Santa Monica and South L.A. have some of the most iconic and fantastic attractions to be found in California, including Santa Monica Pier and Carousel, Muscle Beach, great parks, museums and galleries, and lively farmers’ markets. This being California, getting around is always easier with some wheels, and with car rental in Los Angeles you can easily discover all the region has to offer.
Santa Monica itself is a neighbourhood in western L.A. With its superb beachfront location, the town has a great range of residents, including celebrities, professionals, students and surfers.
Santa Monica Pier is one of the oldest in California, dating from 1909, and is home to La Monica Ballroom, an arcade, funfair and carousel. The Carousel, the Looff Hippodrome dating from 1922, is a National Historic Landmark. Pacific Park, the funfair, has a five story high rollercoaster, a thrilling tower ride, miniature golf and an over-water Ferris wheel – the first ever to be solar-powered. There is even a trapeze school, where everyone from beginners to experienced fliers are welcome, while a series of outdoor concerts entertain visitors throughout the summer months.
With plenty of bars and restaurants along the Ocean Front Walk, there are also some great places for lunch or a drink as you watch the people strolling past or the waves on the water. Look out for the Viking ship and the dragon’s head if you have kids. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, underneath the carousel, has a great collection of fishes and other sea life to delight kids and adults alike.
Santa Monica is great for shopping, with Montana Avenue offering boutique stores and upmarket shopping along with chic bars and cafes, and Main Street offering a great mix of fashion outlets, speciality stores and restaurants. Downtown is the main shopping district – the huge pedestrianised district of Third Street Promenade has shops, cafes, street performers and more, and the redeveloped Santa Monica Place indoor mall offers visitors plenty more opportunities for shopping and entertainment.
Muscle Beach is famous for its bodybuilders and fitness experts, such as Jack LaLanne, but the outdoor workout equipment is also used by ordinary folk and kids as well as gymnasts and acrobats. There’s a small jungle gym for younger gym-goers.
The farmers’ markets, with their colourful produce, including fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy produce and fine delicacies, are great for wandering around. Free samples abound and there’s often a backdrop of live music going on. Check out the Downtown Farmers’ Market, especially on Wednesdays, the Pico Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings, or the Main Street Farmers’ Market on Sunday mornings – the latter is more like a fair and includes everything from pony rides to face painting as well as a great selection of breakfasting and lunch opportunities.
South L.A. and Nearby Attractions
Nearby attractions include Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Malibu and the beautiful beachside resort of Marina del Ray, a great spot for sailing, shopping and dining. You can easily get to Disneyland, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Six Flags Magic Mountain theme park, Universal Studios and a number of other famous L.A. attractions.
The 160 acre site of Exposition Park has some great attractions. Check out the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center or the California African American Museum. The Natural History Museum is the largest in the western US and housed in a splendid marble-walled building dating from 1913. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, an outdoor stadium hosting football games (both American football and soccer) and music concerts, is also in the park.