Santa Monica Lookout
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A Tourist-eye View of Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Melonie Magruder
Staff Writer

July 26, 2013 -- On a sunny, late-spring afternoon, Ian and Libby Tishman, from Sydney, Australia, are enjoying their first trip to Southern California with a firm goal.

“When the customs official asked us the reason for this visit, we told him ‘shopping,’” Libby says. “Yesterday, we rode Starline just to see everything. Today we’re going to that Promenade.”

Starline Tours -- those ubiquitous, double-decker buses one sees loaded with sunburned tourists trolling Hollywood hot spots -- has opened a new tour route to Santa Monica, and it’s one that even long-time residents can ride to learn something they never knew about their city by the sea.

To make the ride more attractive, Starline now features a 24-hour (or

48-hour) “Hop on, Hop off” plan that, for one ticket price, allows riders to exit the bus for shopping, dining or beach walking, before hopping aboard again at a number of stops along the route.

This year Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) and Santa Monica Place partnered with Starline Tours to sponsor a new line that connects LAX to Fisherman's Village where visitors can hop-on the Green Route to get to Santa Monica.

The Green Route starts at Fisherman’s Village and takes riders through Marina del Rey and Venice to Downtown Santa Monica and back. The ride offers plenty of commentary on local lore to visitors hungry for the “hidden” celebrity of an area they have only read about or seen on TV.

The service “invites visitors and locals to enjoy our pedestrian-friendly shopping, al fresco dining and endless entertainment experiences without ever needing a car,” said Kathleen Rawson, CEO of DTSM.

While the tours cater primarily to visitors, local residents can take advantage of the open-air view of Santa Monica’s architecture, beach vistas and the pier. And it’s all accompanied by recorded commentary studded with historical and celebrity-laden factoids delivered by a man with a very British accent.

Bus driver Mahalia Olivencia says that ridership has been increasing since the Orange Route tour opened in mid-May.

“We start at the hotels around LAX, and there are a lot of tourists from Australia,” Olivencia says. “Mostly they go to Santa Monica Place or the beach. But many say they come here to shop because it’s a lot cheaper.

“One couple said they came to buy shoes and left with seven pairs each,” she says.

Luis del Rio from Puerto Rico also is riding the bus on this spring afternoon. His Yankees jacket hints that he is no stranger to American travel, but he says this is his family’s first trip to the West Coast.

“We wanted to come to Santa Monica to see the rich and famous,” del Rio says. “We just love the weather, too.”

The recorded commentary in multiple languages (passengers can listen through complimentary ear buds or enjoy the ride in silence) points out some of Santa Monica’s best known features and accomplishments — from its Main Street architecture to its focus on sustainability and community outreach, from the Pier and its historic carousel to the history of Muscle Beach, where the modern fitness craze — from rings to hula hoops — was launched.

“It’s a city of world-class shopping and dining, starting on the Third Street Promenade,” the narrator says, “with musicians and street entertainers performing all day long.”

Shopping, however, seems to be on the minds of most of the riders heading to Santa Monica. Miyumi Sakamoto of Tokyo is headed to BCBG-Maxazria in Santa Monica Place.

“I have been waiting this whole trip to come here,” Sakamoto says. “And look — it’s all beautiful outdoors. Even in the shopping center.”

Not everyone is looking to shop, however. Cameron and Michelle Barron of Perth, Australia boarded with their young children, Cooper and Chloe, who are still loudly protesting their departure from the Pier and its midway attractions.

“We can’t even get to any of the shops,” Cameron says. “The kids just want to stay at the beach!”

On the return to Fisherman’s Village, riders learn that George Freeth introduced surfing back in 1907, but the sport didn’t catch on immediately due to the rigors of navigating 200-pound, solid wooden surfboards.

In the 1970s, skateboarding was popularized in Santa Monica thanks to the Z Boys and a lot of drought-emptied local swimming pools.

But the draw for some is more specific.

“It’s such beautiful weather,” Dana Pfeiffer of Bratislava, Slovakia says. “Why would anyone want to sit inside a car to see this?”

For more information on the Starline Tours, visit the website here.

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