Best & Fun Things To Do + Places To Visit In Santa Monica, California. #Top Attractions

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Have the intention to visit Santa Monica, California? Explore the top activities to do and sights to see in Santa Monica, California, to make the most of your time there. Get the most out of your vacation by exploring the best things to do in Santa Monica, California, and the best places to visit in Santa Monica, California below. Wondrous Drifter is a cutting-edge, Web 3.0 travel startup that aspires to change the world.

Annenberg Community Beach House

Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa, Monica, California
Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa, Monica, California / Mario RM / Flickr

Visit this community beach house that used to only cater to the very popular.

The Sand & Sea Club, a members-only luxury hotel, was built on the estate in the 1940s and eventually became the Annenberg Community Beach House.

Many famed parties were hosted at this “Gold Coast” gem. It was a favored destination for Hollywood’s elite.

After its renovations, Annenberg Community Beach House is now state-owned. It is one of the most popular attractions in Santa Monica.

Today, the complex serves as a valuable community asset, providing a fantastic beachside recreational facility that is open to the public.

At the Beach House, you’ll find a gallery of local art, a swimming pool, a splash pad for kids, beach canopies, and a volleyball court and soccer grounds, among other things.

In essence, it’s been transformed into a cultural center with a splendid ocean view, making it an ideal getaway spot for the weekend.

Address: 415 Pacific Coast Hwy, Santa Monica, CA 90402

Bergamot Station Arts Center

 Bergamot Station Arts Center Santa Monica, California
Bergamot Station Arts Center is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

Make sure to take a stroll inside the world-renowned Bergamot Station Arts Center.

Twenty art galleries, including the recently opened Santa Monica Museum of Art, are housed in the industrial buildings of Bergamot Station, a globally renowned art district.

The gallery building used to be a trolley station until the town of Santa Monica bought the abandoned land and reopened it as the Bergamot Station Arts Center in 1994.

The gallery building used to be a trolley station until the

The museum showcases a variety of exhibits in rotation, displaying the work of artists from all over the world, ranging from classical to modern contemporary pieces.

A dynamic art-viewing set-up and distinctive abstract sculptural art made from recognizable objects. 

Even those who aren’t usually fans of art will enjoy their visit here.

The inside is not as minimal in design as it is outside.

Address: 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90404

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California Heritage Museum

California Heritage Museum Santa Monica, California
California Heritage Museum is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

The California Heritage Museum is one of the top attractions in California.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate California’s diverse culture and heritage. Stop by the California Heritage Museum!

The California Heritage Museum occupies a beautiful late-19th-century Victorian structure created by architect Sumner P. Hunt in the middle of Main Street.

You wouldn’t even know it’s a museum if not for the signs, the people, and the handful of food trucks parked along the road.

Inside the museum, you’ll find a stunning array of displays showcasing landscapes, cultures, and traditions from all around the state of California.

Its ground floor is filled with Victorian-era furnishings. At the same time, the upper level is dedicated to an art gallery where the museum rotates its exhibits.

Exhibits at the California Heritage Museum blend modern and ancient cultural histories.

You’ll see everything, from Andy Warhol (a famous American artist) to artifacts and incredible tapestries with different styles and subjects. 

Don’t forget that food trucks are waiting outside if you get hungry.

Address: 2612 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Chomp Eatery and Juice Station

Chomp Eatery and Juice Station Santa Monica, California
Chomp Eatery and Juice Station is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

Is there anything more California than cold-pressed juice from farm-fresh, local, in-season fruits and vegetables? Literally nothing.

Chomp Cafe and Juice Station is a small, modern eatery next to DK’s Donuts (a must-visit as well) in the little shopping mall on Santa Monica Boulevard around the 17th, where you can have a delicious meal without clogging your arteries.

A wide variety of gluten-free, vegetarian, and dairy-free alternatives are available on the menu. Over 30 flavors of cold-pressed juices are made fresh and on-site.

You can choose from their fruit juices, green juices, root juices, and citrus juices. 

Let’s not stop there; their burgers are created with grass-fed beef and free-range poultry.

They are an excellent example that eating healthy does not have to be bland, mushy, or unappetizing.

You can definitely get their gourmet burgers, handcrafted sandwiches, or chomp melts when in doubt. 

The kind of food you’d happily chomp through.

Address: 1612 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90404

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Heal the Bay Aquarium

Heal the Bay Aquarium Santa Monica, California
Heal the Bay Aquarium is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

The Heal the Bay Aquarium is one of the best things to do in California.

Santa Monica Pier is home to several attractions, including the Heal the Bay Aquarium!

Heal the Bay has been a staunch defender of Santa Monica Bay for over three decades. 

To ensure public health, they safeguard coastlines, rehabilitate waterways, and implement clean water policies.

Heal the Bay Aquarium, located beneath the Santa Monica Pier, is dedicated to educating both locals and visitors about the diverse aquatic life that calls Santa Monica Bay home.

More than 100 native species are on display at this modest aquarium, and hands-on activities and educational programs, such as animal feedings.

Their touch tanks are perfect for getting close and personal with aquatic wildlife.

Species sharks, jellyfishes, and stingrays are among the many sea life species you may encounter.

Despite its modest size, many visitors were pleased with their experiences. They said that the modest admission charge is well worth it.

Address: 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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jAdis, Santa, Monica, California
jAdis, Santa, Monica, California / gérard / Flickr

No, there’s nothing wrong with the name. That is exactly how you spell it.

The go-to place for the naturally curious.

jAdis is the brainchild of Parke Meeke, who has a vast collection of scientific artifacts, not to mention being a designer and a builder of some pieces found there.

It could be a museum or a store, or both. The place refuses to be boxed into a single definition. 

jAdis is a quaint space for the endlessly curious, showcasing Meeke’s lifelong interest in pre-computer technologies and their evolution.

In addition to historical artifacts and steampunk gear, the museum houses collections of early optics, photographic equipment, and aircraft and planetary models.

For sure, the items in their shop belong in a collector’s home or a curious tourist’s.

Just know some items there were featured in shows and movies. You will definitely find something familiar.

Address: 2701 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Looff Hippodrome

Looff Hippodrome Santa Monica, California
Looff Hippodrome is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

Visit Santa Monica Pier’s partner to fame. 

Architecturally, the Looff Hippodrome is a treasure. It was built the same year as Looff Pleasure Pier (now known as the Santa Monica Pier).

The Santa Monica Pier and the Newcomb Pier are a short distance from the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome.

The two world-famous destinations were designed and built by a famous German builder.

Master carousel builder and craftsman Charles Looff’s final project was the hippodrome.

Chariot races were traditionally held in hippodromes (Greek open-air stadiums), but Charles had other plans.

Carousel, circular swings, roller coaster, and dance hall were all included in the original design of his building.

The hippodrome was used as a movie location for plenty of movies, including The Sting, a 1973 Oscar-winning film.

It also received recognition and was even hailed as a National Historic Landmark and a member of the Register of Historic Places.

You cannot say you’ve been to Santa Monico without coming here!

Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Mercado Santa Monica, California
Mercado is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

How about having dinner at one of Santa Monica’s renowned restaurants?

Mercado, a Mexican restaurant and bar in downtown Santa Monica, serves classic and modern Mexican cuisine and a large selection of tequilas (over 60 *wink*).

Food, atmosphere, and tradition all come together at Mercado in Santa Monica to express the true essence of New Mexican cuisine.

The main dining room’s unique mix of modern and classic design elements creates the ideal setting for an intimate, high-end dining experience that is both approachable and welcoming.

Chef Jose Acevedo’s menu, inspired by his and co-owner Jesse Gomez’s deep Mexican ancestry, includes dishes he adapted from a family recipe.

The ambiance is both casual and classy, with a mix of upscale design and a welcoming vibe.

Mercado’s menu is prepared by hand, the environment is warm and inviting, and the service is both pleasant and knowledgeable.

Book a reservation in advance because this place is always packed!

Address: 1416 4th St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Museum of Flying

Museum of Flying, Santa , Monica, California
Museum of Flying, Santa, Monica, California / Alan Wilson /Flickr

Gear up, aviation nerds!

This museum is the world’s largest non-profit air and space museum!

As soon as you land at the Santa Monica Airport, the Museum of Flying is just a few miles away.

These exhibits and displays occupy 22,000 square feet, allowing visitors to learn about the history of aviation technology and aircraft development.

The museum houses more than two dozen aircraft, including a Boeing 727 nosepiece and a replica of the Wright Flyer.

It also has a number of essential and unusual aviation artifacts and records and relics from the early days of flying.

Not to mention that kids will love this place as well!

The children’s area has interactive displays, and a theater shows documentaries and films. 

Outside, there is a showcase plaza for planes, and there are guided tours and an interactive flight simulator available.

Relive your dreams of flying in this museum.

Address: 3100 Airport Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90405

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Pacific Park 

Pacific Park is the only amusement park on the West Coast that is built and located on a pier!

On the Pacific Park is the world’s first and only solar-powered Ferris Wheel!

It stands 85 feet long, spins at 2.5 revolutions per minute, and stops to pick up people every few minutes.

It has more than 174,000 twinkling LED lights.

Even when you don’t ride the Ferris Wheel, it is still a sight to behold. At night it boasts computer-generated light shows that can be seen from miles away.

When you reach the top, passengers can enjoy panoramic views of Los Angeles’ coastline, from Malibu to Palms Verdes. 

The view is so beautiful that you’ll forget you’re 85 feet in the air.

In addition to this staple ride, Pacific Park has eleven other amusement park rides.

Their over-the-ocean food plaza is a great place to eat authentic California cuisine when you get hungry after screaming your lungs out.

Address: 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Palisades Park

Palisades Park, Santa, Monica, California
Palisades Park, Santa, Monica, California / Feist, Michael – FunnyFence / Flickr

Not this done on your itinerary. Palisades Park is one of those Santa Monica attractions so well-known that it would be devastating if you don’t get to visit. 

This bluff-top park, situated between Ocean Avenue and the lovely beach, offers some of the most breathtaking views of the coastline.

Check out the rose bushes clusters, towering palm trees, and the wide ocean views combined to create one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor spaces.

It spans 26 acres and is well-loved by tourists and locals.

After being built in 1892, the park was redesigned with a walkway landscape with various plants to make it more appealing. 

There is a historic eucalyptus wood fence that was constructed in 1913 from scraps left over from when the city trimmed trees.

Many people visit the historical park to take in the beautiful scenery.

Address: Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Pono Burger

Pono Burger Santa Monica, California
Pono Burger is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

Don’t finish your itinerary without adding this place!

Pono Burger is a non-standard burger place on the West Coast.

Organic, pasture-fed beef and locally produced ingredients are used to make the classic American burger at Pono’s.

Keeping her Hawaiian origins, Chef Makani serves staple American food with a unique flair.

All of the items on the shop’s menu—burgers, milkshakes, hand-cut fries, and craft beer—serve the same purpose of feeding the community well, healthy meals.

Signature burgers like the Piku “Fig” Burger, featuring an organic beef patty and house-made caramelized fig jam with a secret ingredient (alcohol), are produced with local ingredients from trusted farms or made in-house.

With an appearance that resembles an old farmhouse and an interior that is simple and modern, the dining experience here is both pleasant and memorable.

If you’re tired of fatty, greasy (but somehow still dry) burgers, you better come to this place. 

Address: 829 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Route 66 End of the Trail Sign

Route 66 End of the Trail Sign, Santa, Monica, California
Route 66 End of the Trail Sign, Santa, Monica, California / daveynin / Flickr

No road is more famous than this one.

This East-to-West migration path had lost some of its popularity after the Interstate Highway System was built, but 85% survived and remained in use today.

The Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is located in Santa Monica, specifically in Santa Monica Pier. Looking over the Pacific Ocean. 

Several theories have circulated about the whereabouts of the original sign for Highway 66, with some believing it to be only a movie prop.

Despite the speculations and the fact that it is not even an official highway sign, the Route 66 End of the Trail Sign is an exciting tourist attraction in Santa Monica.

Some would argue that the rumors and speculations add to the experience.

If you’re in Santa Monica Pier already, it will be fun to look for the sign and snap a picture to show your friends.

Address: 330 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Santa Monica Camera Obscura

Santa Monica Camera Obscura, Santa, Monica, California
Santa Monica Camera Obscura, Santa Monica, California / Lorie Shaull / Flickr

A 123-year-old pinhole camera in Santa Monica still captures real-time images of Santa Monica Beach through a century-old lens.

In 1898, Santa Monica mayor Robert F. Jones created the Camera Obscura. With the goal of enticing tourists to the city.

Those who wanted to see what he had to offer were charged 10 cents each. Jones’ camera had been an enormous hit, as so many people literally visited Santa Monica to get a peek.

It became so popular that it was even loaned to Los Angeles for a time.

Currently, it is housed in a park building where classes and events are held that also doubles as an art and culture center.

You will be led to a small inconspicuous room where you will find a giant white disk in the center and a wheel that allows you to steer the lens.  

Santa Monica Camera Obscura is situated just at the southeastern end of Palisades Park. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by.

Address: 1450 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Santa, Monica, California
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Santa, Monica, California / NPCA Photos / Flickr

There are over 20 parks in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and countless activities you can try.

Malibu beaches, hiking trails, and cultural Native American sites can be seen at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

These mountains are one of the largest conserved Mediterranean-type environments.

Combining the Mediterranean climate and the Santa Monica Mountains’ features has resulted in a landscape rich in natural resources.

With approximately 500 mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibian species that call over 1,000 plant species in SMMNRA home.

It is one of the world’s most densely packed archaeological resources in mountain ranges.

Indeed, The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is also the country’s largest urban national park.

More than 1,000 archaeological sites in the park date back over 10,000 years ago.

The rough mountain slopes and valleys of the Santa Monica Mountains add charm to their already significant role in its historical and cultural significance to the people.

Address: 26876 Mulholland Hwy, Calabasas, CA 91302

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Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, California
Santa Monica Pier, California / Mike McBey / Flickr

The Santa Monica Pier is one of the best places to visit in California.

Come visit Santa Monica’s most famous attraction!

When you arrive in Santa Monica, California, you can’t help but notice the world-famous Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Beach Pier, which juts out into the warm Pacific.

The Santa Monica Pier, located on Santa Monica’s westernmost tip, is an iconic feature of this beautiful seaside neighborhood.

Indeed, one of the most iconic and most featured locations in Santa Monica.

It has been the chosen background for numerous movies and music videos.

Take a stroll along the pier and take in the stunning sights while listening to the breaking waves, the bustle, and the music around you.

Make sure you pause, take a breath, admire the view, and enjoy the mood that only the Santa Monica Pier can offer.

There is also an abundance of family-friendly activities and lively street performers. The public pier boasts breathtaking views and more than a century of fascinating history.

Address: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Santa Monica Stairs

Santa Monica Stairs, California
Santa Monica Stairs, California / Chris Long / Flickr

Looking for a place that will give you a good workout? Consider going to the Santa Monica Stairs.

If you have asthma, you might have to pass on this one.

As odd as it sounds, these stairs are a popular spot for health nuts and those looking to get started on a healthier lifestyle.

It is challenging to find woven into Santa Monica’s natural scenery if you’re not in the know.

It shoots straight up and broad across, with three landings between each step.

To put it another way, it’s like scaling an eight-story structure in terms of vertical height. But this one comes with a gorgeous view. Plus, you will be joined by both locals and tourists alike.

You will be surrounded by Santa Monica locals and fellow health nuts on their way to finishing their workout.

When you’re sweating buckets and tired, take a minute to look into the scenery and appreciate how far you climbed. 

Address: 699 Adelaide Dr, Santa Monica, CA 90402

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Sweet Rose Creamery

Sweet Rose Creamery Santa Monica, California
Sweet Rose Creamery is one of the best places to go in Santa Monica, California

Who says you can only eat ice cream on special occasions? In Sweet Rose Creamery, all days deserve a sundae!

Santa Monica’s Sweet Rose Creamery proudly makes its ice cream from scratch using local produce.

It is located in Brentwood Country Mart, founded by executive chef Shiho Yoshikawa and business partners Zoe Nathan and Josh Loeb back in 2010.

Today, the ice cream parlor has five locations that still use locally sourced and organic ingredients to create high-quality ice cream and sorbet.

In-house creations include mint and chocolate chip and salted caramel, both of which are classics that are executed so well.

And they make their own waffle cones, fresh and perfectly crisp!

Do try their more inventive flavors like the Olive Oil with Lemon Wafer and 

Candied Cherry Chip.

They even have DIY Sundae Packages, which you can get for take-out if you prefer to enjoy the cold treat at your hotel.

Kids are not the only ones to enjoy this sweet, creamy treat.

Address: 225 26th St #51, Santa Monica, CA 90402

Third Street Promenade

Third Street Promenade, Santa , Monica, California
Third Street Promenade, Santa, Monica, California / La Citta Vita / Flickr

As nice as nature and outdoor activities sound, you cannot deny the draw of urban landscapes and retail therapy.

Downtown Santa Monica, California’s Third Street Promenade, is a shopping, retail, dining, and entertainment complex.

There are numerous shopping and dining options along the palm tree-lined promenade in Santa Monica’s leading tourist destination.

Cars are not allowed in the area, making it safe for pedestrians to roam the streets. In total, it occupies three blocks of the traffic-free zone.

The region is a year-round go-to because of its active nightlife and many high-end shopping options.

The Promenade is littered with local cafes, charming bistros, and dining establishments. At the same time, tables and food carts fill the sidewalks offering various street food.

There are also a lot of street musicians entertaining the crowds, to the delight of the audience, as they flaunt their talents.

Spend your entire evening here after enjoying the various attractions during day time.

Address: 1351 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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Tongva Park

Tongva Park, Santa, Monica, California
Tongva Park, Santa, Monica, California / Hrag Vartanian / Flickr

At the southern part of Santa Monica Pier, located directly off Ocean Avenue, is Tongva Park.

It is a park where contemporary architecture meets green environments.

At one point, Tongva Park was just another parking lot, with pure asphalt and no shade or pleasant view. However, that’s no longer the case now.

It has undergone a tremendous change and is now a 6-acre urban sanctuary where residents and tourists can relax and enjoy the outdoors.

An evening in this urban park will be filled with excitement and relaxation, thanks to the abundance of things to do and sights to see. Moreover, more than 170 different species of plants can be found in Tongva, and 21 distinct kinds of trees are grown in seven other nurseries spread out around the state.

Perhaps the most notable is the steel pavilion shaped into a cocoon or a shell that overlooks the coastlines. The free Wi-Fi didn’t hurt either, plus it is conveniently located near public transportation.

Address: 1615 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Volunteer At Animal Shelters

Animal Shelters in Santa Monica, California
Animal Shelters in Santa Monica, California

Animal shelters need your help! There are between 4,000 and 6,000 shelters all over the United States. Every year, 8–10 million dogs and cats end up in shelters. These shelters are in charge of taking care of them temporarily. These animals come to the shelter when they are found wandering around or when their owners no longer want them. About 4 to 6 million are put down every year because there aren’t enough homes or people willing to adopt them.

You know that wonderful, warm feeling you get when you realize that you did something altruistic that would significantly brighten another person’s day? This prize will be given to you each time you assist a stray or abandoned animal who is ill or in distress.

If you want to contribute but don’t have much time, consider giving your used towels and bedding to the humane society or rescue groups. Cozy bedding is always needed for the animals at the shelter. A dog or kitten may snooze in your children’s old baby blankets if they are no longer used. Animal rescue groups and humane societies always need cat and dog food, cat litter, leashes and collars, and toys.

Check out the list of animal shelters in Santa Monica, California, where you can volunteer. Help needy animals!

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