Friendly and liberal, Santa Monica is a great spot to visit, a compact, accessible bastion of oceanside charm that, incidentally, has traditionally attracted a large contingent of British expats (though many have recently left “Little Britain”, as it’s called, in search of cheaper rents).

Santa Monica reaches nearly three miles inland, but most spots of interest are within a few blocks of the Pacific Ocean, notably Palisades Park, the pleasant, cypress-tree-lined strip along the top of the bluffs that makes for striking views of the surf below. Two blocks east of Ocean Avenue, the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrianized stretch between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway with street vendors, buskers and itinerant evangelists, is the closest LA comes to having a dynamic urban energy, and by far the best place to come for alfresco dining, beer-drinking and people-watching, especially after dark. Further south, another good stretch is Main Street, where the visitor centre is located (see p.841), and which boasts a serviceable array of fine restaurants, bars, shops and a few galleries.

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