Given Arnold Schwarzenegger's restaurant (Schatzi on Main) and Wolfgang Puck's popular bistro (Chinois on Main) right across the street, it's not surprising that Main Street in Santa Monica has become quite popular with the upscale crowd, as well as with a growing number of Hollywood celebrities (I recently bumped into David Letterman coming out of Chinois on Main, during one of his irregular visits to Hollywood).
Main Street is perfect for a Sunday stroll, filled with window-shopping and star-gazing. With a small town atmosphere, both sides of this one-mile stretch of Main (between Hollister and Rose Avenues) offer a wide selection of imaginative boutiques, funky antique stores, one-of-a-kind shops, art galleries, and numerous engaging cafés. It is especially festive on weekends.
Main Street actually begins near the Santa Monica Place Mall (on the north), and runs south past the city's border with Venice. But most of the action centers around the area south of Ocean Park Blvd.
But you might want to start out your journey near the intersection of Main Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, where you'll discover two historic Victorian buildings facing each other on the west side of Main Street. One is the Santa Monica Heritage SquareMuseum, and the other cottage is now a restaurant named "The Victorian" (at 2640 Main Street), the perfect al fresco spot for a light meal. (310) 392-4956.
Right across the street, at the southeast corner of Main Street and Ocean Park Avenue, there's a large mural of turn-of-the-century beach life painted on a north-facing wall.
On the other hand, if you want to lose your appetite, just go to the northwest corner of Main Street and Rose Avenue and look up. Above the North Beach Bar & Grill (255 Main Street, (310) 399-3900), you will discover a truly bizarre sight: the giant head of an unshaven hobo-clown, perched atop the body of a ballerina, wearing a tutu. This three-story-high monstrosity is called "The Ballerina Clown," and you can blame artist Jonathan Borofsky.
Fortunately, this stretch of Main Street is also
exceptional for its unique collection of eccentric, colorful spots. Here
you'll find such distinctive places as:
On Sunday (from 7am till 1 pm), you'll even find a farmers market selling farm-fresh organic produce behind Main Street, in the parking lot between Hill and Ocean Park Ave. The weekly event features live music, pony rides for the kids, freshly-made crepes & omelets, and fresh flowers at a great price.
The walking portion of Main Street covers about eight blocks, on both sides of the street, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
If you'd prefer to ride, there's always the TIDE Shuttle Bus. The TIDE shuttle is an electric mini-bus that travels between the Promenade and Main Street. From the Promenade, it travels down past the Pier, then south along the beach Shutters and Casa Del Mar hotels, up east on Marine to Main Street, and then back north along the Main St. to shopping area to Bicknell, then it returns to the Promenade via 4th Street. (Click here for a map of the TIDE route.) It starts at 12 noon and continues until 10 pm on weekdays and midnight on weekends. (The schedule is subject to change, of course.) The cost? Just 25 cents (10 cents for seniors).
Getting there: Main Street's shopping district runs all the way from Hollister Avenue (on the north) to Rose Avenue, past the southern border with Venice. / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway west, take the Lincoln Blvd exit. Go south on Lincoln Blvd two blocks to Pico Blvd. Turn right (west) on Pico Blvd., and go west on Pico about four blocks to Main Street. Turn left (south) on Main Street.
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