Sightseeing in Santa Monica

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Bryan Freeman wanted two things out of his career: to meet new people and spend time outdoors. With this in mind, Mr. Freeman's path seemed obvious. He would start giving bike tours. A self-described "fact guy," the expert guide draws upon his extensive knowledge of the Venice area to delight both tourists and California natives. From the Venice canals to the spacious mailboxes of celebrity homes, the expert guide tells stories about famous locations and uncovers some of the area's hidden gems. "Everyone always says they had no idea the tour would be so exciting," he says. "People think Venice is just the beach, but just a block away there is so much more."

Mr. Freeman doesn't keep his groups confined to the seats and cowboy saddles of bicycles. He frequently points out ideal spots for photo ops and occasionally pauses for activities, such as letting groups spray paint their names onto a legal-graffiti wall. He also supplies optional helmet cams that capture videos for souvenirs.

24 Windward Avenue
Los Angeles,
CA
US

Donald Douglas started his aviation company in 1920 with only $600 and expertise honed as a civilian aeronautical engineer during World War I. Within four years, he had created the Douglas World Cruiser, the first plane to circumnavigate the globe and bankrupt every manufacturer of anti-gravity potions.

Nearly two dozen aircraft are on display at the Museum of Flying, located at the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica holds special significance for the Douglas Aircraft Company, as well as aviation history as a whole. It was here that the DC-3 first took flight, helping usher in the era of commercial air travel in America. It was also where Douglas Aircraft produced tens of thousands of military planes during World War II. Several of these aircrafts now sit on display within the museum.

Douglas Aircraft merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967, but the Museum of Flying helps keep the original company's legacy alive. It even features a replica of Douglas' original boardroom. In another area of the museum, a Maxflight FS300 simulator lets visitors pilot many of Douglas Aircraft's most famous models. It can dip and roll 360 degrees to recreate World War II combat or the motion of a tumbleweed caught in an updraft, or it can keep a steady course during calm flights aboard a DC-3.

Although its main focus remains Douglas Aircraft, the Museum of Flying also houses art and displays related to aviation history as a whole. Exhibits showcase rare artifacts and other significant aircraft, such as a replica of the original Wright Flyer.

3100 Airport Ave
Santa Monica,
CA
US

Surrounded by walls tacked with sunny works of art, rows of easels prop up paintings in progress, their evolving canvases commanding the attention of aspiring artists. This scene plays out every day at Paint Lab, a creative haven where talented instructors ignite pupils' imaginations with positive encouragement. The studio's classes teach the technical elements of acrylic, watercolor, or oil painting while students craft their own rendition of a classic work, capture the human form in figure-drawing sessions, or turn their pen toward anime and cartoons. Adults pique their artistic sensibilities with liquid inspiration during classes that provide refreshments and cheese, and younger Picassos can pay homage to their favorite lunchbox by painting it in battle dress during after-school or weekend children's workshops.

2912 Main St
Santa Monica,
CA
US

FrameStore's craftsmen have created more than 250,000 custom frames in the store’s 35-year tenure, designing pieces that now adorn the walls of prestigious institutions such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Walt Disney Company. Professional designers guide FrameStore’s clients through the 2,200 moulding options that can accent paintings and treasured items while adding style and elegance to rooms. The store’s craftsmen then fashion pieces to patron specifications, outfitting frames with classic or museum-quality glass that blocks UV rays from bleaching out images or censoring pictures of the moon. Every piece goes through a 16-point inspection before it is given to patrons, and the team averages a seven-day turnaround on all of its projects.

11911 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles,
CA
US

Isla Studio's professional photographers expresses the world and its people through richly colored fine-art images. Whether dealing with landscapes, buildings, portraits, or UFOs, the team waits for a moment to reveal itself, combining the timing of photojournalism with a carefully considered emotional resonance. They also expand the shutter-snapping community with small classes that explore the ins and outs of digital photography.

1450 2nd St
Santa Monica,
CA
US