Things to do in Santa Monica

Top attractions in Santa Monica

About Santa Monica

Visitors should not miss the iconic Santa Monica Pier with its amusement park and aquarium, the serene Santa Monica Beach, and the bustling Third Street Promenade for shopping and street performances. Exploring Tongva Park and a walk through the historic districts to appreciate the city’s architecture are also essential experiences.
With kids, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier offers family-friendly rides and games. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium engages children with marine life discoveries, and the Annenberg Community Beach House provides a pristine beach experience with amenities perfect for a family outing.
Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy biking along the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, beach volleyball, or paddleboarding in the ocean. Exploring Palisades Park for its walking trails, picnicking spots, and breathtaking views of the coastline is also a top outdoor activity.
For indoor fun, visit the Santa Monica History Museum or the California Heritage Museum. Indulge in shopping at Santa Monica Place, or enjoy artistic films and documentaries at the Aero Theatre.
The best Santa Monica tours include the self-guided audio tours that explore the city’s history, beach culture, and arts. Segway tours and cultural food walking tours are also highly recommended for an immersive experience.
The most popular museums include the Santa Monica History Museum for some local insights, the California Heritage Museum for its art and culture exhibits, and the interactive Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for its focus on sea life conservation.
On rainy days, consider taking part in culinary tours that explore Santa Monica's diverse dining scene, or indulge in a historical auditorium tour that provides insight into the city's past while staying sheltered.
Quick explorations such as a brief guided walking tour of downtown Santa Monica, a concise Segway tour along the beach, or a short but educational visit to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium can all be enjoyed in 60 minutes or less.

Best Things to Do In Santa Monica

Embark on an unforgettable journey with our curated list of attractions and activities in this vibrant coastal city.

Santa Monica: Muscle Beach

What is it?
An outdoor gym and cultural landmark known as the birthplace of the physical fitness boom.
Why you should go?
Muscle Beach holds a legendary status among fitness enthusiasts and is a highlight when considering things to do in Santa Monica. Located just south of the Santa Monica Pier, this open-air gym has been the training grounds for some of the most famous bodybuilders. With equipment for weightlifting, gymnastics, and calisthenics, it's a unique space to exercise or simply observe athletes in action against the picturesque backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. The site also features plaques honoring notable athletes, giving visitors insight into the heritage of Muscle Beach and its influence on global fitness culture.

Santa Monica: Annenberg Community Beach House

What is it?
A public facility offering beach access, a pool, and cultural events with a rich historical background.
Why you should go?
The Annenberg Community Beach House stands as a testament to what to see in Santa Monica, combining recreation, history, and stunning architecture. Built on the historical estate of actress Marion Davies, the facility offers guests a rare glimpse into old Hollywood glamour. The grounds feature a beautiful beachfront pool, volleyball courts, and event spaces. Seasonal activities and cultural events make every visit unique, and the site's commitment to accessibility ensures that all Santa Monica activities are open to the public, reflecting the inclusive spirit of the city.

Santa Monica: Santa Monica Stairs

What is it?
A set of outdoor staircases offering a rigorous workout with breath-taking ocean views as a reward.
Why you should go?
For active travelers seeking Santa Monica activities, the Santa Monica Stairs represent a physical challenge with a view. The two staircases, one made of concrete and the other of wood, provide a popular workout spot for locals and visitors. Climbing these stairs not only gives a sense of accomplishment but also offers stunning vistas of the surrounding residential areas and the coastline. It's a perfect opportunity to combine fitness with sightseeing, and a chance to immerse oneself in the daily life of the health-conscious Santa Monica community.

Santa Monica: Heal the Bay Aquarium

What is it?
An interactive marine education center located beneath the Santa Monica Pier, focusing on local aquatic life.
Why you should go?
Those exploring the best things to do in Santa Monica will find Heal the Bay Aquarium to be an enlightening detour. This eco-friendly attraction educates visitors about Southern California's marine life and the importance of conserving the ocean. With touch tanks, viewing windows, and a variety of exhibits, guests can get up close to sea creatures in an intimate setting. The aquarium's focus on sustainability and advocacy for the environment makes it not only an enlightening visit but also an important one for fostering conservation awareness.

Santa Monica: Tongva Park

What is it?
A modern urban oasis featuring walking paths, water features, and lush gardens by the sea.
Why you should go?
Tongva Park is a delightful green space and one of the fun things to do in Santa Monica that promises tranquility and beauty. Its innovative design includes rolling landscapes, interactive water features, and thematic garden rooms. Named after the indigenous Tongva people, the park includes areas for picnicking, a playground, and observation decks with scenic vistas. It's an ideal place for a peaceful retreat in the midst of urban life, offering cultural significance and modern amenities, thus appealing to visitors seeking both relaxation and an enriching experience.

Santa Monica: Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier

What is it?
An iconic seaside amusement park offering rides, games, and oceanfront dining experiences.
Why you should go?
Pacific Park is a staple when considering the best things to do in Santa Monica. Situated atop the historic Santa Monica Pier, this vibrant amusement park features a solar-powered Ferris wheel, exhilarating rides, and carnival games. It provides a classic Californian experience with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Beach. Visitors can savor gourmet treats and shop for souvenirs, making Pacific Park a family-friendly destination full of excitement and fun. Whether day or night, the colorful neon lights and lively atmosphere create a picture-perpekt backdrop for memories that last a lifetime.

Santa Monica: Third Street Promenade

What is it?
A bustling outdoor shopping and dining district known for its lively street performers and trendy boutiques.
Why you should go?
Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade stands out as a pedestrian-friendly, open-air marketplace bursting with energy, making it a vital addition to any list of what to do in Santa Monica. The promenade offers a diverse shopping experience with both well-known retailers and unique local shops. Dining options range from quick bites to fine dining, catering to every palate. Street performers and musicians add a vibrant soundtrack to your visit, delivering an immersive urban experience. It's the perfect setting to wander, shop, dine, and enjoy the cool California vibe, encapsulated within the heart of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica: Santa Monica Beach

What is it?
A scenic coastline that's synonymous with California's beach culture, known for its soft sands and surf-friendly waves.
Why you should go?
As one of the top places to visit in Santa Monica, the city's namesake beach is a stretch of paradise beckoning sun-seekers and surf enthusiasts alike. The expansive sandy shores offer ample room for volley-ball games, picnics, and soaking up the sun. Including beachfront bike paths, the area is prime for rollerblading, biking, or leisurely strolls while taking in the stunning ocean views. With the iconic lifeguard towers and palm trees lining the coast, Santa Monica Beach epitomizes the Southern California lifestyle. Lifeguards ensure safety, making it an ideal spot for a refreshing dip in the Pacific or catching some waves.

Santa Monica: Santa Monica History Museum

What is it?
A cultural institution preserving the history of Santa Monica through interactive exhibits and educational programs.
Why you should go?
For those curious about Santa Monica's past, the Santa Monica History Museum offers a deep dive into the city's rich heritage. The museum curates a fascinating collection of photographs, artifacts, and interactive displays, each telling its own story of the area's evolution. From the indigenous Tongva tribe to the development as a premier beachfront city, the museum captures key moments and characters that have shaped Santa and Monica. Special exhibitions and events often focus on different facets of local history, ensuring that both residents and visitors leave with a greater appreciation and understanding of this dynamic city.

Santa Monica: Santa Monica Farmers Market

What is it?
A vibrant local farmers market renowned for its fresh produce, gourmet artisanal products, and community atmosphere.
Why you should go?
As a quintessential part of the things to see in Santa Monica, the Farmers Market is a food lover's haven. Renowned chefs, local families, and food enthusiasts converge on this market to shop for the freshest California-grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and cheeses. Artisan vendors offer an array of homemade goods and culinary creations, perfect for a delightful picnic by the beach. The market also serves as a cultural hub, with live music and seasonal events that reflect the vibrant local spirit. It's not just a place to shop; it's an immersive experience that tantalizes the senses and provides a taste of the regional bounty.

TOP-5 Tours in Santa Monica for First Time Visitors

  • Discover the quintessential places to visit in Santa Monica with our Beachfront Bliss Tour, a serene stroll by the ocean's edge, featuring historical landmarks and lively spots.
  • Engage in fun things to do in Santa Monica with our Pier Pressure Adventure, diving into the amusement park history and cultural nuances of this iconic pier.
  • Soak in the artistic vibe with our Street Art Exploration, showcasing the most vibrant murals and public artworks that define what to see in Santa Monica.
  • Take the Twilight Promenade Walk to experience things to see in Santa Monica as the sun sets, revealing the city's night-time charm and festive spirit.
  • Our Cultural Gems Excursion is an audiophile's dream, guiding you through eclectic Santa Monica activities, from historic theaters to contemporary galleries.

Fun things to do in Santa Monica with kids

Santa Monica strikes the perfect balance between beachfront relaxation and family-friendly entertainment. First on the list is the illustrious Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where children can get hands-on experience with marine life and learn about conservation efforts. It's an aquatic adventure that educates and excites in equal measure. Next, the iconic Santa Monica Pier itself offers infinite delights with its Pacific Park amusement rides, sprawling arcade, and classic carnival games where families can create lasting memories. From the ferris wheel, the views of the coastline and the sparkling ocean are unforgettable. Lastly, for a dash of outdoor fun, the Tongva Park is an urban retreat with its innovative play areas, interactive fountains, and expansive green spaces, inviting families to unwind and revel in the beauty of Santa Monica's greenery. These attractions embody the essence of Santa Monica excursions, catering to the curious minds of children and the leisure of adults.

Things to do in Santa Monica with family

Santa Monica beckons families with a blend of coastal charm and lively attractions. Begin your adventure at the Santa Monica Pier, an ideal spot for timeless seaside fun. Here, you can ride the iconic solar-powered Ferris wheel at Pacific Park, play games in the arcade, and indulge in sweet treats as you stroll along the wooden boardwalk. Just a short walk from the pier, the Santa Monica Beach is perfect for building sandcastles, splashing in the waves, or simply soaking up the sun. Rent bikes for the family and explore the scenic bike path that runs along the shore. Lastly, visit Tongva Park for a relaxing afternoon surrounded by innovative play structures, interactive fountains, and scenic picnic spots. These attractions highlight the top Santa Monica activities that provide joy for all ages, making every family outing both fun-filled and memorable.

Free things to do in Santa Monica

Exploring Santa Monica doesn't have to break the bank, as the city is rich with free attractions that capture its vibrant spirit. Begin at the famous Santa Monica Beach where families, surfers, and sunbathers enjoy the pristine sands and refreshing Pacific waters at no cost. It's an ideal setting for beach sports, scenic jogs, or simply watching the sunset paint the sky. Next, immerse yourself in local culture by visiting the Third Street Promenade. While shopping is optional, the energy of street performers and the window-shopping experience offer free entertainment for all. Lastly, indulge in the urban sanctuary of Tongva Park, a beautifully landscaped green space featuring observation decks, interactive water features, and extensive gardens. With these free things to do in Santa Monica, travelers can experience the allure of this coastal city without spending a dollar, making every visit both affordable and memorable.

Cheap things to do in Santa Monica

Visitors to Santa Monica can enjoy a wealth of affordable experiences that showcase the city's charm. Stroll along the Santa Monica Pier and enjoy the iconic views and sea breezes. While amusement park rides have a fee, soaking in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoying street performers doesn't cost a penny. For a nominal fee, you can learn about the rich underwater world at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where admission prices are budget-friendly and the marine education is priceless. Another inexpensive experience is to explore the local art scene by taking a self-guided mural tour around the city’s streets, which boast an array of colorful public artworks. Finally, take advantage of the California sunshine and pack a picnic to enjoy in one of the city's numerous parks, such as the scenic Palisades Park that overlooks the ocean and offers an idyllic setting. These cheap things to do in Santa Monica ensure a memorable visit without draining your wallet.

Things to do in Santa Monica for couples

Santa Monica offers a romantic and unforgettable experience for couples looking for both relaxation and adventure. One of the best things to do is to take a sunset walk along the soft sands of Santa Monica Beach, where the rhythmic waves and stunning horizon create a picture-perfect moment. For a touch of nostalgia with spectacular views, couples can ride the iconic Ferris wheel at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. As the wheel turns, embrace the panoramic sights of the coastline and twinkling city lights after dusk. To add a little culture to your getaway, visit the Bergamot Station Arts Center, an art-lover's paradise with its numerous galleries and vibrant exhibitions. This former trolley station turned art complex provides a stimulating and creative environment that's perfect for a leisurely day of exploration with your significant other.

Things to do in Santa Monica at night

Santa Monica transforms at dusk, offering an array of nocturnal attractions perfect for night owls. The Santa Monica Pier presents a lively evening scene with its illuminated Ferris wheel and vibrant arcade games, creating an enchanting atmosphere where couples, friends, and families can enjoy the Pacific breeze well after sunset. For those seeking entertainment, head over to Third Street Promenade, where shopping and dining are complemented by a procession of street performers and live music, adding a festive beat to your night out. Film buffs will relish in catching a night-time screening at the historic Aero Theatre, which consistently showcases a curated selection of classic films, new releases, and special cinematic events. These vibrant night-time activities ensure that your exploration of Santa jot Monica doesn't stop when the sun goes down, but rather ignites with new possibilities.