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Santa Monica

This beautiful and arty seaside town is both chic and chill

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With nearly four miles of beaches and a vibrant urban scene, Santa Monica blends the sophistication of an international coastal city with the laidback vibe of a California beach town. Even though it’s only 15 miles/24 km west of downtown Los Angeles, it feels like a weekend getaway spot.

Celebrated for its dining, Santa Monica is home to restaurants helmed by such renowned chefs as Wolfgang Puck (Chinois on Main), Josiah Citrin (Citrin and Mélisse), as well as a pair of spots recently awarded coveted Michelin stars (Rustic Canyon and Dialogue). Many local chefs buy their produce at the bounteous Wednesday and Saturday morning downtown Farmers Market, which ranks with the country’s very best.

Shopping hotspots range from open-air Santa Monica Place to the showcases for major brands that line downtown’s Third Street Promenade, an area made all the more lively by street performers. The stylish boutiques on Montana Avenue are perfect for finding the perfect so-L.A. item to take home, and keep your eyes peeled: This is a great place to spot local celebs. On Main Street shop for unique home goods at Lost and Found.

A cultural hub for Southern California, Santa Monica boasts numerous art galleries all around the city, with the biggest concentration at Bergamot Station, a former railroad station and industrial site where you’ll find leading 20 galleries. For performing arts, the intimate Broad Stage presents notable jazz, classical, and world music performers in concert, and also stages acclaimed theatrical productions.

Fabled Route 66 once traveled along a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard and reached the terminus of its 2,448-mile/3,940 km run from Chicago near the beach in Santa Monica. A sign commemorates the “end of the trail” on Santa Monica Pier, where you can marvel at amazing coastal views from atop the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel at Pacific Park amusement park.

Rent a bike and cruise down the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, a.k.a. “The Strand,” which travels for 22 miles/35 km along the coastline between Pacific Palisades and Torrance. And with Santa Monica’s extensive network of bike lanes, as well as outstanding public transportation on its Big Blue Bus system and an easy connection to downtown Los Angeles via the Metro E Line, this environmentally conscious community is one of Southern California’s top car-free destinations.

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