How to Spend 3 Days in Santa Monica
Thanks to more than 300 days of sunny weather every year, Santa Monica is an ideal destination in any season and the perfect getaway spot for a three-day weekend. It’s also a good base for exploring other areas of Southern California like Los Angeles, Malibu, and Venice Beach. Here are some ways of enjoying three days in Santa Monica.
Day 1: Beach and Bikes
The best way to explore a California coastal town like Santa Monica is on a classic beach cruiser. Hop on a rental, and ride down the Marvin Braude Beach Trail. This 22-mile-long (35-kilometer-long) trail, known as "the Strand," begins in Santa Monica and ends at Torrance Beach. Enjoy the route’s scenic views and feel the ocean breezes in true West Coast style.
Afterward, set out your towel for some fun in the sun on the city’s famous beach. Surfing and paddleboarding are popular activities here, and rentals and lessons readily available. To round out your day, head to the Santa Monica Pier in the evening for a leisurely stroll and plenty of people watching. Enjoy the rides at Pacific Park® amusement park, and hop on the iconic Pacific Wheel to see stunning nighttime views of the coast and the city.
Day 2: Visiting the Neighbors
Santa Monica’s convenient location makes it a great home base for day trips to sights in other nearby cities. You can take a guided bus tour to Los Angeles and see the city’s main attractions, like Rodeo Drive and the Hollywood Sign. Or head to Marina del Rey for a sunset cruise or a whale-watching excursion. You can also visit the posh, quiet city of Malibu for more majestic ocean views; or stay close and ride south to nearby Venice Beach to wander its boardwalk, which offers a more colorful atmosphere than Santa Monica—while there, be sure to check out the city’s Italian-inspired canals.
If you’re traveling with kids, use the day to visit a theme park. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios is a 45-minute drive from Santa Monica, and Disneyland Park® in Anaheim is about an hour’s drive away. Just make sure to allow extra time in case you get stuck in Southern California’s notoriously heavy traffic.
Day 3: Sightseeing by the Sea
While Santa Monica’s expansive beach is probably the city’s most popular attraction, there are plenty of other sights and activities to enjoy, including shops, restaurants, and art galleries. On your last day in town, head to Bergamot Station—Southern California's largest art gallery complex and cultural center—to visit its roughly 30 galleries and creative businesses. You can enjoy a roster of rotating exhibitions and take part in community events that are held throughout the year. Alternatively, you can join a docent-led tour of the Marion Davies Guest House, the only remaining structure from Marion Davies and William Randolph Hearst’s storied 1930s estate.
In the afternoon, head to the Third Street Promenade, an open-air, car-free pedestrian mall located on Third Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway. Here, you can find everything from fresh produce to designer duds. Plus, you can grab drinks or dinner at one of the area’s numerous restaurants.