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Santa Monica

  • Santa Monica

    Just 20 minutes from downtown LA, Santa Monica is perhaps one of the states most popular spots if you want to wake each morning to the sound of the surf and enjoy days in a seaside atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle.

    • Santa Monica Pier


    • Shutters On The Beach


    • Lifeguard on Santa Monica Beach


    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

    • A top 10 beach city of the world.
    • Just 8 miles from LAX Airport – that’s the closest destination to the airport.
    • Santa Monica Beach was the beach setting for Baywatch!
    • 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.
    • It’s at the end of Route 66.
    • It’s an entirely walkable city – pedestrians and cyclists are king of the road.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • There are over 90 art galleries and museums in this cosy city.
    • 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.

    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.
    • Shopping:
    • 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

    • 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
    Add this City to planner
    • Top Tip 1

      Everyone should drive Highway 1 - the Pacific Coast Highway, but our tip is to do it from north to south. Whichever direction you take the scenery is stunning but you get a better view going south because you're on the ocean side of the road.

    • Top Tip 2

      Hearst Castle is a must-see stop as you drive along the coast, taking you back to the early days of Hollywood.

    • Top Tip 3

      Wine tasting tours are plentiful in Napa and Sonoma. Our favourites are Jordan's and Chalk Hill. Try the Library Tasting tour, a wine and cheese pairing at Jordan's and the Culinary Tour at Chalk Hill, a wine and food pairing prepared by Chef Didier. Both are exceptional experiences and amazing value.

    • Top Tip 4

      Visit the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. On Thursdays, from 6pm, enjoy music, cocktails and entertainment whist experiencing world class exhibits and star gazing on the living roof.

    • Top Tip 5

      San Francisco - where do you start? Visit North Beach for the cafe culture, take a tour to Alcatraz (we recommend you pre-book it), see Lombard Street, cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, take a sightseeing tour of the city on a fire engine, shop in Union Square.

    • Top Tip 6

      For spectacular scenery, and to escape from the desert heat, take a ride on the Palm Spring Aerial Tramway. If you're in downtown Palm Springs on Thursdays, you'll enjoy VillageFest, offering live entertainment and an array of stalls selling food and gifts.

    • Top Tip 7

      Yosemite National Park is one of California's great natural wonders. Stay for a couple of nights and include a guided horseback ride for a tour with a difference.

    • Top Tip 8

      Follow the scenic 17-Mile Drive coastal route between Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove for stunning views of the Monterey Peninsula. There's a small fee to drive this route but it's worth it.

    • Top Tip 9

      Rent a bike or rollerblades and enjoy people watching along the boardwalk at Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

    • Top Tip 10

      When visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, book the VIP ticket which allows you to jump the queues and includes behind-the-scenes access.

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  • Route 66

    Begins in Chicago, Illinois and ends in Los Angeles, California

    23 Days / 22 Nights

    Departures: year round

    Add this Fly Drive to planner

    Your fly drive includes

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

    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.

    Alternative Durations

    Should you not have a full 23 days available to do the full length of Route 66, then we can offer shorter duration trips for you to enjoy 'the mother road'. Please see details below:

    Duration: 15 days / 14 nights 

    Starts Chicago and ends Albuquerque


    Starts Oklahoma City and ends Los Angeles 

    • Route 66 Museum


    • Gas Station on Route 66


    • Giant Bottle on Route 66



    Arrive Chicago

    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




    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



    St. Louis

    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




    Leaving the Mississippi River behind today, you’ll travel through the picturesque Ozark Mountains towards the small city of Springfield, Missouri. A stop at the Meramec Caverns near Stanton is a must.

    Hotel: DoubleTree by HIlton Springfield




    You’ll cross three states today; you’ll leave 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



    Oklahoma City

    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




    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 U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, the Devil’s Rope Barbed Wire 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: Courtyard Amarillo Downtown



    Santa Fe

    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




    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




    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




    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




    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




    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



    Santa Monica

    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



    Journey home

    Take the short drive to Los Angeles Airport, return your rental car and check-in for your flight back to the UK.


    From £3092 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.

    Alternative Durations

    Duration: 15 days / 14 nights 

    Starts Chicago and ends Albuquerque

    From £2165 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.


    Starts Oklahoma City and ends Los Angeles 

    From £2415 per person based on twin occupancy of Standard rooms in low season. Other prices available on request.

    One way drop off charge on car hire is not included in these prices and is payable locally.

    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.

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