We love the beach. We grew up on it, and we’ll never be able to live away from it. It’s why we decided to do a west coast road trip, and it’s why Santa Monica was top on our list of California destinations. Our three-day stay was not without hiccups (a car that wouldn’t start, a record-breaking heat wave, and a bad motel) but it remains a highlight of our trip. From phenomenal food to bicycle beach tours, here’s our take on the SoCal city.
Weeks after eating there (twice) we still think about Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe. The family owned and operated bakery and cafe is all about fresh, seasonal food – from savory sandwiches and lush salads to artisan baked goods that pair perfectly with their gourmet coffee. The casual space is pretty and rustic, and seems to be eternally full of chic and attractive SoCal residents looking for a gourmet grilled-cheese, a quinoa bowl or fresh-baked doughnut hole.
Tacos, tacos, tacos. The best tacos we’ve ever had can be found at Blue Plate Taco on Ocean Avenue, a cool restaurant with an energetic vibe, killer patio and an even better drink list. Tacos range from veggie to short rib, but the shrimp tacos won us over with pumpkin seed pesto, cilantro crema, jicama and cilantro. We recommend you make a reservation – this ain’t your neighbourhood taco truck. We’ve heard rave reviews about their sister restaurant Blue Plate Oysterette and have added it to our ‘Next time we’re in Santa Monica’ list.
Sometimes (or always) it’s okay to skip lunch (or dinner) and have ice cream instead. We discovered Sweet Rose Creamery at the Brentwood Country Mart and found out mid-cone that the quaint shop (with flavours like fig sorbet, lemon chiffon and salted caramel) is in fact owned and operated by the very couple behind Huckleberry.
The Santa Monica Pier should be seen by day as well as night. It’s definitely a mecca for tourists, but worth a stroll. When you’ve had enough of the crowds, grab a bike from one of the rental huts and cruise down to Venice Beach for some top-tier people watching. From body builders to street performers, there’s plenty to see. Watch the locals fish off the end of the Venice pier as the cranes swoop and dive around them.
The Third Street Promenade is a shopping lover’s dream. The beautiful three block stretch is lined with shops (Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Madewell, to name a few) and restaurants. Magazine kiosks and cafes give the Promenade a Parisian feel, and any of the restaurants have sidewalk patios perfect for dropping your bags and enjoying a late afternoon cocktail.
Venture into upper class Santa Monica and check out the Brentwood Country Mart where you’ll find upscale boutiques like Unionmade and Kendall Conrad. To give you an idea of just how trendy the ‘country’ mart is, goop was rumoured to have a pop-up shop there just days before our visit – yes, goop as in the divine Gwenyth’s goop. Our favourites are the slightly more affordable but still o-so-chic Diesel, A Bookstore and Sugar Paper. Unless you’re rollin’ like Gwen, pass on the designer leather handbag and grab some fresh garden grub at the (gorgeous) Farmshop. Finish off with that gourmet cone from Sweet Rose Creamery we mentioned – it’ll help ease the pain of passing up all those fancy threads.
Technically it’s not in Santa Monica, but we couldn’t write this post without mentioning our detour to Anaheim. Yes, we went to Disneyland. As childless adults, Disneyland is the MOST FUN. The best part about experiencing Disneyland as an adult is noticing and appreciating the sheer amount of detail in every design. To understand that it began as one man’s crazy dream is a pretty wonderful thing. While we’re on the topic of not-in-Santa Monica, make sure you explore the Hollywood hills, too.
Stay tuned for our take on California’s Central Coast and the glorious wine country!