10 Santa Monica Experiences You'll Never Forget

Ah, Santa Monica. Stunning beaches, iconic sights, and one of the most walkable cities in the entire country.

Located just eight miles from LAX and 13 miles from Downtown LA, Santa Monica offers an entire lifetime’s worth of experiences with various attractions, shops, restaurants, and events.

But with so many options to choose from, how do you know you’re making the right choice?

Let’s talk about 10 things you can do to make the most of your Santa Monica advenutre.

Malibu Discovery Tours

Calling all wine lovers!

If you love that California wine flavor, don’t miss a chance to experience one of the Malibu Discovery Tours. Known as LA’s premier wine tour experience, the company also offers sightseeing tours and adventure tours.

Your options range from the signature Malibu Wine Trail Tour to LA’s Best Malibu Wine & Sightseeing Tour. You could also opt to check out the Malibu Celebrity Lifestyle Tour or the Santa Monica Snapshot Experience. Hey, if you want to partake in the Southern California healthy lifestyle, opt for the Sunrise Hiking Tour.

Tours range in price based on what you’re looking to do, but expect somewhere from about $70-$300. Although, hey, $239 a person for a day at the Getty Villa sounds like a win to me.

Cassia Restaurant

Okay, it’s almost impossible to pick just one place to eat in Santa Monica, let alone trying to find just one to recommend!

However, Cassia, the casually cool French-Asian fare & seafood, is a perfect upscale place to have a nice dinner either indoors on their cozy patio.

The restaurant is a member of the Rustic Canyon Family and is a partnership between husband-and-wife duos Bryant & Kim Ng and Josh Loeb & Zoe Nathan. Bryan and Kim offered up their culinary heritage and experience, allowing Cassia to celebrate utilizing quality ingredients from local farmers with a focus on California sustainability.

When you stop in, be sure to check out the spicy wontons. They come with cod, shrimp, country ham, Napa cabbage and roasted chile oil. Round out the meal with a nice beef rendang with coconut curry, sambal, kaffir lime, peanuts and Jasmine rice.

Santa Monica Pier

You didn’t really think you’d come to Santa Monica and not go to the pier, did you? Come on now, the Santa Monica Pier is one of the most photographed locations in the world, after all.

There is so much to do out on this large, double-jointed pier. Enjoy a day with the small amusement park, concession stands, and areas for fishing and viewing.

The best part is, there’s no entry fee to go to the park. You will have to pay for the rides you’d like to do, of course, but there’s no harm with at least experiencing the pier for yourself for free.

You could also drop $20 for the Secret Story Tour, which is the pier’s all-new digital and interactive mobile experience. Once you’re at the pier, download and pay for the app, and embark on a scavenger hunt. The interactive game will have you learn new ways of preserving the pier based on its 112-year history.

Take a Spin Class

Did you know the ever-popular difficult sport of “spinning” started out in a Santa Monica garage?

Whether you’ve ever done a class or not, Santa Monica is the original place to spin off some calories (perhaps a few of the extra ones you may have acquired at the pier.)

There are so many great places to choose from with this workout. The best part is, a lot of them offer at least one class free. If you’re only in town for a few days, maybe you can try out a few different ones. Or, hey, even if you’re a local, take advantage and find your new favorite spot.

Either way, a spin class is a great way to get into the Southern California health craze. It might also take away any guilt you feel while indulging in the culinary scene.

Check Out a Farmers Market

Santa Monica Farmers Market
Photo: @smfms

If you’re in town on a Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday, be sure to check out one of the Farmers Markets. It’s always a good way to get a better taste of the local flavor.

The Wednesday Market on Arizona Avenue at 2nd Street is the largest grower-only certified Farmers Market in Southern California, also acting as a favorite for local chefs.

Originally starting out in 1981, the Wednesday Market had some modest goals of providing the community with reasonably priced and high-quality produce. Now, it plays host to over 85 farmers weekly, drawing in some 9,000 shoppers every week.

Visit One of the 130+ Street Art Murals

Considering there’s a complete guide to the art murals from the city itself, this should be an easy (and free) thing to do while you’re in Santa Monica.

Within the 8.3 square mile city, there are more than 130 murals painted throughout the eight neighborhoods. With a look at the map, you may notice you can find a street mural basically anywhere.

The murals were created by a combination of local businesses and private groups and Beautify Earth, a nonprofit whose mission is to transform every wall into a work of art.

Download the full guide and see if there’s one nearby during any of your outings in town. See how many you can find before you go.

Santa Monica Place Shopping

Look, you’re in Southern California.

You can’t not shop.

When you’re in Santa Monica, head on over to Santa Monica Place, the outdoor shopping mall at the south end of the Third Street Promenade.

Whether you’re going back to school, looking for the latest sale, or just want to spend some time in a gorgeous outdoor space with all the most luxurious brands, pay this mall a visit. You won’t be disappointed.

Looff Hippodrome

The Looff Hippodrome, built in 1916, is a cute little carousel and an architectural gem of a building.

Originally constructed by Charles I.D. Looff, the hippodrome acted as the last work of the master carousel builder and amusement pioneer. The hippodrome is located on the Santa Monica Pier. It represents a time of great innovation and creativity in the amusement industry from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The whimsical structures were meant to grab as much attention as possible. The Looff Hippodrome may look different these days as far as original ornamentation goes, but many of the outer structure’s walls remain the same.

The original carousel was sold and dismantled, but the current one in operation has been around since 1954.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

If you’re looking for an escape from the hubbub of the central city, take a trip out to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The entire park itself, covering over 155,000 acres, is comprised of many individual parks.

The park has a whole comes with it all — hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, climbing, camping, wildflower viewing and even special programs and events.

Even better, the mountain range drops off directly into the Pacific Ocean. From there, experience 41 miles of California coastline that visitors from around the world have come to know and love.

California Heritage Museum

For those who are into history and museums, check out the California Heritage Museum.

The house itself was built in 1894. The museum is constructed around displaying a unique assortment of state and local historical artifacts. The Roy Jones House the museum is in is itself a Historical Landmark.

The exhibits rotate, but all the art and artifacts are meant to showcase the many different types of cultures that make up the state of California.

General admission tickets are $10.00, with seniors and students for $5.00. Members, children under 12, veterans and military are all free.

While these are only a few of the endless array of opportunity at your disposal in Santa Monica, you’re sure to make some memories trying anything on the list. Have you ever been? What was your experience like? What do you want to do most if it’s still on your list of places to go? Let me know down in the comments, and be sure to check out other fun things to do in California!