Heading to Southern California has never been easier with many direct flights a day into Orange County, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. While the larger cities may sound tempting, we suggest that you take a true beach-side escape and head to Santa Monica, where you can experience a touch of Hollywood glamour in an outdoor paradise where the city meets the sea.
Give yourself a mini-holiday within a holiday and head into the John Wayne Airport, instead of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – far less daunting to navigate around. Rent a car and spend a night in Costa Mesa, book into the Avenue of the Arts Hotel, see a Broadway Show, and get your shopping out of the way at South Coast Plaza so you are stylishly prepared for Santa Monica. The next day, leisurely drive up the coast and stop along the way at Hermosa Beach for lunch and a walk along the beach-side trail.
There are many excellent hotels in Santa Monica, but if you want to be right along the beach in the most stylish of rooms, look no further than the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.
The Fairmont Miramar has recently been refreshed with suites designed by Los Angeles-based Lynda Murray, and the rooms are indeed stunning. On-site, there is delicious seasonal cuisine at the charming FIG Restaurant where happy hour is perhaps the best in the city.
The Bungalow restaurant is a bit livelier later in the night, and the pool is open year-round. In the summer months, the Miramar Beach Club offers beach concierge services in a reserved area on the Santa Monica Beach. You can also stay fit, or perhaps experience a rejuvenating spa treatment at the on-site Exhale Mind Body Spa.
Although the city has a population of fewer than 1,00,000, the food scene here is one of the top ranking in America. It’s all about local bounty here as the leading chefs shop at the overflowing Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, held every Wednesday right near the Fairmont Hotel. You’ll want to roam the market and perhaps grab a bottle or two of olive oil from a nearby farm as a souvenir.
Be sure to dine at the hotel’s two venues, FIG Restaurant and The Bungalow and venture up the nearby Montana Avenue where you might catch a glimpse of David Duchovny or Luke Wilson at R+D Kitchen. Locals know the secret of Truxton’s American Bistro where flatbread, burgers, and salads are chock-full of freshness, and the Border Grill is a must for a taste of Mexico.
For fine dining, there’s Tar & Roses, Rustic Canyon, or Melisse, and an absolute must is the charming and delicious The Little Door. Sip a craft beer and attempt to finish a burger at Father’s Office, cocktail at The Misfit or Brick+Mortar, and brunch at Milo and Olive or Huckleberry. There’s also the juice bar trend happening here, hit up Kreation Organic Kafe & Juicery and you’ll fit right in.
Santa Monica is a town for walking. Santa Monica Place, Montana Avenue and Main Street are home to many upscale boutiques if shopping is your thing. Third Street Promenade is like an “outdoor living room”, with all forms of entertainment – street performers, movie theaters, restaurants, bars, art galleries, and shopping.
Don’t miss the Santa Monica Pier, a Southern California icon, where you’ll find a full-service amusement park with rides and attractions, including a five-story West Coaster roller coaster, the nine-story Pacific Plunge tower ride and the nine-story Pacific Wheel.
Just steps from the Pier you’ll find the Ocean Front Walk and the 22-mile long South Bay Bicycle Trail. Santa Monica Bike Tours offer self or guided tours – such as their Street Arts Tour where you get some culture and exercise at the same time.
Art lovers must visit Bergamot Station, an old trolley station converted into Southern California’s largest art gallery complex and cultural center. You’ll find forty different art galleries, as well as the Santa Monica Museum of Art and Bergamot Café, with outdoor seating and healthy lunches and snacks.
There’s so much in Santa Monica and far more nearby, so be sure to allow yourself more than a few days to get the full experience. For more information: www.santamonica.com