Montana Avenue: The real local's spot in Santa Monica

R+D Kitchen, a popular restaurat and bar on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica
R+D Kitchen, a popular restaurat and bar on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica

Santa Monica is known for its great shopping and fantastic restaurants (some of the best in all of Los Angeles), but Montana Avenue is where you'll experience how the locals live, eat, and shop.

Montana Avenue's shops, restaurants and cafes run along 12 tree-lined, charming blocks between 7th Street and 20th Street -- ideal for a half day of exploring. Each block has a variety of boutiques, eateries and coffee spots, and you can glimpse the Pacific in the distance. Start on one end, walking one side of the street, returning the other end - it doesn't matter if you start at 7th or 17th. If you want to know how it feels to live in Santa Monica, this is where to go: not to the Promenade or Pier, but to this neighborhood. In fact, you're more likely to spot a celebrity here than any other area of L.A.

You won't have trouble finding coffee, as there are several Starbucks, a Peets, and the famous Caffe Luxxe, known for its authentic lattes and devoted following (all are open as early as 6 a.m.). Feel like taking a yoga class? There are several studios, and yoginis carrying mats are ubiquitous. Want to buy a top that you won't see anyone else wearing? Your choices are literally endless, as there are no chains stores here -- not a Gap in sight. You will find a Kiehl's, however, and a small William Sonoma. The boutique Planet Blue can be expensive, but they always have a great sale rack, and you'll find items seen on a celebrity in this week's People. Savannah is where to go for exclusive designer clothes and accessories.

For dinner, choose from local favorites Via Portafino, R+D Kitchen (with the street's only full bar), or Father's Office, with its famous burger. Babalu has an endless champagne brunch, Blue Plate is a local hangout for breakfast, and for lunch, consider Kreation or Rosti for their amazing salads.

Morning, noon, or night, this street is bustling with activity and will provide a wonderful visit to a beautiful neighborhood.

-Lesley Bracker

[Photo Credit: Flickr/Muy Yum]

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