By Rachel Handler, Travel Correspondent
Chic Beachside Hotel Overlooking Santa Monica Pier
From the top of a solar-powered ferris wheel reaching 130 feet above the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the frenetic energy of the Santa Monica Pier, the pale façade of the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel can be seen rising from its prime location on the sandy coastline below. The hotel's lights shine steadfastly in contrast to the kaleidoscopic whirl of the ferris wheel, whose colors and curvature make the Loews’s exterior seem a modernist study in straight lines and right angles. Yet despite their evident differences in form, the hotel and the ferris wheel intersect in function, each serving as a one-of-a-kind setting from which to appreciate all Santa Monica has to offer.
Inside the hotel, the Fireside Lounge furnishes the reverse view, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the vibrant pier as well as—during the day—athletes pumping iron on Muscle Beach, bikers and joggers pounding pavement on the boardwalk, and children frolicking in the foamy sea. Visitors chat quietly and page through newspapers as they sip cocktails from the lounge bar or bask in the glow of the room's two fireplaces. Upstairs, the earth-toned, 330-square-foot Superior rooms offer further repose, with a pair of striped chairs, a mahogany desk, and a green chaise lounge complementing a stately bed. His-and-hers marble sinks hover over checkered black-and-white floors in the bathrooms, where 10-inch LCD TVs are also mounted to keep bathers entertained.
In the morning, a continental breakfast in the sunny, spacious dining room at Ocean and Vine—one of five on-site restaurants—fuels travelers with staples such as coffee, pastries, seasonal fruit, and cereal. Those seeking non-culinary comfort can book a massage or facial at the in-house spa, impersonate a beach ball on the adjacent sands of Santa Monica Beach, or repair to the oceanfront pool to recline in a beach chair amid other sun-kissed loungers.
Santa Monica and Venice Beach: Sun-Drenched Surfside Neighborhoods
Despite the proximity of the water, the panoply of shops, restaurants, natural landmarks, and exciting nightlife surrounding the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel gives visitors plenty of reason to look inland for recreation. On Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., local produce takes center stage at the nearby Wednesday farmers’ market at Arizona Avenue and Second Street, where shoppers can slurp a salty oyster straight from the shell. A post-market stroll to Colorado Avenue yields such hidden treasures as Angel’s Attic, a museum and self-proclaimed “dollhouse full of dollhouses” sure to please children, inner children, and child-size mannequins with its collection of tiny homes stocked with stunningly detailed furnishings. At night, the sounds of live jazz, blues, and R&B draw crowds of rowdy revelers into the dimly lit interior of Harvelle’s on Fourth Avenue, where they ease into high-backed red booths, converse animatedly at the bar, or dance and drink near the stage.
Fewer than 4 miles from the hotel but in another world entirely, Venice Beach's velvet sand abuts an expansive boardwalk, where taco stands, tattoo parlors, street performers, T-shirt towers, and an abundance of colorful characters converge in a cacophonous, sun-drenched symphony. Venice Beach marries grit and grace, nature and commerce. As shop-owners shout discounts across the pavement, children shout to one another across white-capped waves gently ferrying them through the water. Nearby, travelers can explore the Venice Canal Historic District, a scenic stretch of crisscrossing canals decorated with quaint white bridges and tiny gondolas.