Over 26 miles of gorgeous coastline, balmy temperatures, Santa Monica Pier the West Coast’s oldest pier, wide sand beach, Third Street Promenade and Palisades Park make Santa Monica, California a popular ocean resort.
Founded in 1875, the City of Santa Monica was meant to become the shipping port of Los Angeles. At the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum you can find out why that never happened and how Santa Monica became to be known as “Paradise by the Sea” by both locals and travelers from around the world. More than 65 museums and galleries, public murals and sculpture make exploring Santa Monica an art lovers paradise. California Heritage Museum is both a historic house—official city landmark built in 1894—and an exhibition of California’s diverse cultural riches.
Permanent displays of Monterrey Furniture, California tile and pottery in domestic room settings bring history alive. Bergamot Arts Station was once a trolley station for the Red Line but now it’s home to numerous galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
The panorama on the right was taken looking north and west toward the Santa Monica Mountains from the end of the Santa Monica Pier at the foot of Colorado Street. Santa Monica Pier also marks the end of historic Route 66 of TV fame.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier, extending 1600 feet into Santa Monica Bay opened in 1909.
A few years later in 1916 Charles Looff began construction of another pier alongside the first where he built the Hippodrome building, a Blue Streak Racer—wooden roller coaster—and other thrill rides.
The Santa Monica Pier’s arch and entry ramp were built in 1939. The Lobster Restaurant at the entrance to the Pier is just one of many Santa Monica restaurants worth visiting.
Age and storm damage nearly ended the Santa Monica Pier’s existence when it was ordered demolished in 1973 by the city council. Concerned citizens organized to save the pier and were able to get it designated a National Historic Landmark.
Today you can park on the Pier to visit the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium run by the Heal the Bay environmental organization or spend the day at Pacific Park amusement park with the only giant Ferris wheel over water in California—also the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel.
A restored antique carousel with hand-carved wooden horses—originally designed and built in 1916 by Charles I.D. Looff, current merry-go-round built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1922 and restored in 1990—and the Looff Hippodrome were featured in the Academy Award winning movie “The Sting.” You can also fish or enjoy the view of ocean and beach from the Pier.
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium opened in 1958 and was home to the Academy Awards from 1961–68, rock concerts in the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s and now the Santa Monica Symphony. It was designed by Capitol Records Building and movie stars homes architect Welton Becket.
Palisades Park—26 picturesque acres stretching 1.6 miles on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific in Santa Monica—provides a green buffer zone between sand and city beginning at the Santa Monica Pier. Palisades Park beyond the sandstone bluffs can be seen in the panorama near the top of this page.
While the morning fog that keeps Santa Monica a typical 10°s cooler than inland can result in “June Gloom,” warm clear winter days often provide a view all the way to Catalina Island. Palisades Park is a place to view sunsets over the Pacific Ocean from Malibu to Palos Verdes or exercise in the shade of a palm tree. Hotels and restaurants line Ocean Avenue opposite Palisades Park. Wilshire Boulevard begins here at Ocean Avenue.
The Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) turns inland at Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica while the paved footpath Ocean Front Walk stretches south from the Pier to Bay Street. A Farmer’s Market is held every Wednesday 9 am–2 pm and again on Saturday 8:30 am–1 pm where Arizona Avenue intersects the Third Street Promenade. Topiary dinosaur fountains, multi-screen movie theatres, upscale boutiques, free-standing pavilions and trendy sidewalk cafés have transformed a once dreary district into a popular pedestrian promenade. Get there early if you want a parking spot in the garages at the Santa Monica Place Mall—which is just south of the Third Street Promenade—or parking lots off 2nd street as they do fill up. The Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate I-10) which goes east from the Pacific Ocean to downtown Los Angeles is one of the busiest highways in the U.S.