Follow the setting sun for a weekend of spring fun in Santa Monica without once making the predictable stop at Third Street Promenade.
Make early dinner reservations at the lovely Lavande. Although this new Provencal eatery is inside Loew’s Santa Monica Beach Hotel, it’s not your typical hotel restaurant. The peach-toned walls mirror the sun setting over the ocean in the early evening, and the food is really quite nice. Try the fish soup, vegetable ratatouille and the vacherin for dessert. A bonus: The hotel’s lobby features live jazz Friday and Saturday evenings from 8:30 to midnight. 1700 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 576-3181.
After dinner, catch a movie at Santa Monica’s art-house theater, the Monica 4-Plex, where audiences are still congregating to see Robert Duvall as “The Apostle.” 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica. (310) 394-9741.
It’s almost Easter, so why not start the day with an omelet from Snug Harbor? This home-style diner features several interesting choices, including the After Hours (with turkey chili, cheddar cheese and jalapen~os) and the Godmother (fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and basil). 2323 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-2991.
Work off those “eggs-tra” calories strolling on Montana Avenue. On 5th Street, you’ll find the Angel’s Attic Museum. The remodeled Victorian-style building resembles a child’s dollhouse--and in a way it is. Dolls, miniatures and toys are displayed; tea and cookies are served on the porch from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Reservations required for tea, $7.50. Museum admission: $6 for adults, $4.50 for seniors and $3.50 for children under 12. 516 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 394-8331.
Next, cruise to the Museum of Flying for close-up views of vintage airplanes. Airventure, the museum’s children’s area, has interactive exhibits galore, including cockpit flight simulators. (Make a visit Sunday at 1 p.m. when the Easter Bunny will make a surprise landing. Face painting, moon bouncing and other children’s activities start at 10:30 a.m.). 2772 Donald Douglas Loop North, Santa Monica. Wednesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. $7 adults; $5 seniors and students; $3 for ages 3 to 17; children under 3, free. (310) 392-8822.
Though many businesses will be closed for Easter, Santa Monica Pier will be a bustle of activity, beginning with an Easter egg hunt at 10 a.m., free for children 12 and under. Meet at the southwest corner of the pier, near the entrance to Pacific Park.
Stop in Rusty’s Surf Ranch for brunch. This ocean-view hangout has a longboard collection, photographs and surf memorabilia that pay homage to the surfing ‘60s. Breakfast (omelets, huevos rancheros and other standard fare) begins at 10 a.m. 256 Santa Monica Pier. (310) 393-PIER.
Afterward, visit Pacific Park, a charming old-style amusement park that features a penny arcade, a giant Ferris wheel that towers 100 feet above the ocean and a vintage carousel made famous in “The Sting.” Not content to be left in the past, the park recently opened an Action Ride Theater. The attraction is a motion simulator that slides and maneuvers riders through a high-speed adventure film projected onto a large screen. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday. Park admission free; rides and games are pay-as-you-go. (310) 260-8744.
Check out what goes on in the Santa Monica Bay at the UCLA Ocean Discovery Center. Four display tanks contain fish and other sea life. The center also features wet “touch tables,” microscope labs and hands-on activity boxes for parents and children to learn about marine biology. 1600 Ocean Front Walk. Noon to 4 p.m. this Sunday only. $5 adults; $3 seniors; $1 students with ID, ages 4 and under free. (310) 393-6149.