The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica
The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica is a world renowned shopping and dining district that is located in the heart of downtown Santa Monica. It manages to combine the best of small town relaxation and personality, with big city activities, things to do and see, and ways to spend your time. Use this guide to dive into the history and current state of the 3rd Street Promenade. Residents love calling it their own, and tourists love seeing what it’s all about, it’s truly a can’t miss, must see location and environment.
The Promenade is located in downtown Santa Monica between Wilshire Blvd. and Broadway. It’s a stretch of three city blocks, and for the entire stretch, the Promenade is closed off to cars, making it a relaxing and unique pedestrian boulevard and shopping, dining and socializing district. Each block of the Promenade features a parking structure, providing ample spaces for the huge number of residents and out of towners who both flock their each day and night.
From the very beginnings of Santa Monica to the present day, Santa Monica has been centered on the 3rd Street Promenade. When the city first planted its roots in the 1870s and 1880s, and really started to attract businesses and tourists alike, the Promenade was a major piece of that. The street has continued to evolve with the times, and has an old school charm and feel combined with its modern amenities and luxurious surroundings.
The 3rd Street Promenade has a long history of being a hotbed for street performers. Street performers have to get licenses to be there, and there are hundreds of individuals and groups who hold these licenses, making it jam packed with potential spectacles and entertainment options.
Street performers include musicians, bands, songwriters, poets, clowns, dancers, magicians and just about anything else that you could imagine. The performers generally give each other and their spectators plenty of space, so as you walk down the Promenade at any given time you’ll find a whole line of entertainers to take up your attention every 50 feet or so down the walkway.
There are more “official” forms of entertainment along the Promenade as well. You can visit a number of high quality art galleries and studios, which have frequent showings and special events. You can also see live theater and performances at places such as the Santa Monica Playhouse, Magicopolis and Mi’s Westside Comedy. Plus, there are several movie theaters, including the Mann Criterion Theaters, AMC Broadway 4 and AMC Theaters Santa Monica, and the Laemmle Monica 4-Plex Theaters.
You might end up staying for the performers and entertainers, but for most people, that’s not why you’re making the trip to the promenade. There’s much to do, and for pure socializing and people watching, the Promenade is a hit, but what really keeps people coming back is all of the shopping and dining options, with a string of dozens of establishments, mixing local and unique businesses with the most popular brands and stores you can find anywhere.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that there are literally hundreds of stores and restaurants within the Promenade and on the immediately adjacent blocks. That makes for quite the busy scene, and it opens up an unlimited range of possibilities for you, no matter how you want to spend your time, no matter what you’re shopping for, or where you want to be.
Outdoor dining, drinking and lounging is definitely the preference, and you’ll find several dozen options for this, from casual food places, coffee shops and cafes, quick service chains, and world class dining institutions. American, Asian, Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Seafood, Vegetarian, Sushi, Italian and more, any type of food, in any type of setting, for any budget or price range, is available.
A few of the popular, well known and standout dining options include Michael’s, BOA, Il Fornaio, Sushi Roku, Locanda del Lago, JiRaffe, Zengo, Xino, Bar Pintxo and Wolfgang Puck Express. Your favorite chains are available too though, like Benihana, California Pizza Kitchen, Le Pain Quotidien and P.F. Chang’s.
A few shops with a focus on local ingredients include Cafe Crepe and Caffe Bellagio. If you’d prefer to pick up the local produce and ingredients for yourself, then you can visit the Farmer’s Market, which is open in several locations on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
When it comes time to put down the fork and the glass and pick up a few shopping bags, you’ll find that just about any shop you could imagine is located within the Promenade in Santa Monica. If you’re in the mood for new shoes, for example, then you’re in luck. You can go straight to the source at brand stores like Vans, Steve Madden, Nike, Puma, Adidas, Crocs or Skechers, you can find something sporty at REI or Foot Locker, or something a bit more upscale at Lorin, Aldo, Fred Segal Madison, Geox and a host of others.
You can visit a number of newsstands, as well as bookstores ranging from Barnes & Noble to Arcana, SGI Plaza Bookstore, Thunderbolt Spiritual Books and Hi De Ho Comics & Books. Pick up a quick snack at a vending cart, and then pick up something for the dog at one of many pet stores, and something for the kids at the Disney Store, Puzzle Zoo, or Acorn Store.
If you have a holiday or occasion coming up, then do your gift shopping at the Promenade. A few great gift spots include Paper Source, Grooveworx, Timeless Symbols, Brookstone, Adamm’s Stained Glass, Shiva Imports and Taos Indian Trading Copmany.
But don’t worry, you can do all of the shopping you need for yourself as well. You can go high end with some fine jewelry, accessories and clothing at places like Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Tiffany & Co., Coach, Burberry, Ed Hardy, Kenneth Cole, Juicy Couture, Hugo Boss, Urban Outfitters, lululemon athletica, Diesel, United Colors of Benetton, or many other well known brands. Or you can shop someplace a bit easier on the wallet, like Old Navy, Pac Sun, Levi’s, H & M, Hot Topic, Gap, AMerican Eagle, or scores of others.
Of course, it wouldn’t be California without a premium placed on beauty, health, fitness and wellness institutions. There are dozens of spa and beauty stores, as well as gyms and fitness studios. Get in a workout at Equinox Fitness Club, Hot 8 Yoga, M2 Pilates, Santa Monica Power Yoga or 24 Hour Fitness, and then enjoy a massage or trip to the spa at Exhale Mind Body Spa, Arcona Studio, Forme, Massage Company or Tikkun Holisitc Spa.
At the end of the 3rd Street Promenade, you’ll find Santa Monica Place. This is an inclusive mall, shopping and dining area that has been remodeled and revamped, with an open interior plan and its own set of several dozen retail stores of all kinds. The dining is exquisite, with rooftop seating and everything from world class restaurants, lounges and bars to casual, quick fire food spots.
Don’t forget that when you’re at the Promenade, you’re also close to Santa Monica’s other world famous attraction, the Santa Monica Pier. The Pier is loaded with its own activities and to-dos, from a vintage 1920s carousel, to its iconic Ferris wheel, the Trapeze School, Pier Aquarium, the Pacific Park with its roller coasters and thrill rides, and on down the line. The Pier and Promenade are what combine together to give Santa Monica so much of its unique history, lineage and culture.
Clearly there is a lot going on at the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. With a lengthy history dating back over 125 years and being entirely enmeshed with the history and growth of the city itself, the Promenade is world famous with good reason. The best shopping and dining you could dream up, an ideal location, beautiful weather, people watching and more, it all helps to make Santa Monica a wonderful place to live, and a wonderful place to visit.