Things to do in Santa Monica and Venice Beach
A visit to Los Angeles is hardly complete without a stop at two of the country’s most famous beaches! Located next to each other on the southwest side of LA, they offer activities and sights the whole family can enjoy.
How do I get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach?
LA is famous for its car culture so if you do decide to drive there are plenty of fee based parking lots and meters in and around both Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Additionally, while LA isn’t exactly known for its user friendly public transportation, there are inexpensive public ways to get to both beaches.
- Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica
For just $1.75 each trip, riders coming from the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, and Downtown Los Angeles can take the relatively new Metro Expo Line. This metro service ends at Santa Monica and is available seven day a week. For more information and timetables, check Metro’s website.
- Take the Big Blue Bus
It’s big and it’s blue and it only costs $1.25 in cash for each ride. The Big Blue Bus offers various routes throughout LA that will take you to Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Check the website for all routes and timetables.
Can I Walk From Santa Monica to Venice Beach?
Want to walk from beach to beach? The short answer here is that it is possible though its roughly a 45 minute walk (just over two miles or three and a half kilometers) so if it’s a nice day and you enjoy walking, go for it! Other options include renting a bicycle to ride from a place like Santa Monica Bicycle Rentals or Sea Mist Rentals (they rent rollerblades too!) or taking route 1 on the Big Blue Bus which travels from Santa Monica to Venice.
Is it Easy to Get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach from Hollywood?
The short answer here is, yes, it can be easy and inexpensive to get to the beaches from Hollywood but like with most destinations in LA, you’ll need to commit to spending a lot of time on public transport to get from one to the other (think an hour and a half or more).
If you’d like to go from Hollywood to Santa Monica, you can take the Red Line Metro, transfer at Union Station downtown, and hop on the Metro Expo Line that will take you all the way to Santa Monica. If you’re thinking that a car ride would be much faster, consider the time of day you want to travel–if it’s during rush hour the metro might just be quicker!
THINGS TO DO IN SANTA MONICA
As a city, Santa Monica has a lot to offer. This iconic seaside town is full of great restaurants, shopping–especially on the Third Street Promenade–and early 20th Century Art Deco buildings. Here are some of the best things to do in Santa Monica.
Explore the Pier
The main tourist attraction is the historic Santa Monica Pier. Built in 1909, today’s pier offers food, novelty shops, street performers, and a lot of fun. The pier is open 24 hours a day though each shop keeps their own hours. Parking is available both on the pier deck and within two additional lower lots. Click here for seasonal hours and parking rates. There is no fee to walk on the pier and beach access is also free!
Hit the Amusement Park!
Part of the Santa Monica Pier is known as Pacific Park–the west coast’s only amusement park on a pier! Offering a dozen amusement rides (including a ferris wheel), food, midway games, and souvenir shops, there’s something for everyone in the family. Check the website for hours, as they can vary due to weather, season, and special events. Enjoy the rides at Pacific Park with tickets here.
See the Marine Life
If you want to see the marine life up close, head the the Heal the Bay Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. With over 100 local species on display, hand on activities and daily educational programs, the pier aquarium is a great spot for those who want to take a deeper look into marine science. Individual admission is $5 and kids under 12 are free. Hours vary.
Enjoy a Free Concert
From July-September, enjoy free twilight concerts at the Santa Monica Pier. A favorite summer tradition in LA, the concerts can include a large variety of music from reggae to indie rock to Latin. The concerts can be very crowded so be sure to arrive early!
THINGS TO DO IN VENICE BEACH
A couple miles south of Santa Monica is another one of LA’s most famous attractions, Venice Beach. While so close in proximity, this beachside community is vastly different from the Art Deco atmosphere in Santa Monica. Here, you’ll find a boardwalk environment in addition to a pier (though the pier here is just that, a pier) and so much more that creates a haven for folks who enjoy people watching and SoCal oddities.
Experience the Venice Boardwalk
The vibe in Venice Beach is that of the creative and artistic–if not a bit alternative and edgy. As you walk along the boardwalk, you’ll find loads of t-shirt and souvenir stores but also arts & crafts vendors, henna and ink tattoo parlors, and medical marijuana clinics among other storefronts. There are always street performers out and about entertaining crowds for small tips and it’s especially crowded on the weekends.
Take a Venice Beach Food Tour
In addition to visiting 6 different stops, you’ll also have an opportunity to sample several foods including tacos, beef sliders, and churronuts (churro donuts)!
See Muscle Beach & Venice Skate Park
People come to Venice Beach to rollerblade, rent bicycles, and soak it all in under the California sun. The weather in Venice Beach is typically mild and beautiful though it depends on the time of year you’re visiting (summers are best!). While walking the boardwalk, don’t miss Muscle Beach Gym. This open-air gym is where body-builders come to see and be seen and it’s where Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his career. Make sure you also stop to check out the action at another icon of Venice, the Venice Skate Park. Here, many professional skateboarders have made names for themselves. Check out there website for profiles of current professional skaters who frequent the park and a live video feed of who’s skating.
Check Out the Historic Canals
A few blocks inland from the beach are a couple of other attractions in Venice Beach. Walk through the historic Venice canals. The brainchild of Abbot Kinney, a developer and conservationist, the canals were supposed to emulate those in Venice, Italy complete with gondolas and Italian immigrant gondoliers. Unfortunately, this “Venice of America” never fully came to fruition but the canals still exist with small pedestrian footbridges and all. It’s a much more peaceful atmosphere by the canals and a lovely place for a stroll.
Shop Abbot Kinney Boulevard
If you want to take a more local approach to Venice Beach head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Here, you’ll find an abundance of shops like the flagship TOMS Shoes, restaurants, coffee and ice cream shops. Try the west coast specialty ice cream staple, Salt & Straw, where you can find really unique ingredients (think lavender and coriander) and a rotating menu.