The city of Santa Monica turned 6 acres of asphalt parking lot into a verdant green space, named it Tongva Park after the native people who once populated Southern California, and opened it to the public in 2013.
It’s a great place to explore and begin a walk to the beach and onto the Santa Monica Pier.
1. Start your walk near the corner of Main Street and Olympic Boulevard, across the street from the Depression-era Moderne-style structure that is Santa Monica’s City Hall. Enter the park with a small waterfall on your right. Walk straight ahead, past a children’s play area on the left, onto an elevated walkway that will give you a view of the park.
2. At the top of the incline, walk past a grassy oval and follow the ramp as it descends to the left. Make a hairpin left turn and follow the walkway out of the park.
3. Take Ocean Avenue to the corner, past famed Chez Jay restaurant, and use the crosswalk. Follow Pacific Terrace downhill to the sand.
4. This is the original Muscle Beach, which still attracts bodybuilders and athletes to its many sets of rings and monkey bars. Turn right onto the oceanfront walk, heading north, with the ocean on your left, and walk past the volleyball courts.
5. Use the ramp on the left to rise to the pier’s main level. Turn left as you pass the historic carousel, which started spinning here in 1916. Walk straight and enjoy the wonderful weirdness of the pier, with its amusement park rides, tourist tchotchkes and generally awful food. Note too the magnificent coastal views — up to Malibu and Point Dume, down to Signal Hill and Palos Verdes Peninsula, or on a clear day out to Catalina Island.
6. At the end of the pier, turn and head back, keeping to the left side of the road as an incline carries you back up to the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue. Cross kitty-corner at the signal — it’s a “scramble” intersection — then enter Tongva Park again and return to your starting point.
Distance: 1.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: 2 on a scale of 1 to 5
Duration: 1 hour
Details: Metered street parking. OK for pets on leashes and bicycles. Wheelchair-accessible. Tongva park hours 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Bus service via Santa Monica #5, subway service via Metro Expo Line.
Fleming is the author of “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and “Secret Walks: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.” Each month, he leads a free walk at one of his favorite spots in Southern California. Find out more at his Facebook page, Secret Stairs. He is on Twitter @misterfleming
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