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Santa Monica, a perfect and unique blend of beach town charm and urban energy

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Santa Monica in California, a destination that is both chic and with laid-back luxury, comes alive with all the unique experiences the city has on offer. This ocean-front destination averages 280 days of sunshine a year and offers some of the best sunsets on the West Coast of the USA. TTJ gets to know more about the chic beach community from Todd Mitsuhata, Global Business Development Director, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT) and it does sound like an appealing destination for travellers of all ages. Read on to know what Todd has to say about this amazing year-round vacation destination, which has much more than its famous beach and pier.

Prashant Nayak

Q. How does Santa Monica stand out from other destinations in California?

Known as Los Angeles’ beach city, Santa Monica is California’s quintessential playground. Set along a 5.6-kilometer stretch of coastline, Santa Monica is home to sandy beaches, friendly locals, an extraordinary hotel collection, and a wellness culture all of its own. At just 21 square kilometres, Santa Monica is also easy to explore by foot or bike, which makes it different from most other California destinations. Its proximity to LAX, Beverly Hills and Hollywood also makes it the perfect base of stay to explore the greater Los Angeles region.

Q. Tell us why SM makes an exciting destination and the reasons travellers need to visit and explore the place when in California?

Santa Monica manages the ideal balance of seaside charm and coastal sophistication. It’s also home to eight diverse neighbourhoods – each infused with character. Once you spend time here, you’ll quickly discover just how much Santa Monica packs into its compact area. Along the oceanfront, you’ll find a unique selection of hotels ranging from beachfront luxe to vintage gems, celebrated restaurants, world-class shopping, and famous attractions like the Santa Monica Pier. Serving as an artistic centre for generations, Santa Monica boasts more than 150 galleries, public art installations, theatres, and museums. Culture is at your fingertips wherever you are throughout the city.

Home to four weekly farmers’ markets, frequented by health-conscious Angelenos and local chefs, Santa Monica is a leader in the local food movement. The city’s dining scene features restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs and rising culinary stars alike.

Moving around car-free in Santa Monica is simple with the advents of light rail, shuttle and bus services, ample bike rentals, and more. Santa Monica’s gorgeous topography, temperate weather and over 100 miles of bikeways make it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S.

With its intersection of near-perfect weather, outdoor activities, abundant locally grown food, and walkability, it’s no wonder Santa Monica is a hub of healthy living. You can bike for hours, learn to surf, or simply take time to rejuvenate your body and mind.

Q. Which are the nearest hub cities for easy connectivity to SM? Tell us about the hotels and accommodations in SM?

Beverly Hills and West Hollywood are just a short 30–40-minute drive from Santa Monica while Venice Beach is just a 10-minute bike ride from our beach city. Downtown LA is easily accessible (in 45 minutes) via the new Metro E Rail Line. Hollywood and Universal Studios can be accessed by the Metro E and B Line in just over an hour.

In terms of accommodations, we have 41 hotels in Santa Monica, all of which are within four miles to the ocean, and most of which are adjacent to or within walking distance of the beach. The Santa Monica hotel collection has a wide variety of accommodations, from luxury to budget to beach cottages and offers a central location to greater Los Angeles.

If travellers need to plan a 3/4 days’ vacation in Santa Monica, what will be your ideal itinerary and suggestion to them?

DAY 1

Start your morning the way locals do – with a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean. Learn to catch a wave with a surf lesson at Aqua Surf School. Afterwards, it’s time to be pampered for lunch with Beach Butler Service at Perry’s Café. A private butler will prepare your beach chairs, tables and umbrellas while delivering beverages, food and ocean equipment to meet your seaside desires.

In the afternoon, take a short stroll to the historic Santa Monica Pier, the end of Route 66 and home to Pacific Park, Los Angeles’ only admission-free amusement park. Take a ride on the iconic solar-powered Pacific Wheel, known for its panoramic views of the Southern California coastline. Afterwards, explore the world-famous Third Street Promenade, an alfresco shopping experience with top name-brand stores.

As the magic hour approaches in the evening, head for cocktails with a view at Elephante Beach House. The open-air rooftop bar and restaurant aims to transport guests from Los Angeles to the Southern Mediterranean all whilst staying in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica.

DAY 2

In the morning, the beautiful coastline and temperate weather make Santa Monica an ideal destination for a two-wheeled adventure. Rent a bike from Santa Monica Bike Centre and cruise along The Strand, a 35-km long, paved trail that starts in Santa Monica and connects the city with neighbouring Venice Beach. As you pedal along, soak up Southern California’s beach culture – famous for its surfers, body builders, street performers and spectacular ocean views.

For the afternoon, there’s no better place for a leisurely stroll than Montana Avenue, a tree-lined boulevard that’s home to numerous restaurants and retailers. From unique home boutiques to high-end cosmetic stores, the area that stretches from 7th to 17th Street is a hotspot for the latest beauty trends, fashion and healthy eateries.

In the evening, enjoy a street-side, alfresco dinner at Father’s Office, the popular American gastropub on Montana Avenue that serves the much celebrated ‘Office Burger’, along with 36 craft beers on tap. For one last cocktail, head to The Bungalow, great for outdoor music and a fun atmosphere that lasts well into the night.

DAY 3

Get an early start to your day by listening to the sounds of the ocean with a private or group yoga lesson from Beach Yoga SoCal. Afterwards, head to one of Santa Monica’s four weekly Farmers Markets. The Wednesday Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market is the largest organic market on the West Coast, where top chefs from across Los Angeles shop for the freshest ingredients.

In the afternoon, it’s time to hit the shops at Santa Monica Place, a sophisticated, open-air shopping centre with three levels of retail and dining. From Nordstrom to an array of the city’s best shops – Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Nike, The Disney Store, Hugo Boss, Uniqlo, Michael Kors and more – Santa Monica Place is the epicenter of relaxed, celebrity-inspired style.

Afterwards, cook up a scrumptious lunch of your own with a private cooking class at the Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savouries. This beloved institution offers hands-on cooking classes for beginners to professionals.

Come evening and head to Santa Monica’s Mid-City neighbourhood for an alfresco dinner at Birdie G’s, the latest concept from the locally owned and operated Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants. With a diverse menu designed by Michelin-starred Chef Jeremy Fox, dishes pay homage to midwestern comfort food – with a Southern California twist.

DAY 4

Begin your day exploring one of Santa Monica’s quirkiest neighbourhoods, Pico Boulevard, home to a collection of below-the-radar shopping finds and unique art galleries. While you’re here, be sure to follow Santa Monica’s Street Art Mural Guide because this eclectic street contains a multitude of popular murals. Afterwards, enjoy a breakfast of lemon ricotta pancakes on the outdoor patio at Lunetta All Day, an all-day eatery from local chef and former professional surfer Raphael Lunetta.

Santa Monica’s central location in Los Angeles County makes it an ideal base to explore the wider region. On your final afternoon, head 15 minutes up Pacific Coast Highway for a visit to the Getty Villa. Situated on a cliff overseeing the Pacific Ocean, the Getty Villa is an educational center and museum dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.

Once darkness has taken hold, it’s time to grab dinner. With four weekly Farmers Markets, fresh ingredients abound in Santa Monica. Head to Wally’s Wine & Spirits in Downtown Santa Monica for an alfresco dinner and a delightful pairing of locally sourced produce and meats with the world’s finest wines.

Q. Santa Monica is famous for weddings. What are the factors which have given rise to this event segment?

Santa Monica’s beachfront setting, along with its extraordinary hotels, most located within walking distance of the beach, make it the ideal place for weddings and honeymoons. Many of our event venues, such as the Annenberg Beach House and The Victorian, as well as our restaurants, including Elephante, make full use of our year-round temperate weather and offer ample outdoor and open-air spaces.

Q. Is tourism the only pillar of SM’s economy?

Santa Monica’s enviable position as a highly desirable tourist destination supports a robust hospitality-driven economy. Pre-pandemic, tourism brought nearly $2 billion annually to the Santa Monica economy and supported more than 12,500 tourism-related jobs. Santa Monica is also on the leading edge of the creative economy, as home to some of the U.S.’s key creative businesses. Major brands Activision, the Grammy Foundation, Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Lionsgate Entertainment, Red Bull North America and Universal Music Publishing Group are each located in Santa Monica, bringing world-class creative services and innovations that support the local economy.

Q. How are you promoting your destination in the India market? What is your expectation or Indian tourist target in 2022?

Santa Monica is an ideal destination for Indian FIT travellers – both families and honeymooners, looking for a beach vacation while experiencing the Southern Californian understated luxury vibe. We have been creating awareness about the range of experiences that Santa Monica offers among the travel trade and media through focused product update programs like the Sundowner with Santa Monica and Revive the Santa Monica Soul. We aim to build momentum and destination awareness through dedicated promotion and trade engagement programs, all aimed at generating incremental room nights for the city.

Prior to the pandemic in 2019, our beach city welcomed 4.3 million international visitors. Indian travellers consisted of a small but growing segment of these travellers, and we look forward to growing these numbers with the recent re-opening of the U.S. borders.

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