Introducing guest blogger Melissa from Los Angeles Traveler
Santa Monica is LA’s best-known city by the beach, and for good reason: every weekend, you’ll find tons of families taking advantage of all that there is to do, including a healthy mix of tourists and locals. You’ll find something for everyone in Santa Monica, all within a few square blocks!
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of local parents
Visit the Beach
Of course, the first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of Santa Monica is the wide swath of beach dipping into the water. There are numerous beach access points depending on what you’re looking for.
For dramatic views and smaller crowds, head north toward the Annenberg Community Beach House. Realistically, you’ll need a car to visit this area. Once you’re there, you could easily spend an entire day! There’s plenty of sand for everyone who wants to relax, while the Beach House offers a playground, seasonal splash pad and both sit-down and take-out food options.
If you’re most concerned with easy access on foot, head south to the stretch of sand in front of Shutters on the Beach. It’s easy to load up your wagon or stroller and take the kids to dip their toes in the ocean for the first time, as the strip of hotels south of the Pier is at the same elevation as the sand.
Explore the Santa Monica Pier
It’s not a visit to Santa Monica without hitting the world-famous Pier! There’s plenty to do to keep a family entertained for hours, and it’s a nice throwback to simpler times in entertainment.
For a few dollars at Pacific Park, your kids can ride one of the “big rides” or play carnival games along the midway. There are plenty of fun rides for all ages, a roller coaster, and the iconic Pacific Wheel that offers sweeping coastal views from its 130-foot peak.
But there’s more to the pier than just games and rides. You can try your hand at fishing, meet local marine animals at the Heal the Bay Aquarium underneath the pier, grab a meal and just enjoy the fresh ocean breeze and beautiful views.
Play at Tongva Park
If you’re looking to cool off without getting covered in sand, Tongva Park is the perfect choice. It offers a fun splash pad, ultra-modern play space, and meandering paths lined with native plants.
Tongva Park is also very easy to get to on foot from popular Santa Monica attractions like the Pier and Santa Monica Place, along with some of the best hotels in Santa Monica. While it’s not the city’s largest park, it’s certainly the most unique and a must-visit.
Picnic in Palisades Park
The best lunch option for families visiting Santa Monica is definitely a picnic in Palisades Park! Grab a classic sandwich from Bay Cities Italian Deli (consider using DoorDash to avoid waiting at the deli and having to drive around, though visiting the shop is fun too), a farm-to-table plate from Tender Greens or a creative “California” style meal from Mendocino Farms.
Palisades Park isn’t your usual park. It’s situated atop the bluffs overlooking the beach and the ocean, so you’ll want to linger and enjoy the incredible views. Local families also love the green space between the walking paths for kicking a ball around, and if you want to get fancy, it’s a great place for a photo session as well.
Check Out the Street Performers
Unlike so many places, the fun doesn’t end for families when the sun goes down! Strolling around 3rd Street Promenade, the Santa Monica Pier, and other nearby areas will yield a wealth of entertainers.
On any given weekend evening, you’ll find singers, breakdancers, jugglers, and more. It’s easy to walk from one crowd to another until you find something that your family loves. Be sure to tip the performers!
Where to Eat in Santa Monica with Kids
There are hundreds of restaurants in Santa Monica, and some of them are fun and unique enough to include in your plans!
Bay Cities Italian Deli – There’s perhaps no sandwich in the world that’s more beloved by its locals than Bay Cities. They swear by the Italian roll, though for particular youngsters, you can also order regular sliced bread for their custom sandwiches. Ordering online is the fastest, but if you go in person, you can order a few slices of meat or cheese and ask for sliced bread to make affordable, simple sandwiches for your kids if that’s what they prefer.
Tender Greens – This spot adjacent to the 3rd Street Promenade is “fast casual dining” at its finest. You’ll go through the line and make your selections, which range from delicious locally-sourced meats to fresh greens to well-executed sides. There are also soups, salads, sandwiches, and bowls to choose from, or you can opt for a family meal if you want to keep things simple for a picnic.
Mendocino Farms – Just a quick ride away is one of the Golden State’s most creative sandwich shops, mini-chain Mendocino Farms. Everything here is flavorful, and much of it is distinct – don’t miss the “not so fried” chicken sandwich with a side of spiced curried couscous. There’s a sensible kids’ menu that includes staples like PB&J or grilled turkey and cheddar.
Gilbert’s El Indio – This approachable Mexican restaurant isn’t right in downtown Santa Monica, but if you want delicious, unfussy food, it’s the place to go. It’s the perfect post-beach meal, and no one will mind if your kids are a little loud while you enjoy a margarita.
Rori’s Artisanal Creamery – This upstart high-end ice cream shop is taking the Southern California coast by storm! Its Santa Monica outpost is on trendy Montana Ave, which is one of the best places in LA to (discretely) gawk at your favorite celebrities. The prices are high, but portions are ample and kids get a free scoop from 3-5pm daily with purchase of an adult ice cream!
About the Blogger
With thanks to Melissa for her contribution to our guest series. You may also like to read about Best Travel Options in Getting Around in LA and Exploring Greater Los Angeles Area with your kids.
Bookmark this page or save it to Pinterest for later
Did you catch the rest of our Explore My City Series?
Written by parents & travel writers who live in the city they love; Get insider tips, must-see events, and hidden gems from our guest bloggers; click here to learn more.
Please see our Guest Opportunities page here if you would like to become our next featured writer
© Our Globetrotters All Images © Los Angeles Traveler & Canva