Seeing Stars: Where the Stars Shop


3rd Street (between Broadway & Wilshire),
Santa Monica, CA. / (310) 393-7593 or (310) 393-9825


The West Side has a new place to see and be seen, attracting throngs of happy shoppers and more than the occasional celebrity. A three-block stretch of 3rd Street in Santa Monica has been sealed off from traffic, turning it into a pedestrian shopping and dining mecca, which was re-christened "The Third Street Promenade."

L.A. is the land of the automobile and the mall, and as the old saying goes: "nobody walks in L.A.." But here on the Promenade you can always find a crowd of happy pedestrians enjoying the sunshine (or the moonlight), along with the movies and restaurants. And it's free - there is no admission charge. The new shopping area begins where the Santa Monica Place mall ends (anchoring the Promenade's southern end) and runs north for three long outdoor blocks to Wilshire Blvd.

Until just a few years ago, this was a rather shabby part of town, filled with vacant, dilapidated storefronts. But very little of that sad history remains today; it is rapidly being swept away by the onslaught of new money and new faces, and by a deluge of multiscreen movie theatres, upscale boutiques, and trendy sidewalk cafés. Shoppers and businesses alike are now flocking to what was once a desolate and dreary district, transforming it into a dynamic new neighborhood which pulses with energy.

The former asphalt of old Third Street has been overlaid with hexagon-shaped tile, and both ends of the avenue are now "guarded" by large, topiary dinosaur fountains. An ivy-covered triceratops stands at the Promenade's southern end (across from the mall), surrounded by flowers, spewing water into a pool below. A Tyrannosaurus Rex awaits visitors at the street's north end.

In the center of Third Street are free-standing pavilions (which resemble Victorian greenhouses), with aged brass roofs. Colorful flower boxes bloom on many ledges, trees are plentiful, and bright flowers dangle from the old-fashioned, powder-blue street lamps. Since no traffic is allowed on this part of Third Street, pedestrians stroll down the center of the boulevard as well as on its sidewalks. Colorful pushcarts, kiosks and vendors ply their wares, while assorted street performers entertain the passing crowd. (In fact, the young star of the 2006 movie "The New World" (Q'Orianka Kilcher), used to sing on the Promenade before winning the role of Pocahontas in that film (opposite Colin Farrell).

Here you'll find restaurants such as the trendy Broadway Deli (at 1457 3rd St.), which boasts customers like Meryl Streep and Jane Fonda and Legends sports bar, along with new shops and boutiques springing up every week. (The restaurants are helped by three separate movie theatre multiplexes, with more to come.)

The Promenade's many outdoor sidewalk cafés are almost always full in sunny weather - they include Trilussa (a favorite of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant), Teasers, Chillers, King George, Bravo Cucina, George's Bistro, and Yankee Doodles. Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine on "Seinfeld") was spotted sipping coffee at the local Starbucks. Kevin Sorbo ("Hercules") and his lady also enjoy strolling here.

Heather Langenkamp (who starred as 'Nancy' in those "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies) was spotted near the popular Benita's Frites. So was Jackie Collins. Debbie Allen ("Fame") likes to go to the Promenade on Fridays, see a movie and eat at Johnny Rockets. Singer Harry Connick Jr. has also been seen in Johnny Rockets.

A huge crowd lined up outside the Borders Bookstore on the Promenade (1415 3rd Street), when Cher put in an appearance to autograph her new book. She stayed for 12 hours, until she had signed books for every single person waiting in line.

In 2003 "Access Hollywood" ran photos of Britney Spears shopping here, just walking down the middle of the street in jeans, and not a single preson recognized her. She ended up buying tickets a movie.

Other Promenade restaurants range from fast food stands (such as Humphrey Yogurt) to upscale nightclubs. Some of the more notable spots in the area include the Border Grill II, Bob Burns, Fama, Mesa Grill and Wolfgang Puck's Cafe (sort of a working man's Spago, upstairs at 1315 3rd Street).

Movie-going is a main attraction on the Third Street Promenade. Three different movie theatres offer a total of 17 screens on the Promenade, including four screens at the Cineplex Odeon Broadway Cinema (at 1441 3rd St.), seven at the AMC Theatres (at 1310 3rd St.), and six at the Mann Criterion theatres (at 1313 3rd St.). In fact, in December of 1998, the Cineplex Odeon hosted its first world premiere, for Disney's "Mighty Joe Young," an event which attracted stars like Jack Nicholson, Brook Shields, Billy Crystal, Bill Paxton, Charlize Theron, Andy Garcia and slugger Mark McGwire.

The Promenade boasts a growing number of intriguing book shops, antique stores, and unique memorabilia shops. African Arts Etc. (at 1344 3rd St.) is an incense-laced emporium filled with intriguing authentic folk art; Alamo Flags (at 1349A 3rd St.) promises "the largest stock of flags anywhere on Earth"'; the Puzzle Zoo (1313 3rd St.) mixes sci-fi, toys & puzzles, while Z Gallerie makes for interesting browsing. You can pick up original animation cels at the Vintage Animation Gallery (at 1404 3rd St.). You can shoot pool at Yankee Doodle Billiards (at 1410 3rd St.), or down a pint of Guinness at The Britannia (318 3rd St.) You'll also find some of the usual upscale specialty shops like the Disney Store, The Gap, Guess, Banana Republic, the Pottery Barn, Johnny Rockets, and a Barnes & Noble Book Store.

Recently, the stars who brought you Planet Hollywood opened Cool Planet on the Promenade (at 1312 3rd St.), the first in what will be a chain of Tinseltown-related ice cream/dessert shops. Whoopi Goldberg showed up to kick off the grand opening of Cool Planet.

Just a block east of the Promenade, at Broadway and 5th, you'll find the large Fred Segal store (500 Broadway.) According to insiders, stars who have been spotted there include Jennifer Aniston, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Angelica Huston (all on one day), as well as Brad Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jodie Foster, Gabrielle Reese, and Pamela Anderson & Tommy Lee... especiallly in the early afternoon.

After dark, and especially on weekends, the Promenade really comes alive, as the packed, young crowd is entertained by dozens of clowns, musicians, magicians, comedians, escape artists, mimes, one-man-bands, and other street performers. During the lunch hour and during most of the evening, these street performers are in full swing (but they are banned from performing after midnight on Friday & Saturday, after 10:30 PM on other nights, and on weekdays between the hours of 2 PM - 5 PM).

And speaking of entertainment, now there's the Magicopolis, a new magic club on the Promenade (at 1418 4th St.) It will include two theaters for magic shows: a large room room for major tricks, and a smaller (40-seat) room for "close-up sleight-of-hand." Created by veteran magician Steve Spill, its grand opening celebration in September of 1998 included appearances by TV's "Hercules," Kevin Sorbo, and the comedy/magic team of Penn & Teller. (310) 305-0336.

Recently, a new branch of "Hooters" opened on Santa Monica Blvd., just off the Promenade. One of its owners is none other than Douglas Schwartz, the executive producer and co-creator of "Baywatch."

The Third Street Promenade is still in development and has a little work left to do. There is still a small handful of older storefronts remaining to be renovated, and evidence of Santa Monica's persistent homeless problem still sometimes spills over onto the Promenade. But the transformation is almost complete, and the neighborhood is developing a funky personality all its own.

The Promenade is a fine spot to take a stroll in the California sunshine, window-shop, have lunch, see a movie, or look for celebrities.

You can park in the parking garages at the Santa Monica Place Mall, or in special lots off 2nd Street, which are available for the Promenade shoppers.

 Getting there: The Third Street Promenade is located in Santa Monica, just north of the Santa Monica Place Mall. This part of Third Street is bounded by Broadway (on the south) and Wilshire Boulevard (on the north). / The easiest way to visit the Promenade is to simply exit the Santa Monica Place Mall through the mall's ground-level food court ("Eatz," on the mall's north side), and just cross the street to the promenade. / From the Santa Monica (10) Freeway west, take the 4th Street exit. Go north on 4th Street one block to Broadway and turn left (west). The mall will be on your right (north) side.


[For more information on this subject, you can access the Promenade's official website
(and map) at: http://www.downtownsm.com.]



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Copyright  2014-Gary Wayne
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