Things to do in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Tours

Dive deep into a coastal city with the best tours in Santa Monica.

Life is good in Santa Monica. With sun, surf, and beaches, the city is a paradise drenched in the glimmering shadow of Hollywood. A visit here reveals California at its best. The state's charms are on full display in this coastal city, with the Pacific to the west and Los Angeles to the east.

The list of things to do in Santa Monica is as vast as its sandy beaches. So vast, in fact, you’ll need a guide to help you see it all. For a city with this much personality, an in-depth tour is like getting to know a new friend. So, strap in with your camera ready. These are the Santa Monica tours worth taking.

Van and Bus Tours

Life in the fast lane never looked sweeter than on Santa Monica’s high-speed tours.

Photographer: Oxana Melis

1. Big Bus Tours

Climb aboard this double-decker coach for an elaborate introduction to Hollywood. Big Bus Tours dutifully prowl the streets with sightseers dreaming of California adventures. Whether you're new to the city or catching up on old landmarks, these trips double as LA highlight reels.

Choose the Hollywood Loop route to see LA highlights, including Melrose Avenue and Beverly Hills. Or, opt for the Beach Loop route to take in Muscle Beach before a fun theme park jaunt.

A hop-on, hop-off-style tour means exploration is at your leisure. Score a seat on the upper deck for unmatched photo ops.

2. A Day in LA Tours

Santa Monica’s star-studded neighbor, Los Angeles, shares memorable sights with its beachy peer. Just a skip away from the dunes is LA proper. Iconic haunts and film-worthy locations mean so much to see in so little time. Luckily, the folks at A Day in LA Tours have turned comprehensive LA outings into a science.

These eight-hour tours fly by in no time. Feel like a star as you stroll down the Walk of Fame, right up to the Kodak Theater, home of the Oscars. You might even hear the faint echoes of a guitar as you cruise down the Sunset Strip past notable clubs, such as the Roxy and the Viper Room.

From your cozy tour van, the drive up to Griffith Observatory is decked out in comfort. The quiet hilltop makes a momentous Hollywood Sign viewing spot when you arrive.

3. LA Discovery Tours

Private tours from LA Discovery are steeped in luxury and made to be remembered. Here, a tour is more than a list of locations to drive by. This is an experience through and through, led by seasoned guides and laced with interactive fun.

The Santa Monica Sightseeing Tour is a deep dive into the city’s vibrant culture. Ship bells ring, and Fisherman’s Wharf and celebrity neighborhoods stand in quiet extravagance as you take in the complex art scene.

For a cinematic expedition, step into a scene on the Malibu Movie & Celebrity Tour, where films are made real. Need to get away? The Santa Barbara & Cambria tours offer an escape into a land straight from a fairy tale.

4. Surf City Tours

Hollywood highlights are on full display at Surf City Tours. The journey starts on the planks of the Santa Monica Pier and takes to the fabled streets with insider tips and a touch of wit.

From your palm-painted chariot, landmark neighborhoods come to life before your eyes. As you drive by Rodeo Drive and the sea-green facade of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the city’s glitzy, fashion-forward persona is on full display.

The 5.5-hour exclusive Malibu Stars Homes Tour offers a glimpse of Hollywood's lifestyle. A day of touring gets you up close with coastal mansions and their famous inhabitants.

Feast your eyes on celeb stomping grounds at hilltop mansions and mouthwatering Malibu beach homes. Their shining glamour and near-mythical status make for must-see stops along the way.

Santa Monica Bike Tours

The streets and shores of Santa Monica are best toured on two wheels.

Photographer: Team EVELO

5. Pedal or Not Electric Bike Tours of Santa Monica

Nothing beats sightseeing in Santa Monica, whether you're riding a bus or bike. But all that pedaling can wear you out before the day is through. Pedal or Not offers electric bike tours so you can cycle around the city without overexerting yourself. You can pump the pedals for extra action if you want to go faster. Either way, you’ll see the sights.

This route takes riders off the beaten bike path. A fabulous instructor will zoom the way forward past canals and across busy beaches. The orange-tinted California breeze keeps you cool while biking to Venice Beach and back, gazing at the far-off Santa Monica Mountains on the ride home.

6. The Bike Center Santa Monica

Satisfy your urge to feel the wind whipping past your face as you pedal to your heart’s content. The Bike Center, which is aptly named, is a one-stop shop for bikes of all sorts.

Open-ended rentals allow you to cycle as far as you like. Because we appreciate family-friendly forms of entertainment, the bike trailers for pets and little ones deserve a special mention.

The Bike Center also boasts fantastic two-wheeled tours, including the Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Adventure Tour. You can also book private or group tours.

Pro tip: Holiday bike rides add extra sparkle to a dressed-up city. Pedaling past a ghostly neon pier is a top-tier way to spend a Santa Monica Halloween.

7. Joyride

Painted a brilliant blue and adorned with a lovely handlebar basket, Santa Monica's Joyride bikes are primed for a picture-perfect escapade. And that’s just what you’ll get with a Santa Monica tour led by these bicycle enthusiasts.

Joyride’s dedicated docents have years of experience as cyclists and amateur history scholars. Their picture of Santa Monica’s history is rich and engrossing, flecked with long-told stories of visitors who have come and gone.

A two-hour tour offers an illuminating perspective of the city. When the ride is done and your legs are sore, sprawl out in the sand. Under the warm sun, a tour and a tan can make a pretty perfect day.

8. Perry’s Blazing Saddles Legends Historic Bike Tour

Clad in red and white and flanked by a sea of billowing beach umbrellas, Perry’s Café and Rentals is a coastal icon. Its rentals make seaside exploration a two-wheeled adventure. But if you really want to get to know Santa Monica, take Perry's Blazing Saddles Legends Historic Bike Tour.

This beachy voyage is more than just a history tour. Pop culture landmarks offer a nostalgic peek into California culture, including the golden shores that bore Baywatch. Save your tour for sunset to catch the swath of orange and pink above the looming Ferris wheel.

Food & Drink Tours from Santa Monica

Fresh California flavors make for taste-bud-friendly tours.

9. Malibu Wine Tours by Malibu Discovery Tours

A feast for the eyes is our kind of buffet. And that’s what Malibu Discovery serves up on its delectable Malibu Wine Tours. This hidden wine country sits high in the Santa Monica Mountains, where vineyards are rooted into their steep rocky faces.

Up there, you might forget how close you are to the beach. That is if the glimpse of the ocean against the mountains wasn’t so stunning. These wine tours are an adult’s choose-your-own-adventure game. The Wine Trail Tour takes budding connoisseurs through the ruggedly charming Malibu canyons.

For a tasting room with a view, the Wine & Sightseeing Tour features a scenic drive and a stop at the Point Dume Natural Preserve. But some wine just tastes better at sunset. That's where the Twilight Wine & Dine Tour comes in. It brings the atmosphere and features a three-course meal.

Photographer: Rodrigo Abreu

10. Underground Donut Tour

Donut culture is a serious business in California. Sprinkled, glazed, or chocolate-dipped, these fried bundles of dough are the go-to for breakfast in Santa Monica. But where donuts are found fresh on every corner, you’d be hard-pressed to find the best ones in a single go. Luckily, the Underground Donut Tour has done all the work for you.

This carefully curated tour celebrates Santa Monica’s take on a classic pastry. Randy’s Donuts, home of the legendary giant pink-sprinkled creation, is naturally the first stop. Other stops highlight artisanal recipes and wacky flavor combinations.

Before the tour’s end, you’ll get a mouthful of the donut’s cinnamon-sugar-dusted cousin known as the churro.

Photographer: AJEL

11. Secret Food Tours

Santa Monica’s food scene is a wacky and wondrous fusion of global cultures — and that’s why we like it. With a literal world of dishes to explore, even some stand-up establishments can fly under the radar. That’s where Secret Food Tours comes in.

Locals and visitors alike commend these guides for their unparalleled knowledge of Cali’s hidden gems. From mom-and-pop stops to elegant up-and-comers, it’s a mystery how these restaurants aren’t nationally acclaimed.

Secret Food routes highlight local eateries built on innovation and fresh ingredients. Like the city itself, each dish is drenched in creativity while staying true to its Californian roots.

12. Six Taste Food Tours

It’s a treat to get a first taste of what’s next in the culinary world. But when a recipe works, it works. Six Taste Food Tours showcases the very best in California cuisine. Beloved establishments and time-perfected dishes are on the agenda here. The result is a victory tour of the city’s flavor triumphs.

Pick a neighborhood and embark on a mouthwatering journey. If you crave dim sum, head to New Chinatown for fragrant delicacies and sugary baked goods. Or stay in Santa Monica for fresh fish tacos and stuffed grinder sandwiches.

Tours of Santa Monica’s History

An epic saga lies beneath these sunny sidewalks.

13. Walk Through Pier History Tour

Funnel cakes and flashing neon are today’s Santa Monica Pier mascots. But the boardwalk has a storied history long buried by passing years. Take the Walk Through Pier History Tour for a fascinating look at the boardwalk's past. Led by charming pier scholars, a stroll down the hallowed planks reveals a rich heritage unknown by happy beach goers.

You’ll meet beneath the historic Yacht Harbor Sign, the first stop on this journey through time. From its unassuming start in the early 1900s to its legion of laughing visitors, this story is as intriguing as one of our own. Relive the past through this link between land and sea.

14. Santa Monica History Museum Tours

There’s no place like the studiously peaceful halls of a great museum. Regal exhibits and enthusiastic guides — the Santa Monica History Museum tours have it all. We can’t think of a better place to learn something new.

Work and play collide in the story of Santa Monica. Exhibitions celebrate the beach’s fun-filled legacy and the city’s short-lived stint in airplane production. Decades-old newspapers and memorabilia from local businesses make a collection beaming with local pride.

Dedicated tour leaders craft a personable trip into the city’s rich history. You can opt for a self-guided audio tour for one-on-one interaction with each exhibit.

15. Downtown Walking Tours by Santa Monica Conservatory

Santa Monica’s centuries-old history is a long-spun tale worth careful unraveling. The guardian of this chronicle, the Santa Monica Conservatory, helpfully spends its days sharing stories and other cultural flair with perusers of the past. It also happens to host a mean Downtown Walking Tour.

Downtown Santa Monica is where it all happened. Relics from the city’s Wild West era remain, and many buildings have been reimagined and repurposed to serve a blooming community.

Your darling docent will cover a complex range of information about the stunning city's past, including architecture, art, and industry. It also offers self-guided and group tours.

Photographer: Kara Peak

Discovering the Heart and Soul of Santa Monica Through Its Tours

Whether over bike trails and boardwalks or through vineyards and museum halls, Santa Monica tours offer an intimate look at an intricate city in a handful of hours. Sipping wine or peering beyond the window of a big red bus, expert guides lead curious minds to the source of Santa Monica’s secrets.

Let us lead you on an adventure of our own. Driven by charming stories and glamorous visuals, our performances are works of art brought to life on stage. Along the way, you’ll get to know a few friendly faces. Awash in stunning color and accompanied by an orchestral score, every show is an emotional journey studded with high-flying thrills.

The experience of a lifetime awaits at our shows in Santa Monica. We can't wait to see you there!

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