santa monica

Photo: Courtesy Edward McGowan

Santa Monica’s boardwalk traces 3.5 miles of beach.

Santa Monica

LA’s hottest beach town

FIRST-TIME ESSENTIAL  With its charming combination of beach-town grit and childlike wonderment, the Santa Monica Pier’s classic rides, carny games, and permit-free fishing make it well worth the visit. TIP: The towering, solar-powered Ferris wheel guarantees the best sunset views in town. santamonicapier.org

MAXIMUM EXPOSURE  Sample the Golden Coast’s classic beaches on the 22-mile South Bay Bicycle Trail, a paved path that stretches from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. Be sure to catch your breath at Santa Monica State Beach, the perfect spot for sunbathing and bodysurfing—and maybe a little beach volleyball if your quads are still up for it.

FOR LOVERS  The moment you walk into Mélisse, Santa Monica’s intimate bastion of fine French cooking, you’ll be treated like a dauphine. And as you tuck into the rich truffle mousses, delicate duck breasts, or even the vegetarian tasting menu, you’ll feel pretty damn regal yourself. melisse.com

ZEN MOMENT  Getting your hair blown back by 150-foot Escondido Falls’ powerful tumult. It’s more than two miles through Escondido Canyon to the deep pool at the falls’ base, so don’t forget your camera in the car.

  • 11 flights from PDX daily
  • 65 average high temp in February
  • 160,000 LED lights on the ferris wheel

RETAIL THERAPY  Neither as touristy as the Third Street Promenade nor as funky as Venice, Main Street’s tree-lined sidewalks and quirky Victorian architecture evoke a quaint, small-town vibe—just two blocks from the ocean. Leave room in your suitcase for finds from shops like Deyermond Art & Books and Hip’tique boutique, where you’ll find everything from designer dresses to pillows telling you to “Be Nice Or Leave.”

EAT THIS  Grab a seat on the newly opened Sonoma Wine Garden’s Pacific-peeping deck or its glowing patio. Then sample its Austrian pancake soufflé and eclectic wines like the Greek Assyrtiko Sigalas Santonni. Now try to leave. sonomawinegarden.com

REST YOUR HEAD  A seashell’s throw from the Santa Monica Pier, Hotel Casa del Mar serves up some of the best views in town, along with some serious beach-club Hollywood glamour: floor-to-ceiling windows, a beachfront veranda, and a sprawling lounge with live music await. hotelcasadelmar.com, from $395