- Santa Monica pier at sunset
Written by Mary Anne Been, Jetset Extra
School was out, summer was here, and my kids were itching to do something fun. A family-friendly weekend in Santa Monica is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Santa Monica is fun in the sun times 10. There is so much to do and see, I dared my kids to tell me they were bored. We packed our bags and headed to Casa Del Mar to check in and get our weekend started. Casa Del Mar is a beautiful family- and pet-friendly property. The room was comfortable and had plenty of space for everyone to spread out. We opened the windows to let in the ocean air so we could get the full experience of staying at this beachfront property.
Once we checked in, we headed out and took a stroll down the boardwalk as the sun set. The girls were getting hungry so we headed back to the hotel’s restaurant, Catch. I don’t think the girls and I realized what an incredible treat we were about to experience.
The restaurant takes full advantage of their beachfront views with large windows to watch the sunset. We sat right up front and took in the view while the kids ordered gnocchi with lobster and red sauce and I ordered the prix fixe seasonal tasting menu.
From beginning to end the meal was outstanding. I have to admit that the tasting menu was a lot of food, but somehow between me and the kids, we finished every bite. Chef Jason Bowlin came out to greet us and chat with us about the menu and his experience. I highly suggest trying the tasting menu and asking to say hello to the chef. If your kids are not as adventurous eaters as mine, the restaurant has a kid’s menu with plenty of options.
The next morning we went bike riding along the 22-mile long oceanfront bike and walking trail. As my youngest is only seven, we chose to ride up to Malibu and back instead of the entire path. It was a pretty easy ride, and the kids were happy to stop along the way to play in the sand and rest a bit.
After our ride, we returned our bikes to Perry’s Bike and Skate on the pier and headed down to Pacific Park for some carnival-like atmosphere. Rides, games and food are plentiful and affordable. We spent three hours playing games and riding rides. The girls had an absolute blast.
The pier also has an aquarium, an antique merry-go-round, and a classic soda fountain to satiate any leftover appetites. The rest of the pier is loaded with everything from snacks and full-service restaurants to street performers and vendors.
I wasn’t done with them yet – I had planned a full day and was determined to fill their day with activities. After the pier we headed out on foot for a 10-minute walk over to the Third Street Promenade and galleria. We shopped until Olivia dropped, and then shopped some more, and in between shopping we stopped to watch the break-dancers and belly dancers entertain the crowds. There was so much to do and so little time.
We headed out again for dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, but the girls were tired and not very hungry – they were more interested in the signature frozen drinks that come in light-up take-home glasses. It was a long day of fun and sun, and we had more to look forward to the next day, so we headed back to Casa Del Mar for a good night’s rest.
Sunday is a day for rest and relaxation, and that is exactly what I intended to do while the kids played on the beach. We went to Perry’s Café Bike and Skate and hooked up a beach butler for the day. It saved me from having to schlep all the necessary beach gear on and off the beach. For a very affordable rate, Perry’s set us up with an umbrella, chairs, towels, a cooler full of water and lunch, and a butler who can be summoned by walkie-talkie to run out onto the beach for whatever you may want or need. For a small additional fee I got the kids boogie boards and sand toys to keep them busy so I could work on my tan.
Later in the afternoon, we cleaned up and went out for our last dinner of the weekend. Border Grill in downtown Santa Monica is an iconic hotspot for locals and visitors alike. Owned by celebrity chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, this “Modern Mexican” restaurant has a kids menu and is loud enough that you won’t be embarrassed if your kids make noise that would otherwise be frowned upon in other establishments. The food was great and my audacious kids were game to try everything on the regular menu.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect weekend with the kids. Next time we will have to bring dad along.
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