Santa Monica things to do: Six of the best lesser-known highlights


While most people know that Route 66 begins in Chicago, few realise it ends on the Santa Monica Pier, about 3940 kilometres later, stopping just short of the Pacific Ocean. The spot is marked with an "End of the trail" sign (just past Bubba Gump and next to Pier Burger). A classic case of hidden in plain sight, thousands of people walk past it everyday without noticing. For Route 66 tragics, Santa Monica has three more markers – on Santa Monica Boulevard at Stanford Street, Santa Monica Boulevard at Fourth Street, and at the Visitor Information kiosk at 1400 Ocean Avenue. See 


When you enter the Camera Obscura you are, in effect, entering the body of a camera. Donated to the City of Santa Monica by Robert J. Jones in 1899, the historic camera is housed in what looks like a toilet block, a short walk from the Santa Monica Pier. Up a set of winding stairs and inside a dark room, you'll find a white dish and a captain's wheel. Spin it to the left or right to project an image onto the dish of whoever is walking by outside. Once a popular seaside attraction during Victorian times, today there are only a few public camera obscuras left in the US. Palisade Park, 1450 Ocean Boulevard, Santa Monica. Free entry. See 


Like all the best galleries, Bergamot Station has suffered for its art – starting in 1875 as a stop on the Red Line trolley, doing a stint as both a celery-packing operation and ice-making plant, being neglected and abandoned, before finally reinventing itself as an artists' enclave. Today the sprawling industrial site is southern California's largest art gallery complex and cultural centre. The three-hectare site is easy to navigate, with 40 or so galleries, including the Santa Monica Museum of Art, the William Turner Gallery, the Writers Boot Camp, plus a host of architecture and design firms. Don't miss lunch at Bergamot Cafe, perched above the loading dock of what was once a water heater factory. 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica. See 


Take a 1920s suburban bungalow on a quiet street, wrap it in corrugated steel, tack on some plywood and add a few metres of chain-link fencing and you have architect Frank Gehry's residence in Santa Monica. A symbol of deconstructivism since the 1970s when Gehry began his own version of Renovation Rescue, the corner home is a shriek of Gehry style amid a hum of monochrome mansions. This is Gehry at his playful best, a style said to be inspired by Saturday mornings spent in his grandfather's hardware store. Note; this is a private home. Corner of 22nd Street and Washington, Santa Monica. See 


Are you a sci-fi geek?  Love movies? Don't mind a Tesla coil? If so, jAdis, is your kind of place. Part prop shop, part curiosity cabinet, part one man's obsession with science, this legendary labyrinth will take you back to the future. What started as the private collection of antique collector and furniture designer Parke Meek, has morphed into a rental company supplying props to movies and television series such as Batman and Robin, X-Files, Waterworld, The Prestige and Gods and Monsters. After Meek's death in 2010, his partner Susan Lieberman has continued the business, opening the doors a few days each week (Thursday to Sunday, noon to 5pm) for the princely sum of $US1. 2701 Main Street, Santa Monica. See 


With front row seats to Santa Monica's famous sunsets, this oceanfront hotel combines Old Hollywood glamour with art deco architecture. Built in 1933, "The Lady" became a getaway for the Hollywood elite, all drawn to the hotel's casual approach to prohibition laws, magnificent views and sumptuous decor. Considered a true speakeasy, the hotel hosted the likes of "Bugsy" Siegel, Clark Gable, Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Carole Lombard. Today, The Georgian Hotel offers 84 luxurious rooms including 28 suites. Its verandah restaurant is the ideal spot for brunch, lunch, dinner or cocktails. 1415 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica. See

Kerry van der Jagt was a guest of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism, United Airlines and the Shore Hotel