10 Things to Do in Santa Monica for First Time Visitors

There are tons of cities in the state of California that are worth a visit. But if you’re looking for something less hectic than downtown Los Angeles or less urban than San Francisco, Santa Monica is the place for you. This beachfront city is everything that you could imagine California to be. It’s sunny; it’s chill. It’s got a vibe that’s going to make you want to stay outdoors and enjoy what Mother Nature has blessed California with. Santa Monica is a beautiful place to visit, and if you’re visiting the city for the first time, here are the 10 things you must absolutely do or see.

1. Palisades Park

You can admire both California’s southern coast and the Santa Monica Mountains at the Palisades. In fact, you won’t get a better view anywhere else. This park will take you away from the highly touristy spots and help you get enough quiet to really breathe it all in. It’s the perfect spot for winding down.

2. Santa Monica State Beach

If you’re going to be in California, it’s only right that you enjoy its waters. Santa Monica State Beach is huge, so it’ll never feel crowded whatsoever—except for the areas closest to the pier. The beach spans the entire length of Santa Monica, so venture out a bit or a lot if you desire.

3. Santa Monica Pier

This is probably one of Santa Monica’s most popular attractions—if not the most. This is why this place gets so crowded. The crowd is definitely worth it, however. You can’t leave Santa Monica without spending some time at the Pier. There are plenty of things to see and do at the Pier, so make sure you allot a good amount of time.

4. Third Street Promenade

Third Street Promenade is basically four blocks of shopping. There may not be anything extraordinary about the stores here, but you will find a few gems here as well. There’s dining and just enough walking to fuel more shopping. It’s definitely a nice part of downtown Santa Monica.

5. Tongva Park

If you’re looking for something uniquely Santa Monica, Tongva Park will give you just that. It’s a wonderfully verdant space that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. There are walkways, playgrounds, and even waterfalls at Tongva Park. You could easily spend an entire day of fun and relaxation at this place.

6. Santa Monica Camera Obscura

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a photography fan or not; the Santa Monica Camera Obscura is an experience to remember. It’s different from anything else you’d experience in the city. It’s unique, and if you’re already at the Palisades, you can simply stop by to experience it. Not many people know about the Obscura, but they really should.

7. Santa Monica Stairs

You might fare better here if you’re a Santa Monica native; but if you’re visiting for the first time, make sure you can handle the pressure before you go. If you want to go through with the challenge, you can choose between 199 concrete steps or 170 wooden steps. Either way, you’ll definitely break a sweat here.

8. California Heritage Museum

If you’re itching to just do something indoors, a visit to the California Heritage Museum will definitely do you good. This museum is located in a restored 1894 Victorian house, and the exhibits you’ll see are all about California. The exhibits rotate constantly, so you’ll probably never see the same thing twice—unless you go back to back.

9. Annenberg Community Beach House

This is one of those experiences that you can only experience in California. This 1920’s beach house was designed for a Hollywood star, so you know it’s quite luxurious the way things were during the golden age of Hollywood. It’s open to the public, so you can definitely experience what that kind of life must have been like.

10. American Cinematheque at the Aero Theatre

Here’s another cool way you can spend your time indoors. You’d have to experience watching a classic film in an old school theater, and Santa Monica has a great one at the Aero Theatre. It’s all very Art Deco and truly one of a kind.


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