Weekend travel guide to Santa Monica, Los Angeles, including the best hotel recommendations, restaurants, bars, museums, things to do, eat, see and explore.
SURF, SAND AND (ALWAYS) SUMMER.
Santa Monica has evolved over the years from a quiet seaside town to the quintessential beach city. An exciting, bustling destination all its own, it's a magnet for tourists and SoCals alike. With its sophisticated, eclectic collection of hotels, shopping, top restaurants, attractions and views of the blue Pacific, you'll want to stay forever. We've planned the perfect two-day getaway to experience it like a local, navigate the crowds, and avoid the cattle herd. From walks down quaint streets, drinks with views, and a visit to neighboring artsy, Venice (aka "Silicon Beach"), you'll strongly consider canceling your return flight home.
OCEANA BEACH CLUB
OCEANA BEACH CLUB. Stay and feel like a local in this 70-room “mid-century coastal” boutique hotel on Ocean Avenue. Tucked away from congested downtown, it's perfectly located for walks to Montana Ave, downtown SM, and most importantly, the beach,. The hotel also provides daily complimentary yoga classes on the sand and bikes to get around.
CASA DEL MAR
CASA DEL MAR. Looks can be deceiving. Casa Del Mar's beautiful, traditional brick exterior houses a stunning interior with a California coastal, cozy beach house vibe. The location is ideal, right on the beach with easy access to the water. The rooms are spacious, and the four-post beds and half moon windows give the rooms a palatial, comfortable, and California cool feel.
THE VICEROY. Across the street from Casa Del Mar, you'll find design-centric Viceroy. You won't have direct beach access but the Kelly Wearstler designed interiors, pool with chic cabanas, stunning dining/bar areas, and lush landscaping feels like its own private tropical oasis.
EAT_ GJUSTA. Located in a residential area of Venice on Sunset Ave, you will find (well, not at first, because there is no sign on the door) a hidden gem and hippest spot on the Westside. Don't forget to take a number as it operates like your favorite Jewish Deli but the food is anything but ordinary. The only thing it has in common with your traditional deli is the mutual love of smoked fish. You'll be talking about your custom fish bagel for months (or possibly forever).
WALK_ ABBOT KINNEY. This street is hipster headquarters to the Venice artist & techie crowd. You'll find brick and mortars of some innovative faves like Warby Parker, Tom’s, Casper, and Shinola as well as local Venice lifestyle boutiques, Burro, Mystic Journey Book Store, and Huset. Every store on "AK" is designed to impress (but without looking like it's trying too hard, obviously).
SNACK & DRINK_ BLUE STAR DONUTS or THE TASTING KITCHEN. If you just *happen* to walk by BLUE STAR DONUTS, we heard from a friend that the lemon poppy seed glazed donut is amazing. If you're not feeling the donut, head to the TASTING KITCHEN for a Bloody Mary or craft cocktail in the airy open space.
EAT_ THE BUTCHERS DAUGHTER or GJELINA. The decor will draw you in to THE BUTCHERS DAUGHTER, but stay for a meal (or juice/smoothie if you went for that donut). The ambiance is soothing, boho chic, and the food is in line with the decor, light, simple, fresh and clean (think avocado toast, juice flights, and “healthy” pizza).
A general consensus of Westsiders that GJELINA is that restaurant that will always have a wait, but its worth it. Put your name down and take a stroll. The variety of dishes from vegetable based small plates like mushroom toasts, squash blossoms, to mains like pizzas, sandwiches and duck confit, will be cater to any type of palate.
WALK_ VENICE CANALS. One of the most picturesque neighborhoods in the city, you'll understand why this part of town is named after the famed Italian city.
WALK_ MAIN STREET or BIKE BOARDWALK. For a change of pace, take a stroll down the most friendly street on the Westside, Main Street. Lined with unique retail, eclectic restaurants, and communal spaces, Main Street will give you the small town feel in metropolis Santa Monica.
If you're more active (or just feel like burning off those extra calories), rent a bike at the Venice boardwalk and ride it north towards the pier.
DRINK_ HOTEL ERWIN. Head to the rooftop at this boutique surfer hotel in Venice to catch the sunset over drinks. The views expand from Malibu to Palos Verdes and is loved by locals.
EAT_ ROSE CAFE or SCOPA. For eclectic decor (and food) in a lively setting with a well-dressed, creative crowd, head to ROSE CAFE. It is buzzing at all times of the day. If you're looking for a more sleek and swanky feel, head to SCOPA. Sit in cozy, black leather tufted booths, while devouring delicious Italian influenced eats. Both restaurants attract a post-dinner crowd at the bar, so top off the evening with a cocktail at either or both.
EAT_ SWEET LADY JANE or ART'S TABLE. Grab a coffee and full breakfast at SWEET LADY JANE, a favorite LA bakery. It's never too early to grab a slice of cake (triple berry cake!) or chocolate chip cookie to go. If you want a healthier option, go to the ART'S TABLE. It's a full breakfast menu with everything from a brown rice breakfast bowl to a smoked short rib hash (ok, maybe not so healthy).
WALK_ MONTANA AVE. After breakfast, stroll Montana's treasure of apparel, beauty, and home decor boutiques that cater to a well-heeld Santa Monica crowd.
SEE_ GETTY VILLA. Admission is free, but you must reserve a timed spot in advance. Perched above the blue Pacific, the villa will transport you to the Amalfi coast with its beauty, gardens, and architecture. The villa's palatial architecture enhances the antiquities collection, which is extraordinary. (Note: construction is expected in 2017. Check the calendar before your visit).
EAT_ MASTRO'S OCEAN CLUB or THE FIG AT THE FAIRMONT. Nearby the Getty Villa, enjoy the weekend brunch menu at MASTRO'S OCEAN CLUB where the seafood and spectacular coastal views (and steak too!) are the stars. Or head back to downtown Santa Monica to THE FIG AT THE FAIRMONT HOTEL. Enjoy Mediterranean-inspired dishes in a brasserie and light-filled space with beautiful hanging plants. If you're craving a post-brunch cocktail and want a more rowdy scene, head to THE BUNGALOW (also at the Fairmont) for a drink at the most popular bungalow turned bar on the Westside.
WALK_ OCEAN AVE. The most scenic street in Los Angeles, Ocean Ave, is a picture perfect postcard from every angle. Walk north on Ocean Ave towards the tree-lined streets and wander through the quiet, quaint residential neighborhoods on this side of town.
DRINK _ THE PENTHOUSE AT THE HUNTLEY. Grab a glass of wine or cocktail on the top floor of this boutique hotel for views and more views at sunset.
EAT_ GEORGIO BALDI or THE FELIX. GEORGIO BALDI might look like a no frills local Italian joint, but don’t let that fool you. It is one of the more upscale Italian joints in the city with a clientele that doesn’t disappoint. Think pastas from scratch (if you can’t decide on a pasta, ask them for a “pasta sampler.” The corn agnolotti is to die for). Also, the sole is perfect to share.
Recently opening in 2017, the newer Westside Italian edition, THE FELIX has quickly worked its way up to becoming the hottest restaurant in the city and it deserves the praise. The modern Italian menu uses local California ingredients for a trendy culinary spin on your favorite Italian classics. Its location on Abbot Kinney attracts a buzzing crowd that will appreciate the extensive wine and cocktail menu. Just make your reservation now.
DRINK_ SHORE BAR. If you're craving that post-dinner cocktail, head to Shore Bar (next door to Georgio Baldi). The east coast inspired setting and nautical theme works well with the preppy seaside Santa Monica crowd.