48 Hours in Santa Monica - Two Day Itinerary
As an Angeleno, I’ve visited Santa Monica many times, and it’s still one of my favorite places to spend a weekend. That’s because even 48 hours in Santa Monica feels like a vacation!
Santa Monica exudes a vibrant energy—everyone seems to be having fun in the sun! And, although it’s home to some of the most expensive real estate in the United States, surprisingly Santa Monica has many free things to do.
Navigating the city is quite easy, and most of your 2 days in Santa Monica will be spent close to the Pacific Ocean in the downtown area. So, for the most part, walking to get around is the best way to see the city. Rentable scooters abound everywhere if you tire, and there is public transportation.
Being near the ocean, it will not be too hot to walk, even in the height of summer. When the LA valleys are having triple-digit heat, it’s often the perfect comfortable temperature in Santa Monica.
Day One of 48 Hours in Santa Monica
360 Degree View
Start off your first of two days in Santa Monica with a stunning view to acquaint yourself with the city, and a delicious meal to fuel you up. Ride the glass elevator of the Huntley Hotel (1111 2nd St.) up to the top to the Penthouse restaurant for a 360 degree panorama. Ladies, check out my favorite vista from the women’s restroom in the last stall!
If you only want the view, you can see a good deal from the elevator, and when you immediately exit it. The hostess stand is not right there. Take a gander, make your way to the hostess, and ask to see a menu. Peruse it and the view before kindly handling it back.
Chefs from all around LA shop the bountiful array of fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables at the Santa Monica Farmers Market (on Arizona Ave between Ocean and 4th St.). With an emphasis on organic produce, this is one of the most revered Farmers Market in Southern California. If you haven’t eaten, you’ll be able to find something here for sure. Open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.
Head to Ocean Ave and walk off your breakfast by the cliffs of the 1.6-mile Palisades Park path. As you stroll through the 30 species of plants and trees gazing at the Pacific Ocean, don’t forget to look out for the rose garden, public art pieces, and historical structures along the way like the Santa Monica Camera Obscura.
Singing Beach Chairs
Located next to the gymnastic rings, just south of Pico, the oversized pastel beach chairs are actually art, and you can sit on them! Each steel and aluminum sculpture fits 2 people and produce oboe-like musical notes when a little breeze or wind blows through them.
Marvin Braude Bike Trail
Rent bikes and peddle down part of the 22 mile bike path that stretches along the beaches from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. While the whole trail would exhaust you and your day, a short jaunt from Santa Monica to neighboring Venice Beach is the way to go.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
Technically the Venice Beach Boardwalk is not part of Santa Monica, but you can easily bike, walk, or drive there. And technically, it’s also not a boardwalk, although that’s what it’s called. This may well be California’s best place for people watching! Lined with stalls selling everything from clothing to jewelry to henna tattoos, this oceanfront bazaar definitely attracts the bizarre. Shop for inexpensive souvenirs, watch a few street performers, and grab a snack if needed.
California Heritage Museum
Check out what’s happening at the California Heritage Museum. From art exhibits, to Farmers Markets, to gourmet food trucks, something’s always going on at this old Victorian mansion on Main Street. This building also houses the speakeasy, Basement Tavern. Stop in for happy hour from 5:00-8:00 M-F.
Downtown Santa Monica isn’t defined by one main street, but it does have a Main Street lined with art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. Stroll along for some window shopping and art appreciation while deciding on where to eat dinner.
For a casual dinner of creative appetizers, pizza, and wine try PBLC TRD at 2917. Or for burgers, salads, and beer, try one of LA’s first craft beer bars, the Library Ale House at 2911. Or for trendy California cuisine and cocktails there’s Ashland Hill at 2807.
If you are looking for something a little more upscale in the neighborhood, the charming Manchego serves delicious Spanish-style tapas at 2518. Or you can enjoy a 6-course gourmet meal at Pasjoli at 2732.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier cannot be missed during your 48 hours in Santa Monica, and the lively atmosphere and lights makes it a fun visit at night. If your dinner has settled, consider braving some of the amusement park rides like the solar powered Pacific Wheel or the West Coaster, both with awesome views included in the ticket price. Or, for the more faint-hearted, the Looff Hippodrome houses a 1920’s carousel. At the end of the pier you’ll find local fishermen and a sign symbolizing the end of the famous Route 66.
Day 2 of 48 Hours in Santa Monica
Brentwood Country Mart
Head a couple of miles inland to the edge of Santa Monica to have breakfast at one of the restaurants at the Brentwood Country Mart, or at La Votre Sante just outside it. While I cannot guarantee you’ll see anyone famous here, I’ve had 2 of my best celebrity sightings at this location–Taylor Swift at the Diesel Bookstore, and Anthony Hopkins 2 tables away at the Farmshop restaurant. Hopefully, you’ll be as lucky!
Santa Monica Beach
You are in one of the most famous beach cities in the world! Go dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean! Take a swim, jump some waves, throw a frisbee, look for seashells, or do whatever you like to do at the beach. Of course, many choose to spend the whole day basking in the sun, but if you want to see some more of the sights in what’s remaining of your 48 hours in Santa Monica, a couple of hours will do.
The Annenberg Community Beach House
Built by William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s for actress Marion Davies, this site opened to the public in 2009. In a neighborhood with high priced beach clubs, this beachfront property with its historic pool, gallery and children’s play area is a gem for the community.
Third Street Promenade
For the four blocks from Wilshire Blvd to Colorado Blvd, third street transforms into a bustling pedestrian street full of shoppers and street performers. Some of America’s trendiest stores can be found on this strip. There are plenty of restaurants, fast food counters, and bars for a quick lunch or afternoon beverage. Sit outside and watch the passersby to fully get the feel of this iconic strip.
Santa Monica Place
At the South end of “The Promenade” lies Santa Monica Place, offering some of the most expensive shopping in the city. However, this is not just a shopping mall as it was in the 80’s. Even if you’re not looking for designer clothing or perfume, head here to the top level where there are some decent restaurants, a wine bar, a food court, and a large open seating area with awesome views.
A tribute to the rich culture of the indigenous Tongva people, Tongva Park is a 6 acre oasis of plants and paths with steel cocoon-like observation areas to view the park and surrounding area.
The Perfect Sunset
48 hours in Santa Monica means 2 shots at a perfect sunset. The best place to see it is at the end of Pico Blvd at the beach. You can gaze from the sand, but I prefer to sit outside on the terrace of Shutters on the Beach and have a cocktail or refreshment while the sun slowly descends behind the pier.
Santa Monica offers restaurants for every budget, from a variety of cultures, and for many different dietary restrictions. This being your last night, I recommend a little splurge for dinner at my go-to restaurant, Tar and Roses at 602 Santa Monica Blvd.
The inventive small and large plates are meant to be shared which is genius so that you can try more of them! The menu changes often, but I highly recommend the Oxtail Dumplings, the Duck Breast, and the Shellfish Pot if available. If you cannot get a reservation, they do have a few walk-in spots at the counter.
If you prefer something more casual, head back to the Third Street Promenade for an evening visit, dinner, and soak in the cheerful nighttime ambiance.
Night Cap at a Famous Dive Bar
Does it seem weird to go from splurge dinner to dive bar? No, this is California, anything goes!
The filming location for Goliath, dive bar Chez Jay, just may be your best shot at a celebrity sighting if that’s your thing. Don’t let the rundown appearance discourage you, everyone from presidents of the United States to Hollywood’s A list have entered those doors. A local hangout since 1959, you never know who will turn up for a night cap.
Since you’ll be outside for most of these activities, spending 48 hours in Santa Monica may be a more COVID-friendly destination than most others. However, in Los Angeles county, regulations are in flux, so check with restaurants and any indoor site regarding their restrictions ahead of time.
Whether you’re travelling from near or far, I hope this helps you spend the perfect 2 days in Santa Monica!
About the Author
Hi! I’m Chef Denise, and I’m exploring the world through food, at home and around the globe! If you love food and travel, I invite you to join me on my journey! We’ll eat delicious meals, discover new dishes and destinations, and most importantly, we’ll have fun! Follow Facebook + Instagram