The Santa Monica Bike Path (1 of 3)
The pool at the Fairmont (2 of 3)
A lookout tower at the new Tongva Park (3 of 3)
The land of Muscle Beach, pier-top carnivals, and nonstop juice cleanses is shaking things up a bit. A gleaming new park, more relaxed restaurants, and a beach house-style club above the Pacific make the picturesque enclave in LA ripe for a quick getaway. Here's why:
The most exciting new thing in Santa Monica is not a ride on the pier, or another taco joint. It’s the slick new Tongva Park right in the middle of town. The $42.3 million(!) stunner is the brainchild of the guy behind New York’s popular High Line, James Corner, and includes grassy hills, play areas for children, modernist wind sculptures, and 18-foot high observation lookouts perfect for people-watching, all spread across six acres.
More peaceful and less crowded than SF's Ferry Building Farmers Market, yet with the same high-quality organic ingredients, the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market is the place to be every Saturday from 8:30 am to 1 p.m. No one is throwing elbows for a head of little gem lettuce, or mowing you down with a stroller—instead you can leisurely peruse the raw honeys, linger over the dried fruits, and even stop and smell the lavender bouquets.
Starting this Thursday, July 10, and continuing through September, the Twilight Concerts series goes off at Santa Monica Pier with free evening shows. It’s sort of like our own Stern Grove, only on the beach and way less foggy. Families, couples, and friends bring blankets and picnics to the beach and settle in for an evening of tunes to the likes of Cults (July 10), Jagwar Ma (August 7), OK Go (September 4), and more.
Some of the best food in Santa Monica is hidden in the cheeky Caribbean restaurant called Cha Cha Chicken. The neon beach shack, a block up the hill from the sand, serves up juicy jerk chicken and crispy coconut chicken with mango sauce. Other local favorites include Blue Plate Taco for their fresh local take on tacos and homemade churros, FIG for local market fare, and Milo and Olive for bakery-driven breakfasts and woofired pizzas.
If your idea of an LA nightclub is high-heeled women dancing to cocaine-addled techno, you haven’t been to The Bungalow. Though still hipper than thou, the Bungalow is more like a giant house party held in an old beach house with boho surfer flourishes. In the courtyard, crowds cheer on ping pong players, others lounge in the outdoor living room, and groups cozy up in the intimately-sized rooms inside. But make no mistake, it's still a raucus party.
Tucked on the northern end of Ocean Avenue, away from the crowds but still on the main drag, is the tastefully modern Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. The rooms in the just-completed Ocean Towers face the Pacific and have sleek mid-century modern touches. Bonus: The Fairmont's litany of activities—other than fitness classes, there are free bike rentals for cruising the 8.5-mile Santa Monica Bike Path south to Venice, and every Saturday through August from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., the hotel throws a lively volleyball game on the beach.