Santa Monica is a fun, beachside, family friendly area. There are great restaurants, the pier for rides and shopping in Third Street Promenade. Santa Monica’s location also gives easy access up and down the coastline and isn’t too far from the heart of Los Angeles.
Double Tree Suites by Hilton
We’ve stayed at this hotel twice and found it ticked the boxes for us.
I had dreamt of staying in a hotel overlooking the ocean but we couldn’t find any 2 roomed hotels that suited us and found it better to stay minus the view. Doubletree is a few blocks back from the beach but it’s a nice level walk into Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade shopping area and not far to the beach.
The hotel staff are friendly, helpful and the valets went out of their way to tell us the best way around LA’s traffic.
The hotel is nicely appointed and has a cafe and restaurant. There is even a guest laundry if you feel so inclined!
The parking was about USD$27 a day when we stayed so allow for this in your budget.
We choose to stay in a room with a bath so we didn’t stay in the hotel’s accessible rooms but they do have them.
Eating in Santa Monica
California Pizza Kitchen have an outlet here and as it is a family favourite we ate here. Once again wheelchair accessible and really friendly wait staff. Their disabled toilet facilities are in the main bathrooms i.e male disabled bathroom, female disabled bathroom.
On Santa Monica Pier
Bubba Gumps is a chain restaurant but this outlet is located on the pier and has great views of the ocean and the beach. There is usually a bit of a wait but the location is so good I think it is worth it. The restaurant itself is wheelchair and child friendly. The wait staff are full of enthusiasm and fun and if you are a fan of Forrest Gump, movie memorabilla decorates the walls of the restaurant.
Rusty’s has eat in and take away – We’ve done both. We’ve taken our burgers and chips down to the beach and sat at the tables and chairs down there which was really nice. Rusty’s has an American menu with soups, salads and burgers.
The Carousel at the Pier – if you have seen the movie The Sting with Paul Newman you may recognise this beautiful 1920’s indoor Carousel. It is very cheap to ride the carousel and they have the usual mixture of horses and longer carriage style seats which my son could sit on. You can take the wheelchair into the carousel area but you obviously need to be able to step up to get on to this ride. Inside the Carousel pavillion there is an ice cream and candy bar. It has an old fashioned feel to it and a great place to grab an ice cream or drink to take with you for a stroll along the beach front. The Carousel can be hired for private functions so it is sometimes closed.
Hot Dog Stick – I’m not a big hot dog eater BUT this place has gorgeous home style lemonade. On a warm day it is just the thing to quench your thirst!
We had spent many days in Disneyland and California Adventure Park so we didn’t do any of the rides on the Pier so I can’t give you personal recommendations on these. I can say that I like the atmosphere of Santa Monica Pier and enjoyed walking out to the end to have a look at the views up and down the coast and back to Santa Monica itself. The Pier is a typical wooden pier so it is a bumpy ride with a wheelchair but it doesn’t take long and I think it is worth it.
If that sounds too hard don’t be discouraged because there is a lovely level walk all along the beachfront. You get great views of the Pier’s rides in the distance and there is great people watching to do. There are benches and tables if you want to sit and have your take away. If you have a child young enough and able to hire a bike with a child’s bike seat or one of those bikes with the enclosed trailer those are available for hire. You can ride all the way to Venice Beach if this is achievable for your family.
There are people exercising and then there are the guys on the big monkey bar style rings (I’m not being sexist I’ve just never seen girls on them) Their upper body strength is amazing.
Third Street Promenade is a pedestrian only mall filled with lots of popular chain stores as well as some independents. The ones we went into were wheelchair accessible and the mall is easy to get around. It would be very easy to spend a day wandering around the stores. There are the usual GAP, Banana Republic, Barnes and Noble Bookstore (this store and The Grove store often get celebrities doing their book signings so check their website for details. The day we were visiting Julie Andrews was signing books).
If you are looking for somewhere to keep the kids happy there is a toy store called Puzzle Zoo which has a great assortment of puzzles, toys and other bits and pieces. It is a narrow store but most of it should be okay with a wheelchair.
On a Friday and Saturday night the Promenade is filled with buskers and the restaurants are overflowing with happy diners. There are lots of lovely restaurants along here. We didn’t have enough time to explore them but they all have menus out the front with a greeter happy to answer any questions.
Santa Monica Place is at the end of the mall and this is a multi storey shopping centre with stores like Kitson, Gymboree (children’s clothing), Nordstroms and a large Disney store. I prefer the atmosphere of Third Street Promenade but there may be a store you like here.
There are public toilet facilities about half way along the promenade. It is near the Coffee Bean store.