Santa Monica Outside LA But Close Enough To Visit
No trip down the west coast of the USA can be complete without seeing LA. When we looked for LA hotels, we debated being in the heart of the city (Beverly Hills, Hollywood, downtown) or staying by the water. We didn’t have a long LA set of “must do’s” so opted to stay in Santa Monica outside LA to be in walking distance of the pier and an easy drive into the city when we wanted that experience.
Malibu Beach For Lunch
I probably don’t need to say that we again selected Hwy 1 (or the Pacific Coast Highway “PCH”) for our driving day from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica. It was the “slow route” but still took only a few hours. Stopping at vista points, we snapped pics of the Malibu coast, wondering if we might see “Charlie” (of “Two and a Half Men” fame) hopping over his back deck to the sand.
Searching a place for a seafood lunch in Malibu we found Malibu Seafood on the northbound side of Hwy 1 at the end of Malibu closest to LA. Coming from Santa Barbara, we had to park on the roadside and run across the divided highway – quite doable on a quiet Tuesday at 1:30 but it may be taking your life in your hands on a busy weekend. They offered a good selection of fresh seafood if you had a way to cook it (which we didn’t). But they also had a good selection of take out food that you can eat in one of multiple picnic areas available. A favourite was their selection of unique ice cream sandwiches – but if you try the chocolate, “hot chocolate” refers to spicy hot!
Walking Distance To Santa Monica Pier
We didn’t stop going through Huntington Beach or Long Beach, thinking we might return, although we never made it back up that way again. The Viceroy Hotel was our “splurge” hotel – much more expensive that any other we stayed in – partly because of its location close to the pier and partly because it was billed as a 4 star hotel. Our parking costs in San Francisco had partially prepared us for the cost to keep our car in place for most of the 3 days we were there but it seemed that there were no real options if we wanted to be around the pier. Quite disappointed with the first room they tried to pawn off on us, the second room was nice and quiet and although we didn’t take a room with a sea view, we were glad (except for the one night when there was a party on the pool deck).
When you stay in Santa Monica outside LA, there will be lots to keep you entertained. It was a short walk to the fun and excitement on the Santa Monica Pier. We strolled slowly enjoying the sun, the surf and the local colour. It was a cheesy, fun iconic thing to do but the people watching was great.
In Santa Monica outside LA, the beach seemed to go on forever in both directions. I had been hoping for surfers but the rolling waves were not really big enough while we were there.
We were delighted to find that we could experience dinner at the gourmet food trucks in the parking lot of the California Heritage a museum (Tuesday nights only). While there were lots of exotic choice, we stayed pretty white bread in our selections. It was quite an active spot with people picnicing on the grass, enjoying the blues wafting out from the restaurant beside the lot.
We finished in time to return to walk along the water and see the sun setting behind the mountains and the amusement park start to light up on the pier.
Biking To The Wild Side – Venice Beach
Having had a blast bike riding in Santa Barbara, we reserved a designer bike at the hotel to ride along the beach to Venice Beach. They may have been designer bikes but they were very odd to ride, so it would not be a long ride. Luckily there was lots to see as we walked back along the strip in Venice Beach.
Keep your hand on your wallet and your eyes peeled and you can enjoy the experience as you walk along the strip. Medical marijauna doctors pop up on every block to keep you legal but more shady deals seemed to be happening as often.
Tacky tourist stuff can be found in every second store and several of the street people found innovative things to sell (belly rubs for the dog, pics with fake bar bells, etc). Muscle Beach is right in the middle with a workout ring and a promised bikini contest (that David was sad to have missed). It was disappointing at noon on a Wednesday, with no eye candy to be found anywhere.
In Santa Monica outside LA, it was still an easy trip to see Hollywood. Recovering the car in the afternoon, we played tourist and headed in the direction of Hollywood intent on seeing two iconic things (the Hollywood sign and Hollywood Bowl). We navigated a meandering path, driving along all the familiar streets (Hollywood & Vine, Sunset Boulevard, Melrose Avenue, La Brea, Mulholland Drive, Ventura Boulevard). The road up to the Hollywood sign was closed but it was easy to find spots to get the picture.
The Hollywood Bowl is open to tourists during the day and when no show is on they will let you wander around. The venue is huge, holding over 18,000 people. It must be wild when a concert is on! We were still undecided if we would be able to make it back for the opening night show. It you have the fortitude to walk up to the top sections, you can even see the Hollywood sign way off in the distance. David even did his own “happy dance” audition!
A Day in Santa Monica
In Santa Monica outside LA, we could find all the shopping you could ever want! Our final day was reserved to be a lazy day with some retail therapy. When we finally got out we headed for the short walk to the 3rd Street Promenade, 3 blocks of mostly high end shopping. The large glass fronted Apple Store drew me in to see if there were gadgets in the US that I couldn’t get in Canada (no).
We strolled through the Brookstone store (again looking at gadgets) and this bag lady bought yet one more bag (the Saddle Messenger Pro – acts as both a purse and can be slung over a rolly bag – great for keeping my stuff together for easy access). We stumbled upon the large outdoor patio on the 3rd floor outside of Nordstom’s and by the food court. It offered a great combination of tables and comfy chairs with outdoor heaters for colder days (we aren’t in Toronto anymore!)
On our last night we picniced in our room on wine, cheese, fruit, nuts and chocolate – content to not wander out for another walk. Packing this time was easy since our trip would be just a quick run across town to Newport Beach. The bigger challenge comes when we considered the need to backup our computers. I had brought my little external drive but of course David’s first option was to go out and buy a new smaller, faster drive, no matter that we probably own a dozen external drives at home. Finally relenting, he formated the drive I bought to act as a backup for my MAC Air and his PC. I heard about it for hours as he pouted about a missed opportunity to shop at Best Buy.
We enjoyed the experience of being close to the Santa Monica pier but it would not likely make it on our return list. I read a great post once about how hotel stars are handed out and this was a perfect example. While it was posh and catered to the well-dressed crowd, it really did overly impress us.
While the bed was very good, the pillows were awful and we had to bring in our pillows from the car, quite shocking many of the guests as we marched in with pillows in hand. The fridge had to be emptied of expensive drinks and snacks so we could store our picnic supplies and to add insult to injury they tried to charge us for bar fridge contents. While the hotel coffee was very good, it was only available in the bar until about 10am. There was no in room coffee maker, which we really missed for our before bed tea. The hotel was generally quiet until they held an event in the pool area that got louder each hour until it shut down at 10pm leaving my ears pounding. I was really glad we rejected the first room right over the pool or I would have been insisting on an upgrade to the sea view to escape the party sounds. Our little 3 star hotel in Santa Barbara offered much more bang for the buck.
We ate at no place really of note when we were in Santa Monica outside LA, eating either on the run at a local joint or we picniced in our room. We did Happy Hour one night at the hotel as our dinner and had breakfast there one morning. The food was reasonably priced for the hotel but nothing great to report. One of our best meals was salads from the salad bar at Whole Foods. It felt like we hadn’t had real veggies in weeks (the hummus dip at Happy Hour really didn’t count) so we filled our boxes, each with our own selections. David could indulge in all the kale and beets he never got at home and I filled my box with fresh strawberries and spinach.
Would you go back to Santa Monica outside LA? Wait until you hear how much more we enjoyed Newport Beach! Tell us why we are wrong ….