Looking for a little change? Santa Monica offers a vacation paradise a short drive away
by Marc & Darlynne Menkin
Published - 07/19/13 - 04:42 PM | 13177 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Santa Monica’s beach and pier — with its trademark Ferris wheel — offer a home away from home for San Diegans looking for a close-by vacation destination. SONDRA STOCKER
Santa Monica’s beach and pier — with its trademark Ferris wheel — offer a home away from home for San Diegans looking for a close-by vacation destination. SONDRA STOCKER
A trip to the Santa Monica beach often includes a workout. Sondra Stocker
A trip to the Santa Monica beach often includes a workout. Sondra Stocker
Santa Monica’s farmers market. Greg Peterson
Santa Monica’s farmers market. Greg Peterson
It was another beautiful Southern California day. The forecasters were predicting a weekend filled with bright, blue skies and warm sunshine. Our schedule was clear for the next two days, so it was a perfect time to take that much-needed break and drive up the coast for a weekend getaway.

We chose Santa Monica and couldn’t have been more pleased with our decision. This gorgeous, seaside community is about two-hours away, so it’s a good alternative for San Diegans who want something different but don’t want to hop on an airplane.

Whenever we go away, we like to stay in areas that offer lots of walking and biking paths. If you’re like us and enjoy an active lifestyle, Santa Monica is a great fit.

We stayed at the Shore Hotel, a beautiful oceanfront boutique hotel on Ocean Avenue. Because of its prime location, we were within walking distance to many local attractions. As a matter of fact, we didn’t use our car once because everything we wanted to do was close by.

Our room’s balcony had a full-on view of the Santa Monica Pier. As we gazed out into the ocean, we could hear the excited kids on the pier’s amusement rides. We could even hear the surfers laughing and the waves crashing. The sights and sounds of summer 2013 were definitely in high gear.

Getting onto the coastal bike path from the Shore Hotel is super easy. If you’ve never experienced this bike ride, it’s a must — the ultimate Southern California experience. The bike path is literally on the beach, so the views are fantastic. It’s also flat, making it ideal for people of all fitness levels. Even if you’re not a cyclist, the people watching is out of this world. Everywhere you look, there are colorful street performers or talented roller bladers showing off their moves. We even saw a reality TV camera crew — not a total surprise since Hollywood is just up the street. You can easily spend hours on the bike path and not even realize it.

Nearby Main Street, which is just two blocks from the beach, is another cool area to explore. Filled with quirky shops, unique galleries and charming mom-and-pop restaurants, it’s a hidden gem. We happened to stumble upon it as we were riding our bikes, and we’d advise any traveler not to miss out on this friendly neighborhood where the locals hang out.

Santa Monica is also a haven for foodies. It offers endless choices, from funky coffeehouses to fine dining and quick and casual.

We decided to check out a guided food tour called A Taste of Santa Monica. Annie Breheny of Destination Food Tours led us on a three-hour adventure of the city’s fabulous culinary scene — a great way to experience some of Santa Monica’s wonderful eateries. Our tour group consisted of about a dozen people, with an interesting mix of both locals and tourists.

During our tour, we stopped at six places and as we walked to each restaurant, Annie told us all about Santa Monica’s history. While we won’t give away any of the tour’s trade secrets, we will tell you the truffle burger at Fraiche on Wilshire Boulevard is worth every bite. The burger is served with an onion fondue, boschetto al tartufo (truffle cheese) and truffle aioli on a grilled brioche bun. The burger is rich in flavor and melts in your mouth.

For those of you who have a sweet tooth, N’ice Cream is a great spot at The Market at Santa Monica Place, an upscale shopping mall located at the south end of the famous Third Street Promenade. Annie said we could choose any flavor, which was a tough task, but in the end we went for the salted caramel and vanilla bean. Both did not disappoint.

Later that evening, we checked out Blue Plate Taco, a fun, hip restaurant serving coastal Mexican cuisine. Although we were still full from our earlier food tour, we heard rave reviews about their fresh guacamole and tasty tacos. How could we pass it up? It was a perfect spot to end our action-packed day. As we headed back to our room and walked out onto our balcony, we couldn’t help but take in the view. While the view was fantastic by day, it was even better at night.

We are definitely coming back.

— Marc and Darlynne Menkin are the co-owners of Where You Want To Be Tours. Many of their tours and teambuilding scavenger hunts feature secret and unique La Jolla areas.
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