Activities & Adventure 7 MINS READ

The 11 Best & Fun Things To Do In Santa Monica, California

The 11 Best & Fun Things To Do In Santa Monica, California

Activities & Adventure 7 MINS READ
A couple biking in Santa Monica, California.

A coastal city located by California’s South Coast, Santa Monica is brimming with idyllic beaches, lively farmers markets, staggering state parks, and an array of family-friendly attractions.

When visiting this luscious Californian getaway, don’t pass up the chance to take in views of the Pacific Ocean from the famous Santa Monica Pier, soak up the sun on Santa Monica Beach, or enjoy some retail therapy on Third Street Promenade.

Of one thing we’re sure: you’ll never run out of fun things to do in this luminous coastal city.

Read on to discover the 11 amazing things to do in Santa Monica, California.

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The 11 Best & Fun Things To Do In Santa Monica, CA

Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park, and Heal The Bay Aquarium

Santa Monica Pier, in Santa Monica, California.

Start off your Santa Monica trip by walking down the Santa Monica Pier. This vibrant, double-jointed pier overlooks the sun-kissed Santa Monica Beach and offers a whirlwind of family-friendly activities.

Here, visit Pacific Park, an amusement park famous for its thrilling roller coaster, and a giant Ferris wheel offering showstopping views of the Pacific Ocean.

Under the Santa Monica Pier, the Heal The Bay Aquarium (formerly known as Santa Monica Pier Aquarium) is home to over 100 local marine animals, including sharks, sea urchins, stingrays, octopuses, and anemones.

Santa Monica State Beach

Santa Monica State Beach, Santa Monica, California.

After a fun-filled day at Santa Monica Pier, head over to the 3-mile-long Santa Monica State Beach (aka Santa Monica Beach). Following the edge of the Pacific Coast Highway, this beach lies on either side of the famous Santa Monica Pier and offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy an array of activities.

The beach has soft, sandy shores, which are ideal for sunbathing, jogging, and walking. There are also beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and playgrounds.

Santa Monica Beach is also home to the Original Muscle Beach, a designated area featuring gymnastics equipment, such as parallel bars, rings, swings, and ropes available for kids and adults.

Around Santa Monica Beach you’ll find a delightful range of oceanfront resorts, breezy cafes, and restaurants.

Downtown Santa Monica and Third Street Promenade

Third Street Promenade in Downtown Santa Monica, California.

East of the Santa Monica Pier, in Downtown Santa Monica, is located one of the most coveted shopping areas in the city: the Third Street Promenade. This open-air, pedestrianized area is home to a wide variety of stores — from fresh farmers’ market produce to designer fashion —, as well as an upscale mall named Santa Monica Place.

This outdoor shopping mall features an array of Santa Monica’s best shops including Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Nike, Hugo Boss, Uniqlo, Rolex, and Tory Burch.

Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Marvin Braude Bike Trail, Santa Monica, California.

One of the best ways of taking in Santa Monica’s allure is by exploring the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. Spanning along the glittering shoreline of Santa Monica Bay, this 22-mile paved bicycle path will reward you with some of the most spectacular views of the California coast.

Regarded as Los Angeles’ “most popular bike path”, the Marvin Braude Bike Trail also allows you to discover some of the top beaches in California.

Santa Monica Farmers Market

A colorful Farmers Market.

Taking place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Downtown Santa Monica, the colorful Santa Monica Farmers Market is the ultimate destination for shopping locally grown products like fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, and meat.

On Saturdays, this quintessential Santa Monica farmer’s market offers the largest percentage of certified-organic growers of any market in the city. Not by chance, it’s a favorite destination for award-winning chefs.

Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome and Carousel

Carousel in Santa Monica, California.

The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome is an architectural gem in Santa Monica. Located on the Newcomb Pier adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier, the hippodrome was designed in 1916 by Charles I.D. Looff to house a whimsical carousel.

Built in 1922, the hippodrome’s original carousel was sold and dismantled long ago. Today, the hippodrome houses a more recent carousel, which was built by the prestigious Philadelphia Toboggan Company and boasts ts hand-carved wooden horses, an artfully painted upper rim, and 1,100 electric lights.

Palisades Park

Palisades Park, Santa Monica, California.

Located along a 1.6-mile section of Ocean Avenue, on top of a coastal sandstone bluff, Palisades Park is a stunning coastal bluff park that offers sweeping views of Santa Monica Bay. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Malibu.

This dreamy park occupies over 26 acres and features beautifully manicured lawns, scenic pathways, and towering palm trees. Some of the tried-and-true activities here include jogging and biking.

Palisades Park is also home to the Santa Monica Camera Obscura, built in 1898 by Robert F. Jones, and given to the city in 1907. This quirky artifact has a pinhole camera that captures images from outside and projects them in a darkened room.

Annenberg Community Beach House

Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica, California.

The Annenberg Community Beach House is a public recreational destination that features an array of leisure facilities. Built on the site of the now-demolished 110-room mansion of actress Marion Davies, the beach house features sweeping views of the ocean, a swimming pool, volleyball courts, a playground for the kids, and other fun attractions. Here, you’ll also find a varied schedule of cultural programs that change according to each season.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Santa Monica, California.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area offers visitors the chance to experience nature in a unique setting. Located adjacent to the city of Los Angeles, this area comprises several parks, open space preserves, more than 500 miles of trails, and idyllic Malibu beaches.

Some of the worth-exploring sites here include Point Mugu State Park, famous for 5 miles of ocean shoreline with rocky bluffs, beaches, sandy dunes, and rugged hills, and the Topanga State Park, which boasts 36 miles of trails through open grassland, live oaks and staggering views of the Pacific Ocean.

Known for its bountiful wildlife, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area preserves one of the best examples of a Mediterranean climate ecosystem in the world. In this area, that are over 1,000 plant species that provide habitat for approximately 500 mammal, bird, reptile, and amphibian species.

Santa Monica Stairs

Santa Monica Stairs, Santa Monica, California.

Active adventurers who love working out must visit the Santa Monica Stairs. Considered a mecca for fitness enthusiasts, these two outdoor staircases — one wooden (170 steps) and one cement (199 steps) — are surrounded by greenery and provide an incredible setting for an outdoor workout session.

The stairs are tucked into a serene residential neighborhood less than a mile from the ocean. And while they were once a hidden gem within the local community, they became popular among those who visit Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Museums

Santa Monica Airport, California.

Santa Monica is as much about world-class as it is about beaches. Located inside the Santa Monica Airport, the kid-friendly Museum of Flying takes visitors to uncover one of the largest air and space collections in the US. Highlights of this stellar museum include jet-age crafts, a replica Wright flyer, and the nosepiece of a Boeing 727.

In the California Heritage Museum, beautifully set within the 1894 Historic Landmark Roy Jones house, expect to learn about the rich history of California’s heritage through precious artifacts.

Art lovers can’t pass up the opportunity to check out the Bergamot Station Arts Center. Located on eight acres in the heart of Santa Monica, the museum takes visitors to discover and interact with dazzling arts environments including fine art galleries, monumental scale installations, live performances, video art, music, educational programs, poetry, comedy, and theater performances.

Tongva Park

Tongva Park, Santa Monica, California.

Are you visiting Santa Monica with the kids? Then, be sure to take them to Tongva Park. Located within walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier, this 6-acre park is divided into 4 main sections: Observation Hill, Discovery Hill, Garden Hill, and Gathering Hill.

Within the park’s areas, you’ll come across rolling hills, walking paths, and native plants that change subtly with the seasons.


What is Santa Monica most known for?

Santa Monica is known for its sun-kissed beaches, a worldwide famous pier, scenic parks, and family-friendly attractions.

Is Santa Monica or Venice Beach better?

Both Santa Monica and Venice Beach are great destinations. Santa Monica has a wider range of things to do, while Venice is smaller and known for its hippie atmosphere.

What are the best attractions in Santa Monica?

The 11 best Santa Monica attractions are:

  • Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park, and Heal The Bay Aquarium;
  • Santa Monica State Beach;
  • Downtown Santa Monica and Third Street Promenade;
  • Marvin Braude Bike Trail;
  • Santa Monica Farmers Market;
  • Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome and Carousel;
  • Palisades Park;
  • Annenberg Community Beach House;
  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area;
  • Santa Monica Stairs;
  • Santa Monica Museums;
  • Tongva Park.

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