Santa Monica 101: Part I

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Ball-Nogues’ the Cradle. Public Art Piece, Santa Monica Place Santa Monica

You might think it odd that I start with the places that I just spent the last post telling you were not the be all end all of Santa Monica. I need to start with them because I really recommend this area if you are a first timer to Los Angeles. The areas I am going to talk about in the next couple posts tend to be touristy and a little crowded, but I always think you should visit these places at least once. Downtown Santa Monica is the area I go to when I feel like being a tourist in my own city or need to get that last minute sundress or sweater before heading out on a trip. Just like I did with Hollywood 101 way back in January, I will be breaking these tourist attractions down one by one before moving on to Santa Monica’s bonus material.

Third Street Promenade:

Part shopping mecca, part performance space, Third Street Promenade, although concentrated on 3rd street (hence the name) between Broadway and Wilshire actually shoots off and wraps around to 4th street. Stores offer shopping for all budgets from the more expensive Santa Monica Place shops to mall staples that line the pedestrian mall like Forever 21, Banana Republic, etc. If you are with someone who does not like shopping, this is the perfect place to take them. There is plenty of people watching and you can get front row seats in any of the bars and restaurants that line 3rd. This is a much better alternative to them sitting on that fancy couch in Anthropologie playing games on their phone for an indiscriminate amount of time. Posted along the pedestrian mall are street performers trying to make a buck or two by displaying their talent. Here the concentration is music as oppossed to the acrobatics of the Santa Monica Pier.  Many performers compete for your attention and a lot of them are actually pretty good, they are trying to be discovered after all. I’ve caught myself listening a little longer than I thought I would, especially to the woman who does a great rendition of Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes.” Again like the Walk of Fame, it is best to tip if you like what you hear.

There is activity on the promenade at all hours, quieter in the morning and still going strong at 10:00 p.m. on a Sunday.

Note for the foreign travelers: Santa Monica Place has a currency exchange counter, CXI Exchange, that has reasonable exchange rates and always has domestic and foreign currency on hand. They helped me exchange USD for Yen at a better rate than my bank and forget LAX, you might as well throw half of your USD in the garbage. Unlike local banks that say that they are currency exchange locations you actually need to order it several business days in advance. Not good if you are a little last minute like myself or arriving in the U.S. without its currency. They have Saturday and Sunday hours, which is also a bonus that local banks do not provide.

Santa Monica Farmer’s Market:

My favorite feature of the Third Street Promenade is the twice weekly farmers market on Wednesdays and Saturdays that begins on Arizona and 3rd and branches out onto 2nd Street. Get there early and watch the chefs of Los Angeles plan their menus for the upcoming week. Of course this market is open to everyone and anyone so don’t feel intimidated because the chefs are there. You deserve those pattypan squash just as much as they do. I strongly recommend making the trek afterwards to A Cut Above Butcher Shop on Santa Monica and 25th to finish off your evening’s menu. Their hanger steak and homemade sausages are especially noteworthy.

[Getting There: I would say that this area of Los Angeles is the most well connected by public transit. Soon the Expo line will end its journey from downtown Los Angeles. To name a few LA Metro 20, 33, 720, 733 and Santa Monica Big Blue Bus 1 & 2]

NEXT ON THIS UGLY BEAUTIFUL CITY…I WAS NOMINATED FOR A LEIBSTER AWARD

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