Santa Monica Attractions for Locals and Visitors

The seaside city of Santa Monica, CA, attracts thousands of visitors year round. Serving as both an urban center and a coastal getaway, Santa Monica’s attractions keep both vacationers and locals busy and entertained. The city measures 8.3 square miles, and is highly walkable and bikeable, giving people up-close and green ways to explore. Read about some popular attractions in the area and things to do:

Santa Monica Pier Attractions

Photo: gustavo.tejal

Play at Santa Monica Pier

Free events, rides, ocean views and people watching rank among the favorite things to do at this historic landmark. With more than 100 years of history, this San Diego staple features a carousel, Playland Arcade, amusement rides at Pacific Park and even a trapeze school. Head under the carousel building to learn about sea life and more at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. The pier is usually pretty packed due to its popularity, and don’t forget to stop by the shops and restaurants as well.

Take a Ride

Located on the Santa Monica Pier, the Looff Hippodrome once housed the last carousel designed by Charles I. D. Looff in the early 1920s. It now features a Philadelphia Toboggan Company design that has been in the hippodrome since the 1950s. Hand-painted horses and more than 1,000 lights will delight children and take adults back to a simpler time. The hippodrome is a must for any visitor, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Downtown Santa Monica

Photo: Alexis Fam

Tour the Downtown District

Downtown buzzes with activities and attractions year round. Third Street Promenade is a popular shopping district where guests roam dozens of retailers, and street performers congregate to entertain crowds. Area events include the Santa Monica Film Festival, ICE (an outdoor ice skating rink), a weekly farmers market, and walking tours. Cinema on the Street is a favorite outdoor movie series in the summer.

Palisades Park Santa Monica

Photo: Andrew Rollinger

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

If you like to explore natural areas, then check out Palisades Park, where you can sit on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean or take a stroll. The park showcases more than 26 acres of land, as well as a totem pole, camera obscura, artwork, picnic areas and a rose garden. This spot attracts couples looking for a little quiet time, too.

Locals and travelers love climbing the Santa Monica Stairs, which have three separate staircases, for exercise or just fun. Leaving from San Vincente down into the Santa Monica Canyon, the views are photo-worthy, and the workout challenges even the most fit. Fitness fans can also join the Santa Monica Rugby Club with both men’s and women’s championship-winning teams.

Read more to find places to stay, and learn more about the area.