By David Hochman
Photography by Marshall Williams
A breeze away from the L.A. bustle, surfers and screenwriters meet here on sophisticated shopping strips such as Montana Avenue and Main Street. Less bohemian now than during its years as “the People’s Republic of Santa Monica,” the incorporated town is home to Silicon Beach (L.A.’s tech corridor) and some of the city’s priciest real estate. Those wide, picture-postcard beaches flanking the iconic pier? They’re still free.
When to Go
Anytime, actually, though February, with salubrious weather and jasmine in bloom, is best for bragging rights with friends back in bleaker climates.
Dine and Drink
The Fairmont’s Fig restaurant showcases whatever’s fresh from the market. Just off the hotel’s entry court, The Bungalow is the Westside’s chillest nighttime hangout. Tar & Roses serves small plates to huge acclaim. (Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold described its roasted peas as “smoky little sugar bombs, like edamame as re-imagined in CinemaScope by David Lean.”) The Misfit Bar is the au courant spot for a sexy cocktail, such as the house bourbon specialty, the Jumping Jack Flash.
Cristina Lynn on Montana is that perfect little shop for trendsetting women’s accessories and design. Young Hollywood types go to Fred Segal’s beach outpost to dress (and buy gifts), like dreamier versions of the rest of us. Santa Monica Place is Third Street Promenade’s newer, snazzier shopping center, with a Barneys Co-op, Louis Vuitton, and more.
Beach Town Tips
Best Beach for Swimming, Surfing, and People-Watching: Pick your spot anywhere north or south of the pier.
Best Beach for Cruising: Rent a bike (or Segway) and explore the 22-mile-long paved beach path that runs from Torrance to Pacific Palisades.
Locals Know: There’s no better casual night out than a burger at Father’s Office by Sang Yoon on Montana Avenue, followed by a classic movie (or new release), often with a visiting director or star, at the vintage Aero Theatre.
Sunset Spot: Atop the solar-powered Ferris wheel in Pacific Park on the pier.
New in Town: Tongva Park by James Corner Field Operations, designers of New York’s High Line.
Don’t Miss: The Wednesday and Saturday farmers’ markets on Arizona Avenue, among the best in America.
Barefoot Factor: Baywatch beautiful.
More Beach Town Escapes:
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, March 2014.