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The Essential S's of Santa Monica

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday July 23, 2022
Originally published on July 21, 2022

The Essential S's of Santa Monica

Los Angeles might be home to celebrity hot spots and filming locations, but savvy SoCal visitors know that tucked away from the hype is an utter wonderland of sun, sophistication, strollability, sustainability and shoppability — Santa Monica and its five essential S's.

Sun

With over 280 sunny days a year and a glorious 3.5-mile stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline, Santa Monica offers up some of the most amazing outdoor settings in Southern California. Its entire waterfront is lined with Santa Monica State Beach, with its soft sands, tanned surfers, and the iconic Santa Monica Pier. Within easy walking distance to many of Santa Monica's top hotels, Santa Monica Beach has its own LGBTQ+ section, located near lifeguard station 26 in front of Dorothy Green Park where Ocean Park Boulevard ends. And just to the north is Will Rogers State Beach, a favorite of SoCal LGBTQ+ locals and tourists alike.

When it's time to grab a bite, Santa Monica is chock full of ways to do that outside too, with a huge selection of outdoor dining options.

Sophistication

Speaking of dining, Santa Monica is home to some of Southern California's finest restaurants, including three true standouts with Michelin stars: The farm-to-table Rustic Canyon on Wilshire Boulevard, the elevated French bistro Pasjoli on Main Street, and the intimate two-starred Mélisse, also on Wilshire Boulevard. For smaller budgets, Michelin has also awarded two Santa Monica eateries its Bib Gourmand award, Tumbi Craft Indian Kitchen on Santa Monica Boulevard and the Italian fare at Colapasta on 5th Street.

Of course, Santa Monica also boasts some excellent boutique hotels, including five that were just hailed as the best in town by Tablet Hotels, the official hotel selection of the Michelin Guide. The Viceroy Santa Monica on Ocean Boulevard is just steps from the coast, and it's been an L.A. beach scene institution for more than two decades. It's also a member of World Rainbow Hotels, which carefully curates properties for their commitment to welcoming LGBTQ+ travelers. Another World Rainbow member on the Tablet list is Wilshire Boulevard's Santa Monica Proper, which boasts soothing interior designs by Kelly Wearstler and the only rooftop pool deck on the Westside. Set in a quieter part of town, the delightfully quirky Palihouse Santa Monica is a Tablet boutique pick that's been in continuous operation since 1927.

Strollability

One of the nicest features about Santa Monica is its compact size, with its accessible 8.3 square miles making it incredibly easy to get anywhere in town by foot. Stretching from Broadway to Wilshire Boulevard, and just blocks from the beach, Third Street Promenade is one of the most popular pedestrian malls in Southern California. The legendary Palisades Park offers more than 26 acres of coastal green space, with unsurpassable views of Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean along its palm-tree-lined paths. And, of course, Santa Monica Pier is one of SoCal's most beloved strolling destinations for natives and visitors alike, and an excellent place to watch Santa Monica's spectacular sunsets.

Sustainability

One of Santa Monica Pier's most instantly recognizable features is its Pacific Wheel — but what many don't realize is that it's also the world's first and only solar-powered Ferris wheel. It's just one of the countless ways Santa Monica shows its dedication to sustainability, a commitment that's helped it become one of the first cities in the world to achieve Platinum LEED Status. The city's "Heal the Bay" program, designed to educate, inspire, and empower people to be stewards of the environment, features an aquarium at beach level under the Pier's historic carousel. And Annenberg Community Beach House is not only the country's only public beach club, it's also LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold-certified for using recycled blue jeans as its insulation.

Santa Monica's size and infrastructure also makes it simple to go car-free. Not only is the city connected to Los Angeles's Metro system via the Expo Line, it has its own bus system too, as well as the convenient (and free!) golf-car-style cab service Circuit. App-rentable scooters and e-bikes are plentiful around town, and the city is part of the 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail, the world's longest oceanfront bike path.

Shoppability

Few cities its size come close to offering the incredible array of shopping options as does Santa Monica. Fantastic and truly unique boutiques for all budgets can be found across the city, and the stellar combination of Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place bring together more than 150 shops across three blocks and three stories. The world-famous Promenade offers everything from farmers market produce to hip designer fashions along three pedestrian-only blocks at the heart of Santa Monica, not to mention some of the city's top dining and entertainment options. At the Promenade's south end, the three-story Santa Monica Place includes top brands like Nordstrom, Coach, and Tiffany, alongside more than 80 other specialty stores, and its rooftop deck has a special bonus: Gorgeous ocean views. Boutique shoppers will find scores of one-of-a-kind shops along Montana Avenue, Main Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, while collectors will love Santa Monica Airport Antique & Vintage Market.

For a wealth of more great information on Santa Monica attractions, beaches, restaurants, shopping, bars, hotels, hotspots, and everything you might need to help plan your perfect trip no matter where your interests and needs may lie, check out Visit Santa Monica's official website.

Dan Allen covers travel and LGBTQ culture for numerous outlets around the world including NBC Out, CBS Watch!, the Los Angeles Blade, Passport and Fodor's.

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