A city that was planned to be a leisure and vacation town even in the planning stages must have quite a lot to offer for tourists. Santa Monica keeps this promise with its moderate, warm climate and its Pacific Ocean beaches alone. However, not only tourists have discovered the city for themselves. Robert Redford’s and Sean Penn’s home town has for a long time also drawn the more affluent classes and it is an exquisite town featuring some of the country’s highest property prices.
In 1875, the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad was founded which laid tracks from Los Angeles to the coast and the Santa Monica region. The railway bosses had recognized the area’s potential for those seeking relaxation and they build a part of the amusement park on Santa Monica Pier, which can still be found there today and marked the end of the tracks back then. At the time, Santa Monica’s was the largest pier in the world. In 1886, the city was officially founded. Back then, Santa Monica had already established itself as a vacation destination and soon there was not one, but five piers here giving visitors access to the ocean. The city also grew in other aspects. An aircraft plant, the Douglas Aircraft Company, was founded in 1921, a construction boom brought many new hotels and residential buildings to Santa Monica. At the same time, celebrities began arriving in the city. They commissioned a number of large, elegant mansions and thus had a big, lasting impact on Santa Monica’s reputation. The recession of the 1930s hit Santa Monica hard, but the city was able to recover quickly - not at least thanks to the successes of the Douglas aircraft company, which especially during World War II brought record revenues and employment numbers. Scenery experts with Warner Brothers built giant defilades for the plant and the airfield to protect it from air raids. After the war, Santa Monica didn’t need long to regain its old reputation. From 1961 to 1968, the city’s Civic Auditorium hosted the Oscar awards. The 70s then brought the sports and fitness wave to the city, whose name would soon be associated with famous sports stars such as Carl Lewis as well as with new trends in the fitness industry. After a short recession, Santa Monica from the mid-90s developed into an exclusive residential and vacation town again, becoming visible in changing faces of neighborhoods and in the construction of new luxury vacation resorts.
However, you don’t have to be a member of the Upper Class to discover Santa Monica’s attractions. Most visitors are still drawn to the Santa Monica Pier first, the city’s hallmark at the end of Colorado Avenue. From May to September the Pacific Park amusement park with a Ferris Wheel, a few rides and a historic merry-go-round can be found here. The pier is also popular with anglers and has been seen in several movies and TV series. There are a few restaurants and stores located here. Adjacent to the pier is an aquarium called Heal The Bay, open every afternoon except Mondays. Left and right of the pier is famous Santa Monica Beach, depictured in many TV shows and movies and of course a popular sight for tourists. The pathways along the beach are used for walking, inline skating and biking. Using these paths following the shore line, you can also get to nearby, at least equally famous Venice Beach, which is within Los Angeles city limits.
Another attraction of the city is Third Street Promenade. This pedestrian zone is seamed by many shops, theatres and bars. Once a week, a Farmer’s Market takes place here, where regional products are being offered. Just like at the pier, street artists and musicians offer entertainment. Arts and culture in Santa Monica however are concentrated on a former railway station, Bergamot Station, which has been converted into an art center. The building today hosts more than 30 art galleries and is also home to the Santa Monica Museum of Art with its focus on contemporary art and alternating special exhibitions. Bergamot Station is on Michigan Avenue. Galleries and the museum are open Tuesday through Saturday.