Downtown Santa Monica: Shopping, Food, ​And Fun

3rd Street Promenade & The Santa Monica Pier

I want to cover Downtown Santa Monica for anyone who has plans to come to L.A. for the first time.  A popular tourist attraction during the summer months especially if California is experiencing good weather.  Here are my helpful tips for visiting Santa Monica from a locals point of view.

Downtown Santa Monica

Activity ~ All Day

Cash/Card ~ Major credit cards are accepted at most business establishments.  Although, I would bring cash for the street vendors selling food and costume jewelry.

All Major Banks ~ HSBC, Bank Of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Chase Bank

Population ~ Be aware that mixed within all of the locals and tourist you will see homeless individuals.  I’ve never seen an incident or any disturbances in the homeless population. In addition, there are always police patrolling the area.

Winter Activity ~ Outdoor Ice Skating rink (begins in early November)

Items To Bring:

  1. Bottled Water
  2. Umbrella, hat, sunblock (summer)
  3. Bathroom tissue
  4. Hand Sanitizer

Downtown Santa Monica Shopping, Food and Fun

Things To Do


Furniture Stores: CB2 (Crate and Barrel), Pottery Barn, and West Elm.

Clothing: Major Department Stores include Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Barney’s New York Co-op, J Crew, Banana Republic, and Anthropologie.

Budget-friendly stores include Old Navy, TJ Maxx, and H&M.

Major Makeup Retailers include Mac, Sephora, and The Body Shop.

Shoes: Nike, Van’s and Skechers, and Michael Kors.

Pop-Ups Stores

Be on the lookout for pop up shops.  Because this is such a busy location with a lot of locals and foreigners visiting the area you can always find the unexpected.  Recently, when I visited the location Nestle Quick was celebrating their 70th Anniversary. They celebrated with a pop-up shop that offered games, prizes and a cup of Nestle Milk.

Shopping Tip: Wear comfortable shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking and standing for long stretches.  There are so many more stores that I don’t have listed, these are only some of my favorites to visit.


Lime (Electric Scooters and Bikes)

Rent scooters to get around faster and save money on rideshares.  The price begins at $1 and consist of downloading a mobile application.  To find out more information on their website here.

Bird (Electric Scooters)

Electric vehicle sharing, you will see these scooters on major streets and near popular stores.  Their pricing also begins at $1 and consists of downloading an app to pay for your rental services.  To find out more information about the Bird company check out their website here.

Metro Rail ~ Best Option

Expo Line to Santa Monica metro runs from Downtown L.A to Santa Monica.  The last stop on the line goes directly to Downtown Santa Monica.  To find out more about the metro fees visit L.A. Metro.


There’s a driver service available if you’re also looking for ridesharing options.  Be aware that the prices may be higher since you’re traveling to an area with a lot of traffic congestion during the weekend.


Metered Parking

There’s metered parking available that allows you to park for three hours.  However, they’re only a few spaces available. Parking enforcement is widespread so be aware of the time you park.

Street Parking

Street parking is not available in the immediate area.  If you’re looking for free spaces plan to walk several blocks because you will have to park near the residential area.  Don’t forget to read the street signs because most of the area requires a permit to park.

Garage Self Parking

Garage parking is available, you get the first 90 minutes free and then pay an hourly rate thereafter.


Although, this may seem really weird there are not a lot of public restrooms.  The main public restroom is located inside the food court. If you’re not close to the food court be sure to check for a restroom as you’re leaving your parking structure and visiting a restaurant.  In addition, there are bathrooms located inside most major department stores.

Places To Eat

There’s a wide selection of food choices available if you want to dine-in or you can choose your food to go.  Check out the City of Santa Monica website here.

Summertime favorite: Recently, I went to the Lemonade restaurant to grab lunch.  They have friendly customer service with a reasonably priced menu and offer an indoor/outdoor seating area.

Downtown Santa Monica, Leomande restaurant

I ordered their Backyard BBQ Brisket bowl with mashed potatoes, topped with corn and sweet potatoes.  To wash it all down I choose a frozen pink Lemonade and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert.  I can honestly say the meal was very flavorful and good portion size.

Downtown Santa Monica, Lemonade, Backyard BBQ brisket bowl

Lemonade is located at 301 Arizona Ave., 3rd Street Promenade Santa Monica, CA 90401.  For more information visit Lemonade L.A. for store locations and pricing.

Food Trucks

If you’re looking for food trucks they’re located on Ocean Avenue.  They’re always changing so you can’t determine the selection beforehand.  Tip: If you want to learn more about L.A. famous food trucks check out Roaming Hunger website.


Santa Monica Stairs

Stair level access allows you to walk to the Santa Monica Pier and a closer view of the Ocean.  There are several wooden stairs that lead down to the ocean located on Ocean Ave.

My two favorite locations are on Arizona/Ocean Ave and Ocean Park Blvd./Ocean Ave. Tip: Be aware this is a frequent workout destination so the area can get busy in the early morning and late afternoon.  In addition, both stairs have a lot of steps so it’s not for the faint at heart.

Check out the City Of Santa Monica website for beach activities and attractions information.

Beach Activities

If you prefer to walk on the beach there’s a walking path and a biking path.  The path stretches more than three miles and you can walk from Will Rogers State Beach to Venice Beach.

Downtown Santa Monica Shopping, Food and Fun

Don’t forget your blanket, umbrella, and snacks before you go.  Although, there are independent vendors selling on the beach there prices are on the expensive side.

In addition to riding bikes/walking, you can also play volleyball.

Santa Monica Pier

If you don’t want to get wet and have to worry about rinsing off sea water than you can go to the Santa Monica Pier.   Enjoy the rides (rollercoaster and carousel), free walking tour, games (Playland Arcade), and sweet desserts.

The Santa Monica Pier is a perfect place for a date night with restaurants such as the Bubba Gump Shrimp company and The Albright.

To find out more information on the food, fun, and events held at the Santa Monica Pier check out their website.

Things are just some of the things that you can do while visiting Downtown Santa Monica.  I didn’t mention the movie theaters, comedy clubs, or late night activities.

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Downtown Santa Monica


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