SANTA MONICA: THE PROMENADE, THE PIER, & THE BEACH
Every city has a mall; they usually are built in stories, so you can walk in a circular or rectangular manner from one side to the other, up an escalator to the next floor, finally reaching the food court at the top where you can refuel on fast foods and then continue your walk from shop to shop. In L.A. there are some good ones like the Beverly Center, the Westside Pavilion, The Glendale Galleria, the Foxdale Mall, but if you want to really get your money’s worth, there’s nothing like the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Located just three blocks from the ocean, this combines the Santa Monica Mall, with it’s three stories of shops, with a number of streets outside that have turned the mall concept into street performance art. From Colorado Blvd to Arizona Street (less than a mile), there are all the shops, cinemas and foods your heart desires. You can munch on a fresh salted pretzel, down it with a Jamba Juice, pick up some half price sushi, look at art and architecture books at specialty bookstores or browse at a large Barnes & Noble, get fitted for jeans, find a comfortable chair or couch, take your kid to a toy store, or catch a show at a theater. On Saturdays you can admire the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at the outdoor Farmer’s Market. But the real treat is the show on the promenade itself: the jugglers and fire eaters, the classical or funky musicians, the acrobat on a unibike, the portrait artist with his dog, the magicians and escape artists. Go at dusk, take in the shops, get something to eat, and then just walk to where the crowds are and see what they’re watching and who they’re applauding. It’s L.A.’s version of New Orleans’ French Quarter. It’s fun, it’s safe, it’s free.
Then, being so close to the beach (just three blocks away), check out the Santa Monica pier with its carnival atmosphere, where you can throw balls at kewpie dolls, ride the merry-go-round and Ferris wheel, drive bumper cars, watch fishermen pulling up small fish, or have your palm read. But since we’re walking, head south from the pier and walk the paved path by the sand to Venice beach (another mile or so), where street vendors and performers compete for your attention, where roller skaters and bike riders whiz by, and where you can stop to eat or drink at outdoor cafes or just take off your sandals and walk down to the Pacific Ocean.
So: L.A. not a walking city? Don’t tell that to those in sweats and sunglasses, downing their bottled water in Pasadena at the Huntington Gardens, along trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, in Fryman and Topanga Canyons, in sprawling Griffith Park, up to Inspiration Point at Will Rogers State Park or the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood Hills, along Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, , along the shorelines from Malibu to Huntington Beach, from Chinatown to Little Tokyo in Downtown, from the Farmers Market and The Grove to the Petersen Auto Museum/ the L.A. County Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits in mid-town, along Sunset Strip on the outskirts of Beverly Hills, or the San Vicente strip from Brentwood to Santa Monica. As Steve Martin, who once satirized the city in his film L.A. Story, once said when he was merely a wild and crazy comedian: Excuuuuuse me!