Santa Monica in California, is on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles county. It's famous for the Santa Monica Pier, and its sandy beaches. There are plenty of hotels and motels to choose from, from places like the historic Shangri-La hotel to motel chains and other cheap hotels.
Santa Monica is less than 10 miles from Los Angeles International Airport, so if you want to get off the plane and pick up a rental car, you can be checked into your hotel and onto the beach in less than an hour – if the traffic co-operates. Heading north along the Pacific Coast Highway it's about 400 miles to San Francisco, a great if long day's drive through places like Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Carmel and Monterey.
Santa Monica has over 3.5 miles of golden sandy beaches, including the Santa Monica State Beach, which is about two miles long and runs under the Pier. It's cleaned and raked daily, and includes the original Muscle Beach – they had one here before the Venice Muscle Beach became more famous. There are wooden pathways for those with disabilities, a bike trail, eating places, lifeguards, volleyball courts and other activity centers, and you might even spot dolphins swimming off-shore.
Santa Monica has several museums worth checking out, including the Angels Attic Museum, the California Heritage Museum, the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum, and the Santa Monica Museum of Art.
On cliff-tops above the beach to the north of the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park has great views out over the Pacific and along the coast. Here you'll find the Santa Monica Visitor Information Kiosk, and the curious Camera Obscura, which uses a rotating mirror to reflect what's going on outside onto a screen inside the darkened room. On a sunny day (and Santa Monica claims 340 sunny days a year) these images can actually seem more real than the reality.
Santa Monica Pier
The Pier to Santa Monica is like the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, an iconic landmark. The Pier is almost as old as the Tower too, as it was built in 1909, just 20 years after the Tower was opened. In 1924 the La Monica Ballroom opened on the Pier, and in its day it was the biggest ballroom in the United States. That's no longer there but the Carousel is still going strong. That was built in 1916 and is now a National Historic Landmark.
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Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews an Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide published by the Beautiful Pacific Northwest website.