Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Santa Monica, CA

  • Published 2022/03/25

Santa Monica is one of the more popular places in all of California, characterized by the iconic Santa Monica Pier on the western end of the city.

This picturesque community located next to the Pacific Ocean is packed with a wide variety of entertainment, from amusement parks to museums and markets to everything in between!

Santa Monica provides all its visitors and tourists with a vibrant, seaside atmosphere that’s perfect for the entire family to lounge back in and enjoy.

Experience this seaside community with stunning views through this list of things to do in Santa Monica in California!

Enjoy Some Rides at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier

Sunset at Pacific Park

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This family-friendly amusement park along Santa Monica’s Pier has been one of the leading entertainment destinations for tourists and locals alike since its opening in 1996.

Home to several thrilling rides for the adventurous daredevils, this amusement park will test your bravery!

One of their main attractions includes a solar-powered Ferris wheel, the first of its kind.

Aerial view of Pacific Park

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With over a million visitors each year, Pacific Park will give you an enjoyable time, as it is packed with various games where you can win prizes – some that are even bigger than you!

You can also find a wide array of snack bars and food stalls to keep you energized, including classic California cuisines such as hamburgers and tacos!

Pacific Park is situated right next to the Pacific Ocean, giving you a cool ocean breeze along with striking views of the Los Angeles skyline.

Make sure to bring your camera with you on this trip to make lasting memories with family and friends!

Night lights of Pacific Park

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Go on a Shopping Spree at Downtown Santa Monica

A shopping mall at Downtown Santa Monica


This world-class shopping district in Santa Monica gives guests an unparalleled shopping experience with the many shops, businesses, and boutiques you can purchase from!

You can find various retail shops that sell apparel, jewelry and accessories, furnishings, and so much more for a great price!

People walking along Downtown Santa Monica

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There is also a wide selection of restaurants with international cuisines you can dine in at; whether you’re craving Italian, Chinese, Mexican food, Downton Santa Monica has it for you.

This district is also home to some of the most entertaining, live events which you can attend, from comedy shows to trivia night, you’d be more than welcome to drop by.

Downton Santa Monica is a tourist hotspot in this city, so try and drop by to try out their endless amenities, see their shows, and have a fun time!

Buildings at Downtown Santa Monica

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Get a Nice Tan at Santa Monica State Beach

Aerial view of Santa Monica State Beach

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One of California’s most popular beaches, Santa Monica State Beach is complete with soft, white sand, walking and biking trails, and tons of other fun activities!

Spanning over 3.5 miles in length, this beach is arguably one of the best beaches to go to in the entire state, with all the space for sports and fun.

Other amenities include picnic tables, a playground for kids, and paved paths in case you’d like to go on a nice walk.

Aerial view of the people at Santa Monica State Beach

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This state beach guarantees a fun-filled family day that’s close to the city’s heart.

You can also catch a beautiful sunset along this beach next to the crashing waves of the glimmering Pacific Ocean!

Bring a beach towel while you lay in the sand and soak up the sun at Santa Monica State Beach!

People swimming in Santa Monica State Beach

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Check Out the Art Collection at Bergamot Station Arts Center

Exterior of Bergamot Station Arts Center

CalderOliver, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A 10-minute drive away from the city center takes you to Bergamot Station Arts Center, an internationally renowned arts center home to a wide variety of galleries!

With artworks across a multitude of art styles and mediums, you can find some of the most unique and artistically crafted masterpieces on display.

Their exhibits feature various arts from artists all over the world to showcase their diversity and representation.

Bergamot Station Arts Center also hosts events throughout the year, ranging from cultural activities to educational programs for their audiences to learn about the arts!

This creative arts complex has been serving the community since 1994, so try and drop by to admire the art pieces they have!

Go for a Walk at Palisades Park

People walking along Palisades Park

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Palisades Park is one of Santa Monica’s most iconic landmarks, characterized by the rows of signature palm trees that line the trails.

Situated next to the ocean for a lovely view, this park also offers a relaxing atmosphere for walking or jogging under the shade provided by the trees!

Picnic areas are available for use so you can enjoy a nice meal with your family friends within this spacious park.

Stairway to Palisades Park

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Palisade Park’s rose garden is one of the main features you can take a look at that’s been here for decades!

You may also check out the various statues scattered around this park, such as the Santa Monica concrete sculpture overlooking Santa Monica bay and Gestation III wooden sculpture.

Camera Obscura Art Lab located within this park offers arts and crafts activities that are suitable for the entire family!

People hanging out at Palisades Park

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Admire Ocean Creatures at Heal the Bay Aquarium

Previously known as the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, Heal the Bay Aquarium is overloaded with some of the most magnificent sea creatures for you to marvel at.

Housing over 100 local species of marine life, this aquarium seeks to protect these creatures while giving visitors a newfound sense of responsibility to care for the environment!

Check out their exhibits and educational programs that tell you all about the marine sciences behind aquatic life.

Inside this aquarium, you can spot species of jellyfish, eels, sharks, and smaller sea creatures such as anemones and hermit crabs!

Since its establishment in 1985, this company has been dedicated to protecting and preserving the coastal waters of California and sharing this advocacy with visitors!

There’s so much to learn at Heal the Bay Aquarium that people of all ages can enjoy!

Wander around Tongva Park

Sunny day at Tongva Park

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Only a short walking distance away from Santa Monica Pier, Tongva Park houses some iconic structures and art sculptures for you to see!

Divided into four sections, Observation Hill, Discovery Hill, Garden Hill, and Gathering Hill, the paved path makes this park easily explorable to give guests a modern-urban feel of Santa Monica.

Landscape of Tongva Park

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Spanning over 6 acres in size, this park is ideal for walking and taking in the open air away from the busy city streets.

Kids can also enjoy their playground while adults can admire the various public art on display scattered around this park.

Tongva Park is the ideal place to wind back and relax after a long day of walking and exploring around Santa Monica!

Name sign of Tongva Park

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See Different Aircraft on Display at the Museum of Flying

Featuring the vintage and fighter aircraft that served the country during World War II, the Museum of Flying heavily emphasizes and highlights these collections.

Since its grand reopening in 2012 to the public, this museum has been dedicated to honoring the lives of aviation and aerospace leaders.

Inside, you can find a collection of preserved original artifacts of the Douglas Aircraft Company, along with plenty of exhibits and displays, artworks, and even replicas of the aircraft.

Some exhibits are also interactive to give you a rich, historical, and educational experience of this aviation museum.

Other features of this aviation museum include a museum theatre and a 360-degree flight simulator!

Make sure to book in advance to see all the things the Museum of Flying has to offer you!

Buy Fresh Produce at Santa Monica Farmers Market

People shopping at Santa Monica Farmers Market

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Packed with the freshest, highest quality of produce from California’s agricultural land, Santa Monica Farmers’ Market has a lot for you to select from!

The rainbow of colors produced by the fruits and vegetables is a sight to see as you stroll past the different stalls in the open air.

Tents at Santa Monica Farmers Market

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You may even check out what the vendors have to offer you, ranging from artworks to delicious food samples!

The warmth of the Californian sun as you jump from stall to stall gives you the quintessential experience of being in Santa Monica!

Bring some extra cash with you and shop for some products or try out the restaurants that use organica and locally-sourced ingredients at Santa Monica Farmers Market!

Strawberries at Santa Monica Farmers Market

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Sign Up for Trapeze Classes at Trapeze School New York

Trapeze School New Yorkteaches their visitors a variety of aerial acrobatics, ranging from trapeze lessons to trampoline classes!

Their goal is to create a new, fun way matched with thrill and excitement to stay fit mentally and physically!

Found minutes within the heart of Santa Monica, this trapeze school also offers workshops and programs to help you find the aerial acrobatic sport you enjoy best.

Since their founding in 2008 on the Santa Monica Pier, this establishment has garnered attention on a national level, showing up on the front page of newspapers and magazines with the instant hit it became on the community!

Though their programs are open to everyone of all ages, their youth programs for younger audiences ensure a safe way to practice acrobatic expression with experienced instructors.

Fly high like never before and experience aerial arts on a new level at Trapeze School New York!

Spend Quality Family Time at Annenberg Community Beach House

Exterior of Annenberg Community Beach House

Mike-Hope, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Annenberg Community Beach House is an open facility where families can wind back and relax or do some activities by the water!

There’s plenty to do at this recreational facility, giving you great views of the Pacific Ocean, amazing soft sand, and beach courts and playing fields.

Originally a mansion constructed in the 1920s, Annenberg Community Beach House has expanded into a venue and public space for all to enjoy.

This community beach house is also a popular place to host events, cultural activities, or even a photoshoot next to the crashing waves!

They also host classes that cater to different audiences, including fitness classes and swim classes.

Squeeze in a Quick Workout at The Original Muscle Beach

Welcome sign of The Original Muscle Beach

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The Original Muscle Beach initially began as a facility for people to distract themselves during the Great Depression, this beach quickly turned into a recreational facility for both beachgoers and fitness fanatics!

Featuring several outdoor workout equipments such as swings, ropes, rings, and parallel bars, you’re sure to break a sweat!

You can even find some weights, benches, and more which makes this beach a suitable place to get started on your fitness journey.

Sunny day at The Original Muscle Beach

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After garnering attention on an international scale, this outdoor facility has become a hotspot for both tourists and locals to see what all the fuss is about.

This beach also attracts some famous celebrities who wish to get a workout in, so try and be on a lookout and snap a quick picture with them!

Whether you’re visiting to enjoy the waves or work out those triceps, you’ll have a great time at The Original Muscle Beach!

Workout bars at The Original Muscle Beach

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Learn about the History and Culture of California at California Heritage Museum

Inside a preserved 19th century home in Santa Monica, you can find California Heritage Museum, a multicultural establishment with displays and exhibits for you to see!

Artworks by various artists across different mediums, portraits, and photographs are also held on display that detail the history of Californian culture.

They also host special events where visitors get to meet the artists behind the masterpieces who have a lot to share with you!

A unique assortment and collection of artifacts rich with a lot of history and rotating and interactive exhibits can be found scattered all over this preserved home to give you lots to explore.

Try and allot time to visit this homey, cultural facility that’s been standing since 1984 at California Heritage Museum!

Catch a Film Showing at Aero Theatre

Exterior of Aero Theatre

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Open to the public since 1940, this single-screen cinema house in Santa Monica has been regularly attracting visitors and tourists with showings of various films from different genres!

Named as a tribute to the Douglas Aircraft Company, this theater promotes the film industry as an art for the community!

Film schedules at Aero Theatre

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Providing only the best quality of picture and sound, Aero Theatre ensures a cinema experience like no other with their state-of-the-art technology and digital devices.

This theater also aims to bridge the gap between filmmakers and the audience by hosting presentations, in-person discussions, and more to create a safe, interactive space.

Whether you’re a film geek or just want to catch a film showing, Aero Theatre has its doors open for you!

Admire the Vintage Carousel at Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome

Exterior of Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome

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Another one of Santa Monica’s iconic and historic landmarks can be found at Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, a historical building that houses several vintages and preserved merry-go-rounds and carousels!

Built by and named after Charles I.D. Looff, this historic site shows visitors the golden era when innovation and creativity were the forefronts of the amusement industry.

Located adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier, this carousel building has been standing since 1916 and is now part of the National Register of Historic Places.

With over 44 hand-carved and painted horses, the designs, intricate details, and carvings of the carousels can take you back to the 1900s.

Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome is a must-visit when you’re on your trip to this seaside city!

Final Thoughts

Santa Monica is well-loved and regarded by its community and tourists alike, with a wide list of attractions and amenities for all to enjoy!

The vibrant community matched with stunning views of the ocean along with the Los Angeles skyline is sure to take your breath away.

Adventure and fun await you on this pier, so book a ticket now!

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