How To Spend a Day in Santa Monica

There’s endless fun to be had in Santa Monica
There’s endless fun to be had in Santa Monica | © dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo
Dominic Bertolami

Freelance writer

Beautiful west-facing beaches, upscale shopping, and countless restaurants and bars mean there’s endless fun to be had in Santa Monica. Here’s how to spend the ideal day, from sunny rides along the beachside bike path to cool nights dancing to hot live music.


To make sure you have plenty of energy for your day, start with breakfast at Urth Cafe. This lively LA hotspot has indoor and outdoor seating and an extensive menu that’s sure to please everybody. For something light, try the cottage parfait (organic puffed gluten-free granola layered with organic Greek yogurt, strawberry jam, mixed berries and seasonal fruit); on the heavier side, the breakfast burrito with organic black beans and mild chipotle, and the prosciutto and cheese panini are both good choices.

Once you’re feeling satisfied, it is time to explore. Take a ride through the beautiful Tongva Park on the way to Downtown Santa Monica and spend a bit more time in the sun. You could even jump onto the Marvin Braude Bike Trail for a chilled beachside ride.

Alternatively, hit Downtown Santa Monica for some serious retail therapy. H&M, Sephora, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters are just a few of the many shops found at the 3rd Street Promenade, a massive indoor/outdoor shopping center.

Urth Cafe is a lively LA staple


When lunchtime hunger pains strike, head over to Bay Cities, an award-winning Italian deli and market that’s been operating in the heart of Santa Monica since 1926. Though there are other sandwiches on the menu, The Godmother – which brings together Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola, ham, prosciutto and provolone together with mustard and peppers on fresh Italian bread – is the shining star. Options for vegetarians and vegans are also available and equally delicious. Lines can be long during lunch, so order ahead to save time.

Afterward, take a stroll on the famous Santa Monica Pier. For a bit of nostalgia, grab an ice cream and ride the Pacific Wheel or the historic carousel. You can also enjoy the exciting twists and turns of the historic West Coaster or a swinging wooden ship known as the Sea Dragon for as little as $5 a ride.

Located south of the pier is the original Muscle Beach. Stop here and check out the locals practicing acro-yoga, then test your own fitness by climbing the rope or swinging on the rings. Muscle Beach has a social atmosphere, making it ideal for people watching or meeting new friends. Test your balance and ask some of the slackliners for a hands-on lesson; they are usually nice and willing – literally – to show you the ropes.

Located south of the pier is the original Muscle Beach


As the sun comes closer to the horizon, kick off your evening with a Santa Monica sunset. Shutters on the Beach is the place to enjoy the colorful spectacle in style. Conveniently, happy hour is from 4pm until 6pm, so you can enjoy a berry mojito with Caliche Rum, lime and fresh berries for $9 while you take in the sunset.

After your drinks, head back to your hotel or Airbnb and get refreshed for dinner at the Water Grill. Though the dress code is casual, take this opportunity to change out of those flip-flops and into something smart, as this will be a dinner to remember.

The extensive raw bar offers lobster, swordfish and scallops, but that’s just the beginning. The highly elevated menu changes daily and features handcrafted cocktails and local draught beers that pair perfectly with the locally caught seafood delicacies.

Shutters on the Beach is the place to enjoy the sunset

After hours

Begin your after-dinner antics at The Bungalow. This stylish lounge is located directly across from the beach atop the bluffs of Santa Monica’s Veteran Memorial Park. With mismatched tables, armchairs and couches, partying here feels like stepping into someone’s home. Play a few games of billiards, or challenge a friend to a fast-paced game of ping-pong in the garden.

When you’re ready to move on, hit up Harvelle’s. This moody bar and music venue has been entertaining Santa Monica since 1931. From blues bands and famed local acts to spoken-word poetry and sultry burlesque dance shows, the calendar of events keeps this venue crowded with unique characters.

End your night at Basement Tavern, a hip underground cocktail lounge serving up retro drinks and live music. With an all-night happy hour that lasts until 2am on Sunday and Monday, there’s no need for the party to stop until well after midnight.

3rd Street Promenade is a huge indoor/outdoor shopping center

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