Take advantage of the West Coast sunshine with a stroll through the Santa Monica Promenade. This pedestrian mall esplanade and entertainment complex in the downtown area of Santa Monica is just a block east of the Santa Monica Pier.
It opened as the Santa Monica Mall in 1965, and has only gotten better with time. The Santa Monica Promenade today is home to some of the biggest names in retail: Abercrombie and Fitch, Apple, a three-story Gap, H&M, Mac Cosmetics, Sephora, and Tesla.
Besides excellent shopping and dining options, the Promenade has numerous entertainment venues, including movie theaters, clubs, and bars, including my personal favorite, The Misfit.
Despite all the tempting spending options here - the Promenade's atmosphere and distinctly Southern California vibe are the chief draw for most visitors. One of the biggest entertainment attractions is the eclectic mix of street artists and performers daily.
On Wednesday and Saturday, the Promenade hosts the largest and oldest certified organic farmers' markets on Arizona Ave. between 2nd and 4th streets.
The three tree-lined shopping blocks that comprise the Promenade begin at Wilshire Boulevard and 3rd Street and end at Broadway and 3rd Street. You can easily spend a day here exploring and enjoying it all.
So what about lunch? Or dinner? Thankfully, Promenade restaurants are as extensive and varied as its shops. And the dining options - much like the shopping - keep getting better.
The Promenade's lively street performers - some amazing, some, not so much - are what most sets the Promenade apart from other premier shopping areas in Los Angeles.
Here's a duo who were great fun on a recent Sunday night visit:
Street performers and entertainers are a frequent sight on the street. On a typical Saturday night in the summer, singer-songwriters, classical guitar players, magicians, clowns, hip-hop dancers, lounge singers, session drummers, and other artists line up approximately 40 feet (12 m) to 50 feet (15 m) apart from each other all along Third Street.
Oh, sure, we all come for the shopping, restaurants, and movies, but we can't help but stop and enjoy the free performances.
There is plenty of street parking in and around the Promenade, but finding a spot can get competitive at peak hours. Santa Monica parking spaces fill up fast, especially during the summer.
There are public parking structures on 2nd and 4th streets between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway, and one structure just north of Wilshire on 4th Street.
These insider tips will guide you to finding a parking space at a reasonable price that can often be reserved in advance. This is important: They're very aggressive in issuing parking tickets in Santa Monica. Be late by a single minute, and expect to find a parking ticket.
Open 24 hours daily and free to visit, the Promenade is located a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier at 1351 Third Street Promenade. It is near several bus stops and the Metro's Downtown Santa Monica station.