It’s not enough for a city to provide its residents mobility, affordable housing, places of worship or profitable businesses. These are essential but minimal standards. Our City should also feed our highest aspirations which are among others and in no particular order: to have a childhood, to be in love, to engage in lifelong learning, to age well, and to realize our dreams whatever they may be. So for Valentine’s Day, SMart wanted to know if Santa Monica is a good City to be in love? Regardless of your age, is our City a romantic place? Everyone has a personal favorite of the most romantic place, sound, site or smell of Santa Monica, but we went searching for the ones that almost everyone recognizes.
Searching the zoning code (looking for love in all the wrong places), there is surprisingly, no district zoned for cupid, but we do have twice the number of cinemas and florists, and five times the number of sex shops per person than the average American City. So we are already a city with many romantic opportunities.
But unquestionably the most romantic place in Santa Monica is the beach. Whether you are watching beautiful athletic bodies performing on the rings at muscle beach, surfing in the waves or just sunning themselves, you’ re always uplifted and leave amorously inspired. If your journey home takes you along Palisades Park to watch a glorious sunset, to have a picnic, or to walk your dog and meet other dog lovers, the beach and the ocean still cast their magic spell. From above the beach you might occasionally look down on the drama of Summer twilight concerts or of the multi spiraled big top of Cirque de Soleil or (rarely) of the twinkling lights Santa Monica’s Glow Festival, but you can always see the Pier’s flashing rainbow of lights or the Carousel’s distinctive roof to recapture the feeling of young love and fun. Finally Palisade Park’s sweeping view from Malibu to Palos Verde and Catalina, often dotted with sailboats, frees your mind to travel perhaps to Hawaii or to Tahiti or other romantic destinations.
Love lifts us up and Santa Monica has many ways to get us above it all: from sitting on the top of the Ferris wheel (solar powered of course), to the glass elevator of the Huntley Hotel, or to taking off into the golden sunset from Santa Monica airport. Likewise love makes it easy to move through life. We already have the next generation of easy mobility: Uber, Hulu Bicycles, and soon the EXPO Light Rail to get us around, but they are as yet too new to have acquired that patina of romance. However, that feeling of easy movement is nowhere more apparent than on San Vicente Blvd. With its gentle curves, gentle slope, gorgeous red coral trees, flanked by gracious homes, graceful joggers and bicyclists, San Vicente is probably the most romantic boulevard in Santa Monica.
The movies, like love, also transport us out of the ordinary and Santa Monica has always basked in the glamour and romance of Hollywood. Not only do we have about two dozen theaters, including the new Arclight over Santa Monica Place, and the deep vaults of Vidiots for new and old movies, but we have landmarks such as the Marion Davies Guest house on the beach, Chez Jays, the Georgian Hotel’s Clark Gable suite, the Civic Center Auditorium (1960s Academy awards) all of which are directly linked to our larger than life movie loves.
For the more intimately inclined, we have dozens of romantic hideaways where lovers can meet: the Galley, the Little Door Restaurant, by the fireplace at the Kings Head Inn, a cozy corner booth at PF Chang’s, for a drink at One Pico Restaurant, not to mention dozens of wonderful coffee shops. We also have many places where the passion of diverse devotees are on display from Bergamot Station to the Broad theater, from Mc Cabe’s, to Angels Attic, from dance to yoga classes where you can fall in love with artists, dancers, musicians, actors, teachers and performers of every sort.
Finally what is more natural than the love of nature? From the dolphins playing in our surf, to seagulls in the lilies in front of City hall, to the bower of Merihew Gardens, and simply sitting in the shade of Morty, the big fig, in Tongva Park, we have an abundance of natural inspiration. Living close to nature is romantic!
For the morning after, you might wander down to the farmer’s market and pick up breakfast from among many treats and voluptuous fruits and vegetables on display. You might repair to a local coffee shop like the Urth Café, the Ocean Park Café, or the Novel Café’ and enjoy immersing yourself in the Sunday newspaper. In the afternoon, you might window shop on Main Street, Ocean Park Blvd, Montana or the Third Street Promenade. Unfortunately bookstores such as Midnight Special, the late Hennessey & Ingalls, and even Borders are gone, but on a great walk you can always find something amusing, interesting or beautiful to share with your lover.
These lovers’ meanderings imply an abundance of time, which is essential to love: it simply needs time to grow. This is the most romantic aspect of Santa Monica: with its vacation ambiance, fed by its long tradition as a beach resort, we are invited, like the tourists that surround us, to spend our time leisurely and not sprint from one to-do item to another. We are encouraged to move a little slower and to have the time to recognize and enjoy the beauty of those around us and perhaps fall in love with them. This casual beach town ambiance is a precious thing that needs protection, but its there for your enjoyment: Happy Valentine’s Day!
Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA for SMa.r.t.