If you’re looking for vacation with sun, sand and lots to do away from the beach but you’re not ready to travel abroad, consider these two destinations on opposite coasts: Santa Monica, California, and the Palm Beaches region of Florida.
Set along a 3½-mile stretch of coastline just south of Malibu, Santa Monica has the laid-back vibe of a beach town along with celebrated hotels and restaurants and a vibrant arts scene. And there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. You can walk or bike for miles, learn to surf or simply relax and enjoy the sand and ocean views.
Built in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier is the city’s best-known landmark, where you can feel the Pacific Ocean breeze and listen to the sound of waves. The pier’s attractions include a solar-powered Ferris wheel, a historic merry-go-round, an aquarium and arcade games.
It’s easy to explore Santa Monica’s neighborhoods without a car. Downtown, the Third Street Promenade is anchored by the upscale Santa Monica Place, home to more than 80 retailers. Montana Avenue is a tree-lined street filled with boutiques and the Aero Theatre, a movie house open since 1940. Wilshire Boulevard is a kaleidoscope of California culture, with chef-driven restaurants, mom-and-pop bakeries and vintage shops.
Santa Monica is a busy cultural destination, too, with galleries, art installations, theaters and museums. The California Heritage Museum is located in an ornate 19th-century home with changing exhibits that range from photos of rock ‘n’ roll legends to surfboard design. At the Museum of Flying, you’ll find interactive exhibits that pay tribute to the aviation industry. Performing arts venues include the Santa Monica Playhouse, home to classics and contemporary works since 1960.
The Palm Beaches region, on Florida’s Atlantic coast, offers beautiful stretches of sand and warm weather year-round.
In the northern part of the region, Jupiter has abundant green space and sweeping ocean views from atop the Jupiter Lighthouse. Palm Beach Gardens is the hometown of the PGA and filled with golf courses designed by legends like Jack Nicklaus. Riviera Beach and Singer Island is a great starting point for aquatic adventures like scuba diving and snorkeling.
In the central region, the island of Palm Beach, separated from the mainland by the Lake Worth Lagoon, boasts Gilded Age architecture and luxurious resorts. Worth Avenue is lined with upscale boutiques and sidewalk cafes. West Palm Beach, the region’s largest city, has a beautiful waterfront and the Clematis Street entertainment district. Wellington is known for equestrian events like the Palm Beach International Polo Season, which runs through April.
To the south, in Delray Beach you can explore the Pineapple Grove Arts District, with its eclectic mix of shops, bistros and art galleries. Boca Raton balances natural beauty and cultural attractions, including concerts at Mizner Park and the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where you can learn about efforts to rehabilitate injured sea turtles.
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