Santa Monica has a host of activities and attractions to offer. With its history of film and music culture, and its lively arts scene, culture buffs have no lack of fun things to do in Santa Monica, and the friendly stretch of Santa Monica State Beach is the perfect place for surfing, lounging, and people-watching. Shoppers will enjoy the experience of browsing the stores while street musicians and artists entertain them, and the party set will find no shortage of bars, clubs, and other nightly Santa Monica activities. Here are a few suggestions to help you find exactly the right things to do in Santa Monica.
Surf at Santa Monica Beach
Surfing at Santa Monica's beaches is one of many travelers' favorite things to do in Santa Monica, and it is permitted year-round, though there are some limitations during the summer months depending on how many swimmers are around. Surf schools and lessons abound, as well as surf shops. If you are a beginner learning how to ride a wave for the first time, Santa Monica's mild surf makes it a great place to start.
Ride the South Bay Bike Trail
Cruising along the South Bay Bike Trail is one of many fun things to do in Santa Monica that are bound to draw the active and athletic. Twenty-two miles long, it stretches along the Pacific Coast from Malibu to Torrance, passing under the Santa Monica Pier and along the beach before continuing south through Venice. Jogging, biking, skateboarding, and rollerblading are popular along this trail.
Fish at the Historic Santa Monica Pier
Fishing is one of several free things to do in Santa Monica, as a license is not required. If you don't have your own fishing equipment and bait, rentals are available at the end of the Pier. Common fish that are caught at the Pier include perch, mackerel, white sea bass, and leopard and tiger sharks. Spend a lazy afternoon fishing in the sunshine, and feel that rush of excitement as you reel in your catch.
Shop at the Third Street Promenade
The Third Street Promenade is a palm-lined, outdoor pedestrian shopping district featuring quirky street performances by musicians and artists. It is home to trendy shops such as H&M, Anthropologie, American Eagle, and some posh boutiques including Armani. Some nice restaurants also line this street, and taking in a movie at one of the many movie theatres in the area is one of the classic Santa Monica activities.
Ride the Ferris Wheel at Pacific Park
Pacific Park is a free-to-enter amusement park located by the century-old Santa Monica Pier. The famous Pacific Wheel, which stood nine stories high, has recently been replaced with the world's first solar-powered Ferris wheel. A ride on the Ferris wheel, which shines with hundreds of LED lights, offers incomparable views over the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Park also includes many other fun things to do on a pay-per-ride basis, including a roller coaster that encircles the park.
Visit the Santa Monica Museum of Art
The Santa Monica Museum of Art is located in Bergamot Station, Southern California's largest art gallery and cultural complex. The museum's exhibits showcase contemporary artists' work on a local, national, and international level. Exploring Bergamot Station, originally a stop for the Red Line Trolley, is one of the more sophisticated of Santa Monica activities, and the station includes multiple galleries and a café on its eight-acre grounds.
Join the Twilight Dance Series
This annual music extravaganza runs during the summer months and is one of many free things to do in Santa Monica. Located on the Santa Monica Pier, it hosts live bands (in the past, this has included big names such as the Indigo Girls and Patti Smith) and is completely free of charge! In addition, you can dance the night away at special events celebrating the original La Monica Ballroom, historically the home of many original stars of swing, and one of many fun things to do in Santa Monica.
Party All Night in Santa Monica
Santa Monica's bars and clubs rival those of Los Angeles, but without the inconvenience of going all over the city to find them. Whether you're looking for a drink in an English pub or an electrifying dance club, Santa Monica has an astonishing variety of evening establishments in a relatively small area. The nightlife is happening in spots such as Main Street, the Third Street Promenade, on the beach, and around the Santa Monica Pier. A number of Santa Monica hotels also have popular bars and lounges, many of which offer a beautiful view of the evening skyline.