I have a confession to make: I am a Southern California native and yet I hardly ever go to Los Angeles. It feels like a different world to me. When the chance came to visit Santa Monica this spring, I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn more about the area and have some fun. All that I knew about Santa Monica before my visit was that it was located in Los Angeles County and had a famous pier and beach. I learned that there are fun, historical, and kid-friendly places like Santa Monica to explore outside of the “Orange Curtain.”
When we arrived in the area, we ventured out on a local walking scavenger hunt designed to learn more about Santa Monica. The weather was warm and the sun was out as we explored an outdoor shopping center and then headed to Tongva Park. This large open air park had a serene feel, an escape from the busy life going on outside the gates. After the kids played, we followed the next clue, which took us across the street to the beach. The first clue on the beach led us to the original Muscle Beach, which was established in 1934. The expansive gymnastic-focused area includes rings, a children’s play area, and many different level bars. History ran deep at Muscle Beach as it was where celebrities such as Mae West and Bert Goodrich trained. We had the area to ourselves and the kids loved playing around and jumping up as they tried to reach the bars. Our final clue on the beach lead us to The Singing Beach Chairs, steel and aluminum columns that produce oboe-like tones when the wind blew through them. The chairs were large (they easily held two adults in one chair) and the view of the ocean while sitting in the seven-foot-tall chair was breathtaking.
The exceptional Santa Monica Pier stretched out into the Pacific Ocean. In my head, I had imagined Santa Monica Pier to be similar to small and simple San Clemente Pier, but it was far more grand. The Santa Monica Pier was almost a city of its own, with vendors, restaurants, an aquarium, and an amusement park. We walked down the pier and perused the vendor shops. After passing a giant lizard, a few street performers, and classic snack sellers, we ended up at the historic carousel. The carousal was classically beautiful and the aquarium, closed at the time, was beneath it. The kids were especially excited to ride the giant Ferris Wheel, so we got our Pacific Park wristbands and set off on ride after ride. We loved that there was very little wait time at each ride – under 5 minutes at the most. The whole family went on the Ferris Wheel, which went around three times at a slow speed and up to 90 feet high. The views from the Ferris Wheel were amazing and the ride allowed us to enjoy the sights and take a needed break from all the busyness of the pier.
That night, we rested our heads at The Shore Hotel, a family friendly hotel located directly across from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica.
Read my full review of The Shore Hotel and why we enjoyed the Snap & Savor Package, available through August 31, 2014.
The next day, we left Santa Monica with our heads full of the fun and adventure we experienced while exploring a new area. After visiting Santa Monica, I have been inspired to venture outside of Orange County and explore more of Southern California. Who knows where we will go next!
Disclosure: The author received complimentary lodging and activities The Shore Hotel. She was not required to state any particular view; all opinions are her own.