Where to Eat and Shop in Southern California’s Iconic Beach City

As a concierge in Los Angeles, Downtown Santa Monica is one of my favorite places to send guests. Quite frankly, it’s not only great for visitors, but it makes for a great daycation or staycation if you are an LA local! If I’m ever in need of a change of pace, I always head out to the coast for a little fresh air and a relaxed beach vibe.

Where to Shop in Downtown Santa Monica

There’s a lot to love about Downtown Santa Monica, from the fact that it is a VERY walking-friendly area, there is also a lot of shopping, and lots of great food too! For shopping, I always start at Santa Monica Place, as they have lots of great brands and high-end stores from Tiffany’s to Bloomingdales to Tory Burch and Louis Vuitton. Santa Monica Place is located at the bottom of Third Street Promenade, which is one of the best family-friendly shopping areas. With stores ranging from Gap to Urban Outfitters, there is something for everyone here.

Where to Eat in Downtown Santa Monica

As far as iconic lunches, Ivy at the Shore is THE place to dine! Just as quintessential as its sister location in Beverly Hills, The Ivy at The Shore combines the best of upscale American cuisine with a killer location—right on Ocean Avenue right across from the beach and Pier. Whenever I get to enjoy a meal at The Ivy, I always go for their signature Grilled Vegetable Salad and the crispy Squash Blossoms. For non-vegetarians, Ricky’s Fried Chicken and the Lobster Ravioli are a must.

Of course, no trip to The Ivy at the Shore would be complete without a photo op! After all, if it’s not posted on Instagram, did it even happen? The best place for a solo or group photo is just outside their front doors, under their famous pink bougainvillea.

Got a sweet tooth? I always stop by two places when I’m in Downtown Santa Monica. ITSUGAR is candy store heaven. But the real show-stopper is Sloan’s—part candy store, part bakery, and the best part, an ice cream shop! It has an old-school ice cream parlor vibe to it. When you walk in, the smell of sugar and cream fill the air! Both of these sweet spots are located centrally on the Third Street Promenade! Street musicians keep you entertained as you stroll along this pedestrian-only street.

Sonoma Wine Garden, located at the top of Santa Monica Place is my go-to date night or girl’s night spot.  If I’m looking for some healthy bites, I swing into True Food Kitchen. Or if I’m craving some delicious Italian, North Italia is a cool, casual spot. And of course, Bungalow is the go-to spot for evening cocktails al fresco.

Other Fun Downtown Santa Monica Activities

The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s the perfect place to snag all the freshest produce and local eats.

Also, around the holidays, I love the pop-up outdoor skating rink called ICE at Santa Monica. There really is something fun and unique to do in Downtown Santa Monica all year round!

Of course, no trip to Santa Monica would be complete without a visit the Santa Monica Pier! I still can’t believe that the famous Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel is the world’s ONLY solar-powered Ferris wheel. Knowing how committed the City of Santa Monica is to being green and eco-friendly, this should come as no surprise—but I still love touting that fact! There are lots of stores and restaurants along the Pier, including the famous Trapeze School New York! Another great photo opportunity is standing at the end of the pier and looking back towards the coast. I always get chills thinking about how that coastline marks the end of the contiguous United States. That is kind of cool!

Fun Fact: I spent New Year’s Eve on the Pier

This was a great way to ring the New Year! Rides, ocean air, and watching some fireworks in the distance made it a magical and often overlooked destination for NYE!

Anyway, I could go on about all the fun places there are to shop in Downtown Santa Monica and all the places you can eat your way through the city, but I think you should check it out for yourself!

In fact, check out this video I made with my travel buddy, Kelley Ferro. We shared our favorite places to eat and shop in Downtown Santa Monica!