Skip the sprawl for a manageable, memorable trip to Santa Monica.
Los Angeles isnt so much a place as a hundred places, loosely linked
by freeways. As Michelle Shocked once observed, you can drive 500 miles and
never leave LA
Theres no way you can possibly see it all in a weekend. So it makes
sense to pick one corner of the city and stay there youll spend
a lot more time enjoying the things for which LA is famous and a lot less time
stuck in traffic.
Its hard to find a better base than Santa Monica, which is surrounded
by laid-back Malibu, edgy Venice, and ritzy Beverly Hills. Rounding out the
recipe for a perfect weekend, it has an incredible stretch of white sand beach.
WALK THIS WAY
LA is notorious for its car culture, but the beach towns are compact and pedestrian-friendly.
From Santa Monica, walk (or jog, bike, or blade) along the oceanfront recreation
path south to Venice, the funky, artsy community where bohemians hang out on
the boardwalk, selling henna tattoos or joining in drum circles. Ahnold-wannabes
pump iron and primp for passersby at Muscle Beach.
At Washington Boulevard, head inland a few blocks and stroll along the picturesque
Venice Canals, a series of six honest-to-goodness waterways complete
with ducks, rowboats, and pedestrian bridges that smell considerably
better than their counterparts in Italy. From there, hop over to Abbot Kinney
Boulevard, a street lined with quirky, independent shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Check out hand-painted Mexican tiles at Tugend Tile, Balinese home furnishings
at Lembu, or custom surfboard shorts at Blue Link.
When youre ready to rest your feet, stop in at Joes, a casual
but upscale bistro with a charming covered patio. Or head next door to Axe,
a chic but spare restaurant thats all about the modern American food.
ROOMS WITH A VIEW
L.A.s most talked about museum is The J. Paul Getty center, located
high on a hillside overlooking the west side of town and its just 10 miles
from Santa Monica. On a clear day you can see both the ocean and downtown Los
Angeles from this extraordinary perch. The Getty is renowned for its Richard
Meier architecture as well as for the art inside (ancient and new art graces
the museum, including painting, photography, and sculpture exhibits). Its meandering
pathways, inviting lawns, and outdoor installations make it the kind of museum
sun-worshiping Angelenos can love.
ON THE WATERFRONT
Its time to head for the beach. The waters warm enough for swimming
from June to early October, and Santa Monicas deep, broad beach is accommodating
year-round. Active types will gravitate to the beach volleyball courts lining
the sand, while slugabeds will find nearly as many corn dog stands. The waves
are gentle enough for children most days; surfershead north to Malibu for bigger
breaks. When the sun goes down, the Santa Monica Pier lights up for an evening
of old-fashioned carnival fun. Ride the Ferris wheel for great views of the
California coastline, or throw softballs at milk cans to win plush toys.
Leave room for dinner at one of the excellent restaurants overlooking the
Pacific. Try fresh-caught seafood at The Lobster, or join the beautiful people
at Sushi Roku if you prefer your fish raw. Boa is a sleek new steakhouse that
attracts a trendy crowd. Or try Capo, a teeny-tiny California Italian restaurant
for a romantic evening.
John Rosenthal, whose work has been featured in the New York Times,
National Geographic, and the Washington Post, loved Santa Monica so
much on his first visit that he decided to move there.
The Venice Canals
between Venice and Washington boulevards, just east of Pacific Avenue.
The Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, (310)440-7300
Santa Monica Pier
Ocean and Colorado avenues, santamonicapier.org
1638 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310)399-0130
1140 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310)450-7221
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310)399-7792
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310)664-9787
101 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310)899-4466
1801 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310)394-5550
1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, (310)399-5811
1602 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310)458-9294
1401 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (310)458-4771