Santa Monica Beach
3.5 Miles of Sand, Sun and Activities
One of the greatest attractions in Santa Monica is, not surprisingly, the beach! Santa Monica beach is huge and offers a bunch of great activities.... Laying out on your towel and soaking in the sun is just one! The Santa Monica beach rests right north of Venice beach and offers a bit more of a relaxed environment. It looks familiar because it has been the backdrop of countless films and television shows.
Biking, Rollerblading etc...
If you're a fan of biking, rollerblading, jogging or any of the other modes of transport you'll find down there, then the amazing stretch of pavement that snakes through Santa Monica and Venice for over 8 miles will be heaven. This path is a favorite for many Angelenos. Not surprising, considering you get to enjoy the beautiful coastline as you bike, blade or run!
Along the way you could stop for a dip in the ocean, or get in a quick workout at muscle beach. After that you could continue down to the Venice boardwalk and take in one of the many street performers.
There are numerous bike rental shops along the path that offer all manner of bikes and rollerblades.
“Sea Mist” bike rentals is in a nice location, just down the steps from the Santa Monica Pier. That way you can visit the pier and then take off down the path right after. “Sea Mist” is a bit cheaper than some of the other spots along the path, around 15$ a bike for the day. Keep in mind some of the bikes are a bit beat up though.
Sea Mist also rents “learner” surf boards if you want to have a go in the Santa Monica waves. The staff is really relaxed and friendly.
Here is a map showing their location.
The Original Muscle Beach
This is the original muscle beach that began in the 1930s. Back in the day this was a wildly popular location, where large crowds would congregate to watch the weightlifters pump iron. The crowds got so big that they were drawing business away from the pier and other local businesses. In the end the city closed the weight lifting section of the beach in 1959. Now Muscle beach Venice has taken over the mantle once held here. You can head south if you want to see attention loving guys hit the weights under the sun.
The original muscle beach still has a big gymnastics training area that has rings, parallel bars and more that is lots of fun and can provide quite a workout. They also have a nice meditation/yoga area made up of a beautifully manicured grass area.
You can find the original muscle beach just south of the Santa Monica Pier.
Right across from Muscle Beach is chess park where permanent chess boards are embossed into picnic tables. There are usually some hard core guys there who seem to enjoy playing for months on end. I bet they have some good rivalries going by now. I would avoid giving them any pointers. ;-) Open tables are free to use.
There are a bunch of Volleyball nets set up along Santa Monica beach. There are three or four near muscle beach and another four closer to the Venice Boardwalk. Grab some friends, break out the zinc and hit the sand!
Midway down the ocean front path between the Santa Monica Pier and the Venice boardwalk there is a nice sized playground for kids to enjoy.
Because of Santa Monica's mild surf, swimming is very popular. In fact you can very often see pods of dolphins swimming right near you!
There are a number of food options near the beach. Right by muscle beach there is a strip of restaurants with nice open air patios. Big Dean's cafe is a good option with music and decently priced pub food.
There are also 2 Perry's beach Cafes along the Ocean Front path to the south of the Pier. They serve concession stand type food.
Getting There and Parking
You can easily get to Santa Monica by taking the #10 freeway. If you want to get to the pier, beach or 3rd street promenade take the 4th street exit and take a right on 4th. I take advantage of the 3 hour free parking structures on 4th and 2nd street just past Colorado Ave. From those structures you can easily take in the
3rd street promenade,
Santa Monica Pier.
However, if you want to park right down by Santa Monica beach, there are several pay lots availabe. There are 4 north of the Pier, 3 right near the pier and 2 more large lots south on the way to Venice.
Here is a map of downtown Santa Monica, including the promenade, the pier and the beach.
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