Santa Monica Travel Guide

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Smitten with sun, sand and surf? Then pack your bags and grab your sunscreen. Dabble’s team agrees, Santa Monica is a traveller’s triple threat: coastal chic, healthful eats and an urban beat.Santa Monica’s iconic pier is a colourful backdrop to the city’s liberal politics, healthful living and laid back beach style. We hit the streets, boardwalk and sand to discover what makes this urban beach town tick.

Stay

Picking a single hotel is difficult thanks to outstanding local choices. Ultimately, a design crush on Kelly Wearstler sways us towards the Viceroy Santa Monica with its eye-popping colour and near-beach location. The pool side cabanas are a perfect place to linger after a leisurely day shopping.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel offers a beach side seat near the fire place and a perfect ending to an LA day. The Huntley Penthouse bar gets an honorable mention for its great view and the fun atmosphere for a GNO (girls’ night out).

Shutters on the Beach is hand’s down the best lobby bar in all of LA. Relaxing on comfy sofas, listening to the house pianist and watching sun-dipped patrons is pure bliss. Although it’s a splurge to spend the night, seaside views are unparalleled.

Eat

Main Street has an easy-going vibe that makes a leisurely day wandering the shops feel like a vacation. Take a seat in the outdoor courtyard at The World Cafe and you’ll feel transported to somewhere exotic. Try the poached pear salad.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day is off to a good start at Cora’s Coffee Shoppe. Sit under the bougainvillea canopy and order the orange pancakes. Huckleberry’s location on Wilshire is not nearly as picturesque, but there’s ample parking in back and the sauteed spinach and roasted potatoes with sunnyside up eggs are divine.

Two out of three dabble contributor’s agree, the Gruyere and spicy mayo burger from Father’s Office is the best they’ve ever eaten. The place is always jumping and you’ll have to share a table, but it’s a great night out. Just don’t ask for ketchup. They don’t have any.

If you’re on a budget, check out Veggie Grill and try the yummy sweet potato fries and vegan Bali Bliss, an Indonesian style tempeh, grilled with chipotle ranch sauce.

Shop

Wander off the main shopping streets and there is still more to see. Make sure to visit Fred Segal on Broadway with its over-the-top housewares section (celebrity spottings are practically guaranteed). On Ocean Avenue take a break from gazing at the ocean to shop at Carlyle Design, which is tucked behind garden gates. The furniture is large scale and nicely tailored without fussiness. They have a great selection of Indian and Turkish style coffee tables and enough small accessories that you’re sure to find something to squeeze into your suitcase.

Fresh fish rules at Santa Monica Seafood Company, a family-owned business since 1939. A retail space, oyster bar, indoor/outdoor cafe and over 70 varieties of fish on ice makes us giddy. Do park in the rear as empty meters are ticketed frequently.

See

Impressive doesn’t begin to describe the hilltop setting or extensive collections at the world famous Getty Center. Richard Meier’s architectural masterpiece is clad in cleft-cut travertine and features a curvilinear design that wanders through a variety of natural gardens. Admission is free but you do need to make a reservation.

Originally a stop on the now-defunct Red Line trolley, Bergamot Station is currently a groovy arts centre with 30 plus galleries, shops, a museum and cafe. Free general admission.

Do

Lining the walls at Salute Wine Bar, is a most unusual sight, an adult version of a soda fountain that dispenses — wait for it — wine samples. A prepaid card lets you choose from 40 different bottles. The martinis are mighty fine too.

The Santa Monica Pier ought to have a star on the walk of fame, it’s been in so many movies: Forrest Gump and The Sting to name two. And, did you know solar panels drive the eco-concious ferris wheel by day, and 160,000 LEDs light it up Hollywood-style by night?

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