7 Top Things To Do in Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Let’s face it – if you want to go off-the-beaten-path in the Los Angeles area, Santa Monica and Venice Beach are not for you. However, visiting this world-famous part of California is a fascinating experience that is unlikely to disappoint. Here are the top things you could do on your visit to these legendary neighbourhoods.

1. Explore Santa Monica Pier

The first thing you’ll see is the iconic arch marking the entrance to the 100+ year old pier. Walk underneath it and explore the shops, cafes and arcades beyond. Check out the sign marking the official end to Route 66 and watch anglers cast their lines into the Pacific. Ride the famous Ferris wheel and rollercoasters in Pacific Park or just amble around with an ice cream in hand. If you are lucky you could even catch one of the many concerts and shows taking place on the pier.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Iconic Santa Monica Pier arch
Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Official end of Route 66 sign

2. Relax on Santa Monica State Beach

All that exercising and shopping is hard work, so what best way to relax than do as the Californians do and hit the beach? Find your spot on the sand and soak up some sun or go for a splash in the ocean. Iconic lifesaver huts line the beach and surfers patiently wait for a perfect wave in the warm waters of the Pacific. With the pier forming a stunning backdrop, you can easily while away an entire afternoon here.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
View of Santa Monica State Beach from the Pier
Santa Monica and Venice Beach
A lifesaver hut, Santa Monica State Beach

3. Enjoy a frozen yoghurt, ice cream or protein shake

If you are ambling along the Venice Beach Boardwalk without any of these in your hand, you’re doing it wrong! Boardwalk Yoghurt has a great selection of ever-changing flavours and toppings while Muscle Beach Juice Bar – opposite the famous gym – has you covered for delicious protein shakes and healthy fruit smoothies. N’iceCream specialises in organic gelato made from fresh ingredients.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
A frozen yoghurt

4. Workout in Venice

If it’s that Instagram-worthy body you are after, this is THE place to get it. Join the bodybuilders at the world-famous Muscle Beach (day pass $10), where Arnold Schwarzenegger was a regular, or use the various bars and ropes at the Calisthenics Park. Jog along the Ocean Front Walk alongside locals or rent a bike and cycle along palm-tree lined paths. If extreme sports are more your thing, grab a skateboard and release your inner Tony Hawk at the Venice Skate Park.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
The famous Muscle Beach
Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Calisthenics Park

5. Shoot some hoops with the locals

Basketball games on Venice Beach are a staple of sunny afternoons. Watch on as the players show off their impressive skills and you might just be lucky enough to be invited to join the fun yourself. Head over to the sand and you’re likely to see impromptu volleyball and soccer games all along the beach. For something a little different, try paddle tennis – a fun sport similar to tennis played with special racquets on a small court.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
A basketball game in progress

6. Shop till you drop at the Third Street Promenade

Fans of retail therapy are also well catered for here. Third Street Promenade in Downtown Santa Monica is a pedestrian-only shopping area featuring many well-known brands, cafes and restaurants. Santa Monica Place and Main Street provide plenty more retailers and eateries. Venice Beach Boardwalk has everything from souvenir shops to tattoo parlours and fast food outlets. Check out Gingerbread Court, said to be built by Charlie Chaplin, for tucked away hipster shops, a bike rental outlet and a small cafe.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica

7. Stroll between Santa Monica and Venice Beach

Spy grand houses, beautiful locals walking their tiny dogs and palm trees – loads of palm trees – on one of the most famous walks in the States. Start by Santa Monica Pier and head towards Venice, with joggers and rollerbladers gliding by. You will soon find yourself on the famous Boardwalk – a fascinating, but touristy, showpiece of Venice Beach. It’s perfect for people watching as street performers, musicians, fortune tellers and bodybuilders all come together in this eclectic corner of California. If walking isn’t relaxing enough, join a Segway tour to see the highlights of the area on two wheels.

Santa Monica and Venice Beach
Venice Beach Boardwalk

The Trip

What: Santa Monica is one of the best places to base yourself on a visit to the Los Angeles area with a spectacular beach and numerous retail and food options. Venice Beach is one of the funkiest neighbourhoods in the city.

Where: Santa Monica is 15.6 miles/25km from Downtown Los Angeles and 8.5 miles/13.7km from LAX Airport

Getting There: Santa Monica’s official website has easy-to-follow directions to the area.

Things to do: Shopping, eating, drinking, surfing, sunbathing, playing sports, working out, jogging, riding rollercoasters, eating ice cream, people watching

Here are my top things you could do on your visit to Santa Monica and Venice Beach in California

19 thoughts on “7 Top Things To Do in Santa Monica and Venice Beach

  1. Garth says:

    Nice! We’ve been here many times during our trips to LA. But never heard of paddle tennis. We embraced the touristy atmosphere and loved how vain the body builders were!

    • Travel Lexx says:

      I actually got to work out there – at one point it emptied out (it was super hot) and I was the only person in the gym! People were taking pictures of me – they clearly had low expectations!

  2. Jenn | By Land and Sea says:

    This is perfect – the hubs and I are heading this way in December and I really want to get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach! Pinning this for later!!

  3. tracy collins says:

    we were advised to avoid LA when we travelled the west coast a couple of years ago – and I am glad I took no notice of that advice! I really enjoyed LA – unfortunately we only had a couple of days so although we visited Santa Monica and Venice Beach it was a whistle stop tour. I will definitely go back for a lot longer next time – I just couldn’t get my head around the size of LA!

  4. Angie (FeetDoTravel) says:

    As I’m a huge beach lover, I would definitely be checking out the beach, it looks like a place I could spend a few hours 😀 I have also read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography so remember when he discussed hanging out at Muscle Beach so for that reason, I would take a trip there, although maybe not in the heat of the day, you would find me having a frozen yoghurt. Great suggestions, pinned for when I visit LA, thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

  5. Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) says:

    Yea! Cali is so much fun and you have found some of the best places to visit. I bet you loved Venice Beach (Muscle Beach) and all the fun activities. Of course the shopping and restaurants with bars are loads of fun! Sometimes just people watching or riding your bike is awesome. The bike trail goes on for a long ways and one can ride from Venice Beach all the way to Redondo Beach and back which is a great day activity to do! Great photos and thanks for sharing!

  6. Anna Schlaht says:

    We’ve somehow never been to Santa Monica, despite having living In California for a time! I’ve seen a lot of pictures of the Santa Monica pier lately and really want to go now! Hanging out on the beach and eating delicious ice cream sounds like a perfect time (and Mr. Nerd would love spending an hour or two at Muscle Beach, which I had no idea was a thing until reading your post. Maybe I’d work out more if I could do it on the beach)! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  7. Helena says:

    I have always wanted to go to Santa Monica Pier! I can’t believe people actually work out at that gym. I have seen it in movies but I would never want to do a session there!

  8. Anna says:

    This takes me back to when I used to live in LA :). I lived further down south by Hermosa Beach, but Venice & Santa Monica are fun trips too. I used to like walking and shopping/eating along 3rd St. Promenade. Haha and yes Venice Beach as the muscle contests once in a while.. so weird but fun if you happen to come across it. Very close by Venice Beach also has the canals, which is a really peaceful and pretty place to stroll around in. 🙂

  9. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    The things mentioned in the article were pretty simple to do as well as easy and cheap things!! Like lying down on the beach or having frozen yogurt which are simple and easy to do…. I would personally love to work out and play basketball in Venice but I think strolling between beaches is the best!!

  10. Only By Land says:

    I didn’t know they sold protein shakes on Venice beach, I guess you need one after working out on muscle beach! I visited a few years ago, your pics look better than mine do!

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