Santa Monica, along the Pacific Ocean, is a great place to stay, eat and explore and get away from the famed LA traffic jams.
To stay we recommend:
Shutters on the Beach: Located right on the beach in Santa Monica, this is a wonderful luxury boutique hotel. I recommend Coast, which is their casual beachfront cafe and bar. It is the perfect place for a great lunch on the beach and people watching at its finest. The hotel is at One Pico Blvd.
Channel Road Inn: I had stayed at their location in Healdsburg twice so wanted to try it. It is a comfortable B&B with helpful staff, nice traditional décor and very good breakfast. It was also a quiet location, but had easy access to Manhattan Beach, Venice, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu and all museums, restaurants, shopping and of course of the beach. 219 W. Channel Road in Santa Monica.
Our restaurant choices include:
Rustic Canyon Wine Bar: A wine bar and restaurant with creative menu of small, medium and large plates. It has a great wine list also. I enjoyed a great meal with a long-time friend in this contemporary, sleek spot on Wilshire Blvd at 1119.
Hungry Cat: 100 W. Channel Rd. at PCH. I had tried their location in Santa Barbara and wanted to try this location a block from my hotel. It has a raw bar with great seafood and an excellent burger. I had some great oysters, a wonderful tuna entrée and the best coconut tres leches cake ever. They had a large wine list and with specialty cocktails. You will enjoy the great atmosphere and décor.
Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe: This is a fun casual, restaurant featuring homemade artisan breads, pastries, breakfast items during its weekend brunch, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. It has a fun, young crowd. I enjoyed the trio of three healthy salads. At 1014 Wilshire Blvd., it is owned by the same group as Rustic Canyon Wine Bar.
Santa Monica Seafood: This Santa Monica institution has been there since 1939. At 1000 Wilshire Blvd, it has a retail component that my local friends love, plus a restaurant and raw bar.
For older Santa Monica, make sure to stop in at the Ivey at the Shore with its colorful, outdoor seating along Ocean Avenue. 1535 Ocean Ave.
I recently read about Cassia, the new Southesast Asian-fusion bistro in Santa Monica in sleek, contemporary space downtown. It will be on my list for my next trip as it is getting good reviews. 1314 7th St.
Our recommendations of what to do include:
Bergamot Station Arts Center: This is a wonderful area of Santa Monica bordered by Olympic Blvd. and Cloverfield with close to 30 galleries, an auction house and a small number of stores. It was previously a railroad station, from 1875 to 1953, servicing the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad and later the Santa Monica Line.
While there make sure to stop in to check out the current exhibitions at Santa Monica Museum of Art at 2525 Michigan Ave. in Bergamot Station. Also in the station is the City Garage Theatre in building 11. You might want to check out a performance.
Santa Monica Farmers Market Downtown: Check out this market with wonderful produce, flowers and fruits from California. It is on Arizona between 4th and Ocean on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Stop in at the Coffee Bean at 1323 3rd St. for a break.