From driving along the coast for unparalleled panoramas of the Pacific or buying local produce at one of the area’s most iconic markets, there are a seemingly endless number of things to do in Santa Monica in winter.
From driving along the coast for unparalleled panoramas of the Pacific or buying local produce at one of the area’s most iconic markets, there are a seemingly endless number of things to do in Santa Monica in winter. While COVID-19-related closures and safety measures have shifted some of Santa Monica’s traditional attractions, cooler weather and ubiquitous sunshine foster opportunities to experience the city in imaginative ways and discover unforgettable outdoor adventures.
DRIVE ALONG THE PALOS VERDES PENINSULA
Location: Palos Verdes Estates to San Pedro
In classic California fashion, one of the best ways to experience its scenery and host of hidden gems is by car. Beginning at Palos Verdes Estates, about 20 miles south of Santa Monica, Palos Verdes Drive clings to the coastline while showcasing a wide range of captivating views, from stunning properties to hillsides beset by nothing but ocean winds. The trip is rich and varied, its 14 miles showcasing the area’s ecological diversity and captivating landmarks, like Point Vicente Lighthouse, perched on Palos Verdes’ craggy cliffs. Conclude with a view of the Port of LA and a visit to the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro.
SHOP LOCAL AT THE SANTA MONICA FARMERS MARKET
Location: Downtown Santa Monica
Spanning four city blocks, the Santa Monica Farmers Market has established itself as one of Southern California’s premier destinations for local food and produce. The open-air market celebrates the natural and diverse bounty, with fresh seafood, baked goods, and seasonal fruits and vegetables, and supports small farmers. The market is held bi-weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the latter designated as the “Organic Market,” home to the largest percentage of organic-grown food at any city market.
For a personalized foray of the market, take a tour with Oceana’s executive chef Ryan Crawford. Ingredients you hand-select will appear in, and inspire, your dinner that night.
Protocols are in place to keep visitors safe during COVID-19, including maintaining physical distance between shoppers and allowing only one member of each household to shop at a time.
BIKE ALONG THE BEACH
Location: The Strand
The renowned Marvin Braude Bike Trail, or the Strand, is a 22-mile paved path that winds alongside the Pacific, granting access to fresh ocean breezes, lines of palm trees, and some of the city’s most iconic beaches. The path begins at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades and runs to Torrance County Beach. For a shorter journey, bike about 2.5 miles south from Santa Monica until you arrive at Venice Beach, a vibrant community of art, dining, and shopping. Grab a latte from Intelligentsia Coffee, which serves single-origin beans from family-owned farms, to refuel for the ride back.
GO RETRO WITH A DRIVE-IN
Channeling the 1950s during the age of COVID-19, drive-in theaters are making a resurgence, promising a movie-going experience that extends far beyond the film. Featuring new releases interspersed with beloved classics — Hollywood premieres and headliner concerts are also transitioning to the drive-in model — the venues create memorable nights and a return to the classic days of cinema while complying with safety guidelines. Most theaters have concession stands, or you can bring a meal from Oceana for an artisanal update on movie food.
Among the multitude of options, the Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre in Montclair shows double releases nightly, and the historic Paramount Drive-in Theatre is a local favorite. Oceana’s staff can further advise you on seasonal pop-ups around the city.
WATCH THE SUNSET FROM EL MATADOR
Drive north along the Pacific Coast Highway to reach El Matador State Beach, a dramatic landscape that may have lost its reputation as Malibu’s “best-kept secret” but still remains one of the most striking natural land formations nearby. The caves and archways indulge your adventurous side, while the smooth sand allows for slow strolls along the beach.
While you can wander through the fantastical terrain during the day — opt for low tide, when tide pools scrabble with crabs and glimpses of brilliant undersea life — stay for the cinematic sunset. Order sushi from Nobu Malibu or farm-to-table California cuisine from Malibu Farm, and eat it along the beach while watching the sun sink over the Pacific.