From our home away from home the Bayside Hotel we were within close walking and biking distance to a number of Santa Monica points of interest, and it’s easy to see why the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau proudly boasts their “100 Free Things to Do in Santa Monica” itineraries. From arts and music to health and wellness, to family and the outdoors, you’re sure to find a wealth of activities to delight and inspire.
One of the most popular spots in the area is the famed Muscle Beach, which depending on which historical account you read, originated in Santa Monica but later moved just a few miles down to neighboring Venice Beach. Long known as “The Birthplace of the Physical Fitness Boom of the Twentieth Century,” it is where many a celebrity, hard core bodybuilder and wanna be hot beach bod have come to train (and flex for the public) – making it a significant landmark that has stood the test of time since the 1930s. The experience is definitely one not to be missed!
Another big draw is to the human-size chessboard with large pieces at the International Chess Park. Encompassing almost one-third acre, the park—which is open for public use—is very popular with novice and professional chess players who, from sunrise to sunset, test their skills on 24 different tables.
Situated on the Pacific Coast Highway, the Annenberg Community Beach House began as an opulent private estate with100-plus rooms and an ornate marble swimming pool built in the 1920s by magnate William Randolph Hearst for actress Marion Davies. Today it is a Gold LEED Certified Building and the first and only public beach club in the U.S., offering the historic pool, a children’s play area and splash pad, yoga classes, volleyball, a gallery, the Marion Davies Guest House and a Back on the Beach Café.
No visit to Santa Monica would be complete without a stroll down the Third Street Promenade. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Promenade is the city’s pedestrian-only dining, entertainment, shopping, arts and culture district, drawing over 6 million visitors a year. Apparel, book, electronic, toy, home furnishing, footwear, jewelry and luggage stores; fantastic eateries encompassing everything from Greek to Italian, French, Spanish, Vegetarian and coffeehouses; hair and nail salons; art galleries; street performers and live theater; cycle shops; yoga and fitness studios; and in the summer, a six-night Cinema on the Street movie series, are just the beginning of the popular offerings here.
Speaking of the arts, the city’s Bergamot Station was once an old trolley station dating back to 1875. At that time it was a stop for the Red Line trolley running from Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. Since that time it has been completely transformed into a beautiful artistic complex featuring 40 different art galleries, art events and featured exhibitions that draw an estimated 600,000 visitors each year, making it one of the L.A. area’s premier cultural destinations.
No visit to California would be complete without some quality time spent in Santa Monica!
Read the Entire Feature Series!
Part 1 California Dreamin’ in Santa Monica
Part 2 Beauty and Activities 24/7 in Santa Monica
Part 3 Santa Monica: Beauty and the Beach
Part 4 Santa Monica, Where the Livin’ is Easy