Travel Guide — Santa Monica

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I recently traveled to Santa Monica with my boyfriend, Griffin. We had an amazing time, and I’d highly recommend checking out this beach town if you find yourself in the LA area.

I’ve highlighted a few of my favorites below:

Santa Monica Pier

Pretty much anyone that knows anything about Santa Monica has heard of the Santa Monica Pier. You may need to wedge yourself between a crowd of tourists to navigate this iconic spot, but it’s worth it for the beautiful views of the Pacific coastline. If you’re feeling adventurous (okay maybe adventurous for me and my fellow 5 year olds), the Pier boasts numerous rides. I had loads of fun on the roller coaster with Griffin and our stuffed squirrel Skittity (no questions, please). There are also several bars and restaurants on the Pier, but they are definitely catered toward tourists and not really my style. If I haven’t sold you yet, you need to go to avoid ridicule from anyone who hears that you went to Santa Monica and didn’t go to the Pier. Nuff said?

Hike to Hollywood Sign/Griffith Observatory

Our favorite activity on the trip was hiking up to the Hollywood sign. The trailhead is in Hollywood, so if you’re staying in Santa Monica you definitely need to rent a car. The only downside to driving is that parking is a little stressful at the trailhead…there are basically two directions of traffic crammed into one lane!

Once we parked, it was smooth sailing. There is a map at the trailhead that shows the various paths you can take. We thought we chose a path that would lead us to the Griffith Observatory (which we were told has amazing views of LA) and the Hollywood sign, but we didn’t realize until we were close to the Hollywood sign that we were definitely nowhere near the Griffith Observatory. Alas, our journey ended at the Hollywood sign.

It is mostly an uphill climb, so be sure to wear good walking/hiking shoes, but the views definitely make up for any pain that your legs may endure the next day. On the bright side, the steep incline makes it a great workout. And if you are feeling especially adventurous (and are in shape), we saw several people running along the trail.

The Ivy — Beverly Hills

When I think of LA, I think of stars. From the Kardashians and Real Housewives to George Clooney and Matt Damon, we all want to run into someone famous when we are in LA. One of the best spots for sighting stars (and having a fantastic meal) is The Ivy in Beverly Hills. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to run into any stars (we went on a Sunday night so I’m putting my money on that), but we still had an unbelievable experience.

We were greeted with a glass of champagne at the door (the only restaurant where I have experienced that) and were casually taken to our table. We sat outside and enjoyed a beautiful night with amazing food and drinks. We shared the calamari to start and both ordered pasta dishes. It’s safe to say, neither of us regretted this decision. And don’t forget to get the red velvet cake because as a wise man once said: there is always room for dessert.

Definitely expect to drop a lot of cash at this swanky restaurant, but it’s worth it in my opinion for an incredible experience.

3rd Street Promenade

Shopping isn’t usually at the top of my list on vacation, but the Promenade in Santa Monica is a must see. There is an abundance of stores, many of which we don’t have in Chicago. To be specific, I was really excited to see that they have an Alo Yoga store (come to Chicago, Alo!).

Whether you’re just perusing and window shopping, or ready to shop till you drop, it’s the perfect car-free area for a stroll.

Demitasse Coffee

If you’re anything like me, you always scout out a cute coffee shop (or maybe a few) on vacation. One of my favorite things to do in a new city is find the best cup of coffee. After trying several places, Demitasse was definitely our favorite.

The shop itself is super green (as in environmentally, even for California standards), cute, and cozy. I got an iced latte both times we went and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. An added perk is that it’s close to SoulCycle (yay!).

Little Ruby

If you’re looking for a cute and tasty brunch spot in Santa Monica, Little Ruby is calling your name. Its Aussie vibes and striped straws put it on cuteness level 1,000. I got the banana bread with passion fruit jam and Griffin ordered the chicken sandwich. We both really enjoyed our food, and the coffee was top-notch as well. And if you need a cute pic for the gram, Little Ruby is the spot.

And there ya have it: my favorite sights and bites from Santa Monica. I hope that you check out these spots, and be sure to let me know if you do!


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