WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Ave., Venice; (310) 452-1111 or (800) 786-7789, http://www.hotelerwin.com. 119 rooms in a lodging that was redone in 2009 by the trendy Joie de Vivre chain. One block from the beach and boardwalk. Rooftop bar. No pool. Double rooms rent for about $179 (winter weekdays) to $359 (summer weekends).
Hostelling International Santa Monica, 1436 2nd St., Santa Monica; (310) 393-9913, http://www.hilosangeles.org. Here are 260 beds (most in dorm rooms with shared bathrooms and six to 10 beds each), a few blocks from the beach in the middle of Santa Monica. Summer rates of about $36-$49 per person in dorms (about $10 less in winter) and about $159 for private rooms.
Casa del Mar, 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica; (310) 581-5533, http://www.hotelcasadelmar.com. 129 rooms in a restored building that dates to the 1920s. Opened 1999. Brochure rates for double rooms $565-$850. Parking $34 a night.
Shutters on the Beach, 1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 458-0030, http://www.shuttersonthebeach.com. Two buildings holding 198 rooms in New England beach house style, facing the beach. Copies of "The Old Man and the Sea" in every room. Crowded pool deck. Opened 1993. Brochure rates $575-$995 for doubles. Parking $34 a night.
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (866) 563-9792, http://www.santamonicaloewshotel.com. 342 rooms. Most doubles usually $279-$549. Parking $31 a night.
JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot, 1740 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 395-9700 or (877) MERIGOT, http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/laxlm. 175 rooms. Doubles usually $389-$429, plus $35 a day parking.
Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 395-9945 or (800) 538-8147, http://www.georgianhotel.com. This is an Art Deco building (1933) with a bold blue facade. Its 84 rooms (226-248 square feet and small bathrooms) include 28 suites. They're done in earth tones, with old-fashioned bold-hued tile work in the small bathrooms. Convenient to pier and promenade. Doubles usually $229-342, with winter discounts as low as $179; more for suites. Parking $23 a night.
Fairmont Miramar Hotel, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 576-7777 or (866) 540-4470, http://www.fairmont.com/santamonica. 300 rooms, two wings. Better views from the 10-story Ocean Tower. More atmosphere and bigger rooms in the older six-story Palisades wing. Also 32 garden bungalows. The hotel's main restaurant, FIG, opened in 2009, emphasizing fresh ingredients. Dinner main dishes $18-$29. Doubles usually $279-$429; more for bungalows. Parking about $37 a night.
Travelodge Santa Monica, 3102 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 450-5766, http://www.travelodgesantamonica.com. 83 basic rooms, free parking and WiFi. Doubles usually $130-$160.
Malibu Beach Inn, 22878 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-6444, http://www.malibubeachinn.com. 46 rooms. Breakfast, lunch and dinner offered at the hotel's Carbon Beach Club restaurant (prime sea and pier views, reservations required for non-guests). Doubles $325-$1,025. Spa, drink and snack service for guests on the beach below.
WHERE TO EAT
Mao's Kitchen, 11512 Pacific Ave., Venice; (310) 581-8305; http://www.maoskitchen.com. "Chinese country cooking" (and enormous portions) in a casual dining room on a lively, gritty block of Venice. Main dishes, $7-$12.
BP Oysterette, 1355 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 576-3474; http://www.blueplatesantamonica.com/bpo/home. Seafood and burgers in a lively space on Ocean Avenue. Opened 2009. Lunch and dinner. Dinner main dishes, $14-$22.
Ye Olde King's Head, 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 451-1402, http://www.yeoldekingshead.com. Pints, darts, fish and chips have abounded at this pub, restaurant and shop since 1974. Dinner main dishes, $11.95-$22.95.
Cafe Montana, 1534 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 829-3990, http://www.cafemontana.net. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, with glass walls for watching the passing parade. Eclectic menu includes a Lithuanian dumpling starter and pumpkin ravioli pasta. Dinner main dishes, $15.95-$26.
Babalu Bakery & Restaurant, 1002 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 395-2500, http://www.babalu.info. Lunch and dinner, with breakfast on weekends. A little Mexican, a little Chinese, a little Italian. Dinner main dishes, $16.50-$25.
Rae's, 2901 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 828-7937. Here's a classic little greasy spoon whose building is textbook Googie design, with a long counter and orange booths. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, cash only. Top price is $12.50 for filet mignon, and for $5.50 you get a breakfast of two eggs, two pancakes and bacon.
Upper West, 3321 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 586-1111, http://www.theupperwest.com. Opened in 2010. Offers Modern American cuisine. Big dining room, Dinner daily, lunch on weekdays. Dinner main dishes, $13-$27, happy hours daily.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica; (310) 458-4904, beachhouse.smgov.net/. This city-run facility includes various year-round features, but the big draw is a beach-adjacent pool that opens to the public only during the summer. There's also a restaurant next door (Back on the Beach Café), small playground, rental equipment and a summer-only fitness room (which costs extra). A day of pool access (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) is $10 for adults and $4 for kids 1-17. Most Mondays, that price drops to $1 for children and adults and the pool stays open until 8 p.m.
Santa Monica Pier, 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; http://www.santamonicapier.org. Built in 1909, the pier includes a 1922 carousel, the Pacific Park amusement zone (with Ferris wheel) and a dozen restaurants and shops. There's limited parking on the pier, usually $6-$8, and the exercise equipment of Muscle Beach is just south, on the beach. Pier is free and open 24 hours; businesses on pier set their own hours.
Santa Monica Place, 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica; (310) 260-8333, http://www.santamonicaplace.com. Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom, Burberry, Kitson, Louis Vuitton, Nike and many more are united in this three-level mall. Just north wait the hundreds of shops, restaurants and such of the Third Street Promenade (between Broadway and Wilshire). The Downtown Santa Monica Farmers Market sets up at Third and Arizona (8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays. More info: http://www.downtownsm.com.
Hennessey + Ingalls Art & Architecture Bookstore, 214 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 458-9074, http://www.hennesseyingalls.com. Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Magicopolis, 1418 4th St., Santa Monica; (310) 451-2241, http://www.magicopolis.com. Buy gags for the kids, stop in for a drink at the Magic Bar on Friday or Saturday nights, or settle in for a show in the theater in back. It's $27 for the 8 p.m. shows on Fridays and Saturdays, $22 for the 2 p.m. shows on Saturdays and Sundays.
Every Picture Tells a Story, 1333 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 451-2700, http://www.everypicture.com. Children's books, children's book art, cartoon art, fantasy art, Disney studio art, editorial cartoons and more.
Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; http://www.bergamotstation.com. More than two dozen art galleries, a cafe, a few shops and the Santa Monica Museum of Art, all gathered on the post-industrial site of an old rail yard.
McCabe's Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 828-4497, http://www.mccabes.com. Stringed instruments, CDs, DVDs, music books and intimate concerts in the 150-seat guitar showroom.
The Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades; (310) 440-7300, http://www.getty.edu. Art from antiquity, surrounded by gardens and a facsimile villa. Open Thursdays- Mondays and most Wednesdays. Admission is free, but advance timed tickets are required and parking is $15 per vehicle. The villa's theater stages one production per year; this year, "Trojan Women (after Euripides)" will run Thursdays-Saturdays Sept. 8-Oct. 1.
Adamson House, 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 456-8432; http://www.adamsonhouse.org. A classic 1930 Spanish-style beach house with amazing details (the "Persian rug" made of floor tiles in the hall). It's now run as a house museum by the state parks system. Open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (last tour starts at 2 p.m.). Cash-only admission $7 (17 and older), $2 (6-16), free for younger children.
Malibu Pier, 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=24409. Besides the Beachcomber restaurant and the Malibu Beach Supply Co. boutique, the pier offers fishing and serves as base for sportfishing boat trips 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays. More info: http://www.malibusportfishingpier.com.
Paradise Cove, 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu; (310) 457-2503, http://www.paradisecovemalibu.com. Besides the old "Rockford Files" trailer park, you'll find the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, with extensive indoor and outdoor seating that nevertheless gets jammed. Whether it's breakfast, lunch or dinner (8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily), call ahead to request "priority seating" (instead of reservations). If it's stacked up, you might still have to wait. Most dinner main dishes, $18-$30. Sports equipment, beach chairs and cabanas for rent. Parking in the lot is $3 for four hours if you spend at least $20 at the cafe; otherwise, it's $25.