Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Santa Monica: an insider's guide

Full disclosure:  I am actually an East Coast gal, transplanted to sunny Southern California. But after over a decade of living, working, and raising my children here, I feel sufficiently well-versed in local culture to offer this insider's guide to Santa Monica. The fact is, most of the people I've met here are not native to L.A., but rather transplants like me who relocated in search of better weather and opportunity.

So, for those of you who plan to visit Santa Monica and want the 411 on this marvelous little enclave on the Westside of Los Angeles, here goes...

What to wear:  

casual chic

Casual chic. Short sleeves, shorts or jeans, and don’t forget the sunglasses. We’ve got 310 sunny days a year. Except in the mornings. May, June, and part of July brings a morning mist off the ocean fondly known as “June Gloom.” Temperatures range from 60 to the low 70s Fahrenheit during the day, rarely going above 80-something even in the summer. Don’t forget your jacket at night! Thanks to the cold ocean waters, night temps can get as low as 50 degrees F.

Things to do:

Santa Monica Pier, Ferris Wheel

Visit Santa Monica Pier.While it’s also a big tourist attraction, plenty of locals (especially those of us with young kids) go here. There’s a huge old fashioned indoor carousel, a trapeze school, plenty of rides and restaurants, and the iconic Ferris wheel. (In my latest book, Max and Eva come here on a date.)
Browse the art galleries at Bergamot Station.
Attend a Sunday morning concert at McCabe’s Guitar Shop.
Go surfing, sailing, running, biking, hiking. (See exercise below.)


Thanks to its proximity to the beach, and its year-round temperate climate, Santa Monica has a “skin culture” mentality. Everyone exercises. (And if they don’t, they lie about it.) We’ve got the beach for running, walking, roller-blading, playing beach volleyball, and surfing. The entire town is very bike-friendly, with bike paths running along the beach, and on the surface streets (look for the fresh green paint!).

There are also the Santa Monica Stairs – several steep sets of stairs that attract both locals and visitors who want to challenge themselves. The tallest of these, near 4th street, runs 189 steps. And yes, the views are amazing.

Did I mention the hiking? Will Rogers, Temescal Canyon, Malibu Creek (okay, we’re branching out here, but it’s still the Santa Monica Mountains).


Going Vegetarian in Southern California

You can get everything from fast food to haute cuisine. Some of my fave’s:

· Wilshire Restaurant (yep, this also features as a date venue for Max and Eva)
· Bru’s Wiffle – a waffle joint. You heard right: waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore!
· High end: Melisse, Valentino, JiRaffe, Sugarfish
· Warszawa – best Polish (and other Eastern European) food west of the Mississippi
· Vegetarian: RFD (Real Food Daily), Native Foods


There are three main shopping districts. If you really want to pass for a native, you’ll stick to the first two, since the third is mostly for tourists.

o   Montana Avenue, a chichi stretch of boutiques and cafes 
o   Main Street, which caters to a younger, funkier crowd
o   Third Street Promenade, a 3-block pedestrian-only collection of mostly chain stores like Barnes & Noble (yay!), GAP, H&M, etc, as well as a few movie theaters, many eateries, and an open-air mall at the south end called Santa Monica Place. 

Stay tuned for more insider info on life in Southern California. 

If you're a local, please feel free to add your favorite tips.


Jill Blake lives in Southern California. 
Her latest contemporary romance, Without a Net, is set in Santa Monica.

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