Los Angeles is a sprawling mix of funky, eclectic, classic, rich, and nostalgic neighborhoods, such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Malibu, Hollywood, Santa Monica, and Bel-Air, to name a few. Each is full of individuality, fun things to do, and some more interesting than others. Known as “the City of Angels”, LA’s scene is studded with sunbathers, movie and television fans and actors, shoppers, surfers, cosmetic surgeons, famous chefs, hotel tycoons, students, and so many other colorful souls. You will never get bored in this town.
Santa Monica is a beachside pet-friendly city in western Los Angeles County. It is bustling with cyclists, movie shoots, tourists, and beach-goers, and many homeless make it their personal home as well. Muscle Beach, made famous by bodybuilder Jack Lalanne, is an outdoor workout facility. You can glimpse some interesting people here. The Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian-only, sprawling shopping district, complete with some street performers, vendors, but some trouble-makers, too. It is a great area for strolling through outdoor cafes, street vendors, unique fountains, and a good, though terribly pricey, movie theater.
Stores I recommend in Santa Monica are: Camper, a Barcelona based shoe company, and Fred Segal’s funky emporium. There are two Fred Segal locations, the main one in Santa Monica, which will take you the better part of a day to go through and explore, and a smaller one on Melrose in Hollywood. Fred Segal became famous first because he created the first only jeans-only store in the 1960’s, and the rest is history. Read the fantastic story about this clothing entrepreneur here. You can even have lunch while you are there. My favorite shopping in Santa Monica is on Montana Avenue, full of funky pet-friendly shops and original cafes. For shopping on Montana, I recommend: apparel at ABS by Allen Schwartz, gifts, fashions, and original items at Kitson, and the enormous selection of bath & beauty supplies at Palmetto.
Part of the joy of a trip to Los Angeles is the upscale in Santa Monica. There are always new hip restaurants to try, and some that are tried and true have endured the ever changing foodie scene to become constant staples in the city. Locando Portofino, serving fine Italian cuisine, looks like a typical restaurant in a small strip mall location, but the affordable prices, service, and menu are so noteworthy, we have been going there for over fifteen years now. Featuring a fusion of Northern and Southern Italian, my favorite meal is Tagliatelle all’uovo alla bolognese, with their fresh bread and side salad. Perfection! Catch, located inside the Hotel Casa Del Mar, has a lovely ambiance, upscale wine menu, and a beautiful chilled shellfish platter. Plus we bumped into Robin Williams there. I had a rhubarb meringue dessert here that would make your toes curl!
Another restaurant, that I must mention, is Rustic Canyon Winebar and Seasonal Kitchen that has a regularly changing menu based on seasonal selections of local farmers, fishermen, and ranchers who practice sustainable agriculture. The food at Rustic Canyon is meant to be shared, so when we were invited there with our friends Cindy and Chris, they took the liberty of ordering for us. We started with cocktails and appetizers of pork shanks, marcona almonds, and focaccia. Next up, we ordered wine, a cheese platter, and homemade charcuterie. Finishing up dinner, we tried both a special chicken and beef option, some lip-smacking side dishes, and moscow mules. We even shared creme brûlée. Though I am a foodie, the style of this restaurant made me feel a bit out of my comfort zone, but once I saw how it was done, it was fabulous! A really great experience and I highly encourage you to come with a group and enjoy.
Other than eating and shopping, Santa Monica has something very special that other nearby cities cannot compare with, The Pier. The Santa Monica Pier, a 1906 amusement area, features a waterfront ferris wheel, trapeze school, rides, boardwalk style games, and the 46-horse Looff Hippodrome (carousel), which is National Historic Landmark. There are quite a few touristy junk-type shops to pilfer through, too. The pier also houses my favorite eatery, The Lobster. Make sure to have a reservation and keep your eyes open for celebrities. I once saw Jack Nicholson there as well as Jon Lovitz and his family. The Lobster has fun happy hour menu, all my favorite wines, and creative cocktails. Their specialty, lobster of course, may break the bank, but California is not my ideal town for skimping, so we will indulge. Take a selfie after they dress up up in your plastic Lobster bib. While in Santa Monica, be sure to stroll through the beautiful Pacific Park and maybe ride the oceanfront roller coaster or carousel, but hold tight to your purses and wallets.
Santa Monica is a famed resort town and my favorite are both located on Pico Boulevard, Shutters on the Beach, and JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot. Shutters on the Beach is an iconic luxury hotel in its own class, with Tibetan rugs, marble bathrooms, whirlpool tubs with the finest bath toiletries, and John Robshaw bedding. While at Shutters you must have either the delicious lemon ricotta pancakes or the”Bulls-eye” breakfast skillet for breakfast at One Pico, their on-site restaurant. If it is chilly outside, no problem, they will bring outdoor heaters to your table; you just have to ask. The JW Marriott Le Merigot is a totally different style than Shutters, but I like it equally as much. Beachview rooms offer stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, and the rooms have heavenly featherbeds with 300 count Italian linens. Skip the restaurants here as they are good, but nothing special, and there are plenty of awesome ones close by. We always use Marriott points when booking here to save money.
FYI: The famous Route 66 runs to Santa Monica.
Tip: Take a few minutes to watch the talent skateboarders; you will be amazed!
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