California | Santa Monica

The beach resorts of Greater Los Angeles have recently been under the spotlight in a whole host of US films and television programmes, providing great exposure of their boutique shopping, chic dining and of course superb beaches. If you want to wake each morning to the sound of the surf and enjoy days in a seaside atmosphere, yet still have easy access to Los Angeles’ attractions, one of California’s beaches is an ideal choice.

Just 20 minutes from downtown LA, Santa Monica is perhaps one of the states most popular spots, and rightly so. Infamous Santa Monica Pier, bustling with fairground rides and candy stores jets out above the glorious golden beaches, where you can hire a bike and cycle the boardwalks down to Venice Beach. Main Street, 3rd Street Promenade and Montana Avenue collectively provide all the shopping options you could desire. Watch out for celebrities, it’s widely recognised that many prefer the boutiques of Santa Monica to Rodeo Drive!

10 Reasons to Visit Santa Monica

    1. A top 10 beach city of the world.

    2. Just 8 miles from LAX Airport – that’s the closest destination to the airport.

    3. Santa Monica Beach was the beach setting for Baywatch!

    4. Home to one of the USA’s oldest pleasure piers and the world’s first Solar-Powered ferris wheel, which was one of the most Instagrammed images of the world in 2012.

    5. It’s at the end of Route 66.

    6. It’s an entirely walkable city – pedestrians and cyclists are king of the road.

    7. It’s one of the best places for happy hour in USA, infact the Shangri-La hotel in Santa Monica was recently voted as the best bar in the USA for happy hour.

    8. Santa Monica is the birth place for many of the world’s most famous fitness movements. Stroll along the beach and you will no doubt see people working-out right on the sand.

    9. There are over 90 art galleries and museums in this cosy city.

    10. It’s rated the best place to dine in LA with a variety of food movements, famous chefs and an organic farm-to-table mantra.

Things to see and do in Santa Monica

The Beach:

• Home of Baywatch

• 35km bicycle path.

• Original Muscle Beach by the pier.

• Segway along the beach path.

• Electric Bike Tours.

• Bikes, roller blades, surf and paddle board lessons.

The Pier:

• Pacific Park on the Pier is LA’s only free admission amusement park.

• The Loof Hippodrome on the Pier is a local landmark housing a vintage, working carousel.

• The End of Route 66 Sign is a popular photo spot.

• The Aquarium is great for all the family.


• Santa Monica Place Shopping Mall houses world-famous designers and department stores.

• 3rd Street Shopping Promenade offers the best of the highstreet.

• Montana Avenue is home to designer boutiques.

• Main Street offers eclectic and original boutiques and stores.

Art & Culture:

• Santa Monica is home to 90 galleries and museums, street performers and architectural landmarks.

• California History Museums

• Santa Monica History Museum

• Santa Monica Museum of Art/Bergamot Station Centre

Dining & Drinking in Santa Monica

Our favourites for…

• Healthy brunch - Huckleberry Café & Bakery

• Watching sports: Barney’s Beanery

• Happy Hour: The Misfit

• Local chefs: JiRaffe

• Farmers markets: Every Wednesday and Saturday

• Steak: Boa Steakhouse

• Romance: Michel’s Santa Monica

• Raw foodies: M.A.K.E.

• Michelin star lover: Melisse

• Street food (during the day): Food Truck Tuesdays, every Tuesday

• Family dining: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

• Seafood with Pacific views: The Lobster

• Celeb spotting in the daylight: Any café on Montana Avenue

• Trendy night crowd: Bungalow at The Fairmont hotel

• Evening drinks with rooftop views: Suite 700 Bar at The Shangri-La hotel

• 360 views of LA: The Penthouse at The Huntley hotel

• Food on the beach: Back on the Beach Café

Route 66

One of the most renowned driving routes in the world, historic Route 66 spans across North America, from Chicago in the east to Los Angeles in the west. Covering over 2,000 miles, it takes three weeks or longer to complete the journey in its entirety so we have created three options to choose from: the entire journey (Chicago to Los Angeles); Chicago to Albuquerque or Oklahoma City to Los Angeles. The journeys shown are based on car rental, however motorbikes or motorhomes can be substituted should you prefer them.



Begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles.


Year round


• Round trip scheduled flights
• Intermediate 4 door car hire, including insurances and satellite navigation.
• Accommodations as stated


Depart the UK on your chosen scheduled flight to Chicago. Upon arrival, collect your rental car and proceed to your hotel. Chicago is one of the most popular US cities and it’s easy to see why. A myriad of attractions and the fabled ‘Magnificent Mile’ of shopping keep its visitors entertained and the cultural mix provides for fabulous dining options too.
Hotel: Palmer House, A Hilton Hotel


Driving distance: 202Mi/325Km Make your way to Jackson Boulevard at Lake Shore Drive this morning, considered the official starting place of Route 66. Stop at the Route 66 Welcome Centre in Joliet, see a 28-foot-tall spaceman in Wilmington and have a bite to eat at the Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield before arriving at your hotel.
Hotel: President Abraham Lincoln DoubleTree, Springfield


Driving distance: 96Mi/155Km
Have lunch at the Ariston Café in Litchfield, which is one of the oldest restaurants on Route 66. Stop at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch where a replica of a vintage gas station and displays of highway memorabilia can be found, and make a slight detour to walk across the old Chain of Rocks Bridge in Madison, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world.
Hotel: St Louis Union Station DoubleTree


Driving distance: 289Mi/465Km
Leaving the Mississippi River behind today, you’ll travel through the picturesque Ozark Mountains towards the small city of Joplin. A stop at the Meramec Caverns near Stanton is a must, and perhaps a stop in Springfield, Missouri, where you'll find a selection of attractions.
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Joplin


Driving distance: 113Mi/182Km
You’ll cross three states today; you’ll leave Joplin in Missouri, briefly drive through Kansas and arrive in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Along the way, stop at the ‘4 Women on The Route’ restored gas station in Galena, cross the Rainbow Curve Bridge in Baxter Springs, visit the Route 66 Packard Museum in Afton, see the world’s largest Totem Pole in Foyil and peruse the giant Blue Whale in Catoosa.
Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton, Tulsa


Driving distance: 107Mi/173Km
It’s a short drive today past the Cherokee Outlet towards Oklahoma City. Walk around the Oklahoma City Zoo or botanical gardens and visit the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Hotel: Sheraton Oklahoma Downtown


Driving distance: 260Mi/419Km
Today’s drive brings you into the cowboy state of Texas. Stop en route at the entertaining Sand Hills Curiosity Shop in Erick, visit the Barbed Wire Museum in Shamrock, the Devil’s Rope Museum in McLean, the leaning water tower in Groom and the VW Slug Bug Ranch in Conway, where five VW Beetles are buried nose-down in the ground.
Hotel: Amarillo Inn & Suites


Driving distance: 279Mi/449Km
Briefly taking the I-40 which replaced the old Route 66, you’ll witness ghost towns which were once thriving when Route 66 was a major highway. Stop at the Midpoint Café in Adrian, which marks the midpoint of the old Route 66, equidistantly 1139 miles from Los Angeles and Chicago. We have allowed a full day in Santa Fe, which is America’s oldest state capital, to relax and explore.
Hotel: Inn & Spa at Loretto


Driving distance: 61Mi/98Km
It’s a short but scenic journey to Albuquerque, so why not venture off the freeway along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway? You’ll enjoy breathtaking views from atop Sandia Crest, and pass through the mining towns of Los Cerrillos, Madrid and Golden. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico and is full of exciting attractions such as the historic downtown and city zoo.
Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Albuquerque


Driving distance: 140Mi/226Km
Enjoy a hearty breakfast at the 66 Diner on Central Avenue before getting back on the road. Stop at Grants, where some of the historic Route 66 motels and shops still exist, before arriving in the old railroad town of Gallup on the western edge of New Mexico. Visit the historic El Rancho Hotel and drive down motel row, which sparkles with vintage neon motel signs.
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Gallup


Driving distance: 186Mi/299Km
Crossing the border into Arizona, today’s drive promises some great sights. Stop at the Petrified Forest; the only National Park to contain a section of historic Route 66, pass through the ghost town of Two Guns, stop for a photo in Winslow and visit the Meteor Crater. In Flagstaff, we recommend you take time to explore the historic downtown area.
Hotel: Little America Hotel, Flagstaff


Driving distance: 167Mi/269Km
Back on the road, you’ll enjoy stops in Williams, where the Grand Canyon Railroad takes passengers to the Grand Canyon, and Seligman, which is rich in Route 66 nostalgia including the famous Snow Cap Drive-In. Kingman is home to the Route 66 Museum, as well as many scenic walking trails.
Hotel: Best Western Plus, A Wayfarer's Inn


Driving distance: 207Mi/333Km
Leaving Arizona behind, you cross the magnificent Mojave Desert en route towards California - which is the last state on the Route 66 journey. We suggest a stop at the small Wild West-style town of Oatman, where gift shops, saloon bars and live shows are sure to entertain, before crossing the Colorado River and arriving in California.
Hotel: Best Western Plus Desert Villa Inn


Driving distance: 131Mi/211Km
There is plenty to see on the final stretch of Route 66. Stop at the Route 66 Museum in Victorville, see the Wigwam Motel and the McDonald’s Restaurant Museum in San Bernardino and enjoy a fresh orange juice at Bono’s Big Orange in Fontana. You’ll drive through West Hollywood and Beverly Hills before reaching Santa Monica Pier, the official end of Route 66! We have allowed a three night stay in Santa Monica for you to relax and enjoy the many attractions of Los Angeles.
Hotel: Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows


Driving distance: 13Mi/21Km
Take the short drive to Los Angeles Airport, return your rental car and check-in for your flight back to the UK.

A one way drop off fee on the car hire is not included and is payable locally.

From £2449 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.


15 days / 14 nights
Starts Chicago and ends Albuquerque
Departures: year round

Days 1, 2 & 3 - Chicago, Illinois
Hotel: Palmer House, a Hilton Hotel

Driving distance (Chicago to Springfield): 202 miles

Day 4 - Springfield, Illinois
Hotel: President Abraham Lincoln DoubleTree, Springfield

Driving distance (Springfield to St. Louis): 96 miles

Days 5 & 6 - St. Louis, Missouri
Hotel: St Louis Union Station DoubleTree

Driving distance (St. Louis to Joplin): 289 miles

Day 7 - Joplin, Missouri
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn, Joplin

Driving distance (Joplin to Tulsa): 113 miles

Day 8 - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Hotel: Doubletree by Hilton, Tulsa

Driving distance (Tulsa to Okla.City): 107 miles

Day 9 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Hotel: Sheraton Oklahoma Downtown

Driving distance (Okla.City to Amarillo): 260 miles

Day 10 - Amarillo, Texas
Hotel: Amarillo Inn & Suites

Driving distance (Amarillo to Santa Fe): 279 miles

Days 11 & 12 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hotel: Inn & Spa at Loretto

Driving distance (Santa Fe to Albuquerque): 61 miles

Days 13 & 14 - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Albuquerque

Day 15 - Journey Home

From £1675 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.


15 days / 14 nights
Starts Oklahoma City and ends Los Angeles
Departures: year round

Day 1 - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Hotel: Sheraton Oklahoma Downtown

Driving distance (Okla.City to Amarillo): 260 miles

Day 2 - Amarillo, Texas
Hotel: Amarillo Inn & Suites

Driving distance (Amarillo to Santa Fe): 279 miles

Days 3 & 4 - Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hotel: Inn & Spa at Loretto

Driving distance (Santa Fe to Albuquerque): 61 miles

Days 5 & 6 - Albuquerque, New Mexico
Hotel: DoubleTree by Hilton Albuquerque

Driving distance (Albuquerque to Gallup): 140 miles

Day 7 - Gallup, New Mexico
Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Gallup

Driving distance (Gallup to Flagstaff): 186 miles

Days 8 & 9 - Flagstaff, Arizona
Hotel: Little America Hotel, Flagstaff

Driving distance (Flagstaff to Kingman): 167 miles

Day 10 - Kingman, Arizona
Hotel: Best Western Plus, A Wayfarer's Inn

Driving distance (Kingman to Barstow): 207 miles

Day 11 - Barstow, California
Hotel: Best Western Plus Desert Villa Inn

Driving distance (Barstow to Santa Monica): 131 miles

Days 12, 13 & 14 - Santa Monica, California
Hotel: Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows

Day 15 - Journey Home

From £2449 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the nature of the route involved and locations visited, some hotels featured are tourist class only. Should you wish to stay in higher graded properties please let us know and we will amend the route accordingly. One way drop off fees are applicable on these routes and are payable locally.

Winner of ‘Top Tour Operator to the USA & Canada 2012’ voted by readers of Selling Long Haul magazine.


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