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Why Go To Santa Monica

When you need a break from action-packed Los Angeles, do as the locals do and head west to Santa Monica. Easily accessible from LA via major thoroughfares like Santa Monica Boulevard and the Santa Monica Freeway (a stretch of Interstate 10), this chic California beach community offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of its big-city neighbor. The western side of Santa Monica is where you'll find its two main attractions – gorgeous Santa Monica State Beach and the family-friendly Santa Monica Pier. But there's so much more to this destination than its famous beach and pier. Step off of the sand to bike the scenic Marvin Braude Beach Trail and lounge in Santa Monica's beautiful parks. Or, enjoy some retail therapy and people-watching at the Third Street Promenade before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the city's highly regarded restaurants. No matter how you choose to pass the time, you'll instantly feel at ease in Santa Monica.

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Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on analysis of expert and user opinions. Read more about how we rank vacation destinations.

Best of Santa Monica

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Santa Monica Travel Tips

Best Months to Visit

The best time to visit Santa Monica is between September and November. During these fall months, you'll enjoy some of the warmest weather of the year while avoiding the extra thick crowds found in June, July and August, meaning you can comfortably lounge at the beach and explore popular attractions like the Santa Monica Pier and the Third Street Promenade. Plus, you'll likely find deals for accommodations and airfare when you time your visit for fall. If you're sticking to a budget and don't mind a higher likelihood of rain – though showers are few and far between thanks to the roughly 280 days of sunshine the city sees annually – consider arriving in December, January or February. Deals are occasionally available in spring, too. However, March and April's influx of spring breakers may detract from the city's relaxed vibe. Expect to pay more if you plan on visiting during the peak summer season: Families flock here in June, July and August to soak up some sun while the kids are out of school.

Weather in Santa Monica

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See details for When to Visit Santa Monica

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

  • It's a happy medium Santa Monica is an appealing destination for travelers of all ages and interests compared to neighboring beach communities. It features a more kid-friendly setting than adult-oriented Venice Beach and a more approachable (yet equally sophisticated) atmosphere than exclusive Malibu.

  • The food scene is top-notch Even the pickiest of eaters will find something they like in Santa Monica thanks to the city's diverse selection of restaurants. In addition to serving everything from California fusion cuisine and farm-to-table fare to authentic Mexican, Japanese and Jamaican dishes, many of Santa Monica's eateries can accommodate vegans, gluten-free patrons and others with special dietary requests.

  • Parking can be a challenge Like LA, driving is the main way to get around Santa Monica, so you may occasionally have a hard time finding parking. To increase your chances of securing a spot near busy areas like the Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier, visit on a weekday. On nights and weekends (especially during the peak summer season), consider using a third-party service like ParkWhiz or SpotHero to reserve a space in advance.

How to Save Money in Santa Monica

  • Visit in winter Though it may be a little chilly (think: daytime highs in the low to mid-60s) at the beach in December, January and February, these winter months see the fewest visitors, meaning you can expect to find lower hotel prices and more travel deals.

  • Do your homework when picking accommodations Most of Santa Monica's beachfront properties are four- to five-star hotels with high nightly rates. Consider staying a few blocks back from the beach or at a hotel south of Santa Monica – Venice Beach and the communities by Los Angeles International Airport are good places to look – if you're sticking to a tight budget.

  • Resist the urge to splurge Santa Monica's downtown area is packed with high-end boutiques, pricey amusement park rides and upscale restaurants. To reduce your overall trip costs, walk around the city's malls and pier, which are free to visit, without making any purchases. For affordable dining, skip Santa Monica's expensive steakhouses and seafood restaurants and instead head to a more casual spot away from the beach.

  • Avoid renting a car It may be convenient to have your own set of wheels, but paying for parking can quickly put a dent in your wallet. If don't plan on venturing to more obscure parts of the surrounding area, skip renting a car and instead get around by bike or public transportation. The LA Metro's Expo Line has a station in the city center by Santa Monica Place and the Third Street Promenade, while Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus features multiple routes that travel throughout the city.

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Santa Monica's main claim to fame is its gorgeous beach and bustling pier.

stellalevi/Getty Images

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