Exclusive: the best of Santa Monica, one of California’s most popular surfside cities

by James Wilkinson

Santa Monica is of California’s most popular surfside cities, offering fantastic hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and attractions.

To find out some of the best things to do in the city, Wayfarer exclusively sat down with Santa Monica Travel and Tourism President and Chief Executive Officer, Misti Kerns.

It’s an exciting time for Santa Monica with so many newly renovated hotels now open and more on the way. Tell us about this and how important that has been for the destination.

Santa Monica is home to 40 hotels all within four miles of the ocean, with most in walking distance of the beach. The hotel collection has a wide variety of accommodation types—from luxury to budget-friendly—and offers an ideal home base for exploring the Greater Los Angeles area.

Ocean Avenue is experiencing a renaissance with more than $200 million invested in major upgrades to many loved hotels along with the addition of new properties.

Set along the Pacific coastline, Santa Monica’s world-famous Ocean Avenue has seen extraordinary updates and revivals recently leading to a SoCal renaissance.

Exciting hotel properties in the area include The Pierside Santa Monica, a new lifestyle hotel situated steps from the beach and Third Street Promenade; Sandbourne Santa Monica, a premier beachfront retreat bringing guests a coastal luxury; the new Sonder The Beacon offering a tech-focused hotel product with a digital concierge and self-check-in process; The famous Georgian Hotel, aka “the first lady of Santa Monica,” known for its 1940’s Old Hollywood glamour; and the much-anticipated opening of the luxury resort Regent Santa Monica Beach.

Santa Monica is one of the most exciting parts of LA. What are some of your favourite ‘new’ things to do in the city?

With a highly engaged and creative community of residents, we are fortunate to always have something new happening in Santa Monica.

Right now we are seeing a particular resurgence of arts and culture. Recently the city welcomed the international art show Frieze Los Angeles for its second year in Southern California as well as the inaugural Los Angeles Wine and Food Festival.

Across the city we continue to usher in new happenings like the Bergamot Comedy Festival and The Other Art Fair this April, as well as seemingly endless new art exhibits at our city’s numerous galleries and museums. In the fall, Cirque Du Soleil will return to the Santa Monica Pier which I am personally thrilled to experience once again. My team is also looking forward to new roller skating options in Downtown Santa Monica which encourages people to get outside and have fun while being active.

There are so many great local experiences.. what are some of your favourite things to do right now?

I love Santa Monica’s community feel and always encourage both locals and travelers to take in these experiences.

We are home to four Farmers Markets and the Santa Monica Airport Antique Market which are local experiences I love.

I also recommend the Conscious Market in Downtown Santa Monica which is held on the first Saturday of each month and encourages folks to shop and support local businesses.

We are home to amazing parks perfect for all ages like Tongva Park with views of the coastline and the North Beach Playground which is ideal for visitors with kids.

I’m a big fan of our local museums and galleries including the Santa Monica History Museum, Bergamot Station and seeing the little ones enjoy Cayton’s Children Museum with their families.

A visit to the Santa Monica Pier is something I never tire of and truly embodies the quintessential Santa Monica experience. I love seeing visitors’ eyes light up the first time they see Route 66’s “End of the Trail” sign on the Pier, especially if they’ve just completed the drive. In fact, Route 66 will turn 100 years old in 2026, and will mark an exciting time for our city’s rich history.

The restaurant and bar scene keeps getting better, doesn’t it? How important has this been for Santa Monica?

Thanks to the abundance of fresh produce found at our four weekly Farmers Markets, Santa Monica has a long-standing reputation as an innovative culinary hub.

There are more than 400 restaurants spread throughout our 8 neighbourhoods with exciting new locations popping up each month. By the end of the year, the popular Chinese restaurant Din Tai Fung will open at Santa Monica Place and we encourage anyone planning a trip to Santa Monica to check santamonica.com frequently for new restaurant openings.

Outdoor dining is also a popular draw here thanks to our 280 days of sunshine and incredible sunsets which can be experienced year-round.

We’re proud the Michelin Guide has recognized 18 of our restaurants including Chef Josiah Citrin’s 2-star Melisse and 1-star Citrin which has only added to our reputation as a dining city and driving force for culinary tourism from visitors all around the globe.

What’s your x-factor in Santa Monica as a destination?

We have an incredible local community rallying behind the importance of tourism, a rich cultural history and a nearly endless amount of activities spread throughout our city’s 8.3 square miles.

We are also a LEED Platinum certified city and value sustainability in a way that allows visitors and locals to travel car-free and be truly mindful of their carbon footprint.

Santa Monica’s x-factor is the fact that we have an amazing product with 40 world-class hotels set along a stunning coastline that truly offers something for everyone of all ages.


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