bar Copa was THAT BAR. The one you go into late night that’s dark, has a great DJ and it’s OK to not be on your best behavior. And Pink Elephant doesn’t disappoint either – pop in to get your dance on without all the pomp and circumstance.
This bustling spot on cheerful Main St. is a lovely, recently restored Victorian, which has a bar and outdoor seating as well as a subterranean basement bar called Basement Tavern. Its dark (aka kinda sexy) and can get very crowded, but it’s definitely a great spot for thoughtfully crafted cocktails, hearing live music (sometimes offered), and getting into some trouble.
Every once in a while we love a good dance party and Zanzibar is a great place to do a little rump shaking. They offer different types of entertainment depending on what night of the week it is, but our favorite is Friday and Saturday nights when they spin hip-hop and top 40.
…where to crash and get some R&R
Palihouse Santa Monica is the place to stay if you’re looking for an intimate, stylish boutique hotel popular with discerning world travelers. With a luxurious, coastal vibe that feels decidedly European, you’ll be comfortable and close to the heart of Santa Monica.
We are regulars at this sunny, mood-lifting organic spa and apothecary on Main Street. We highly recommend their Custom Superfood Facial, and swear by their earth and animal friendly beauty products that make us look and feel like youthful, glowy beach bunnies.
This is the crème de la crème of Santa Monica hotels. It’s luxurious rather than hip and with its traditional charm, beachfront location and quaint white porches, it’s a coveted spot, even with locals. The rooms are more like cottages with that great lived-in feel and the bar, just steps from the sand, is a great place to share crisp, cold bottle of Rosé.
Looking for a hotel and a scene all in one? This one is for you. The large, black leather chairs and doors are sophisticated but the lounge seating, drapery and furry white chairs give it that edge. Be sure to visit the Penthouse for the amazing ocean views at sunset and the scene that emerges after dark.
JUST BOUGHT THESE PANTS
…where to nab the best threads.
This beautiful, open-air shopping center is a treat to visit. It’s got a great mix of mid to high-end shops with awesome dining options including rooftop dining with views of the ocean. Bold statement alert: Santa Monica Place houses my favorite Bloomingdale’s of all time.
There will be no doubt in your mind that this is the main drag, but let us direct you to some of our favorite spots. Planet Blue for jeans, hippie chic dresses and pricey tees. Undefeated for some kicks. Espresso Cielo for top-notch coffee. Buffalo Exchange for awesome thrift store finds. And Angel City Books for browsing through, well, books.
It’s a different vibe than Main Street, more yuppie and less au naturel … definitely worth a stroll. Start with some TLC that includes a mani/pedi at Bellacures and a blowout at the Drybar. And while you’re in the mood, stop by Only Hearts for some unmentionables and Moondance Jewelry for beautifully unique baubles.
ANTS IN YOUR PANTS
…where to go when you can’t sit still
Santa Monica has no shortage of things to do that involve the great outdoors and hiking is high up on this list. The Santa Monica Mountain Range offers beautiful hikes –from moderate to super challenging- that typically end with great views of the city and the ocean. A favorite are the trails that begin at Will Rogers State Park.
Yes, this one is obvious, but Santa Monica’s iconic beach is such a big part of what makes the city so special. The coastline is 5 miles long and is dotted with volleyball courts, hotels, picnic areas, parks, playgrounds, and more. The famous Santa Monica Pier is touristy, but worth seeing, especially during the summer months when every Thursday night they host their Twilight Concert Series where people bring picnics (and booze!) and bask in the moonlight on the sand.
There are two venues for farmers markets in Santa Monica. Wednesday morning on 2nd Street is the best time to go – it’s where you’ll find all of LA’s best chefs picking out everything from fish to produce to raw honey. It’s hard for us to resist the flowers. On Sundays, Ocean Park puts on more of a show – they have live music, food to-go and even pony rides.
A NYC craze that quickly made its way to LA and into our regular workout routines. Because it doesn’t feel like a workout – more like a 45-minute dance club party on a bike. A full body workout that includes arm weights, choreography and lots of energy. If you’re up to the challenge, call ahead to reserve a bike.