The Santa Monica Annenberg Community Beach House
Santa Monica's Hot New Summer Spot
In April 2009 the beach house that was used by silent film star Marion Davies was restored and reopened as a public spot for people who live in and visit Santa Monica. The financing took several decades to obtain and was organized by the city of Santa Monica. The home was renamed the Annenberg Community Beach House to honor the Annenberg Foundation, which donated millions of dollars so that the beach house could be built and the old mansion could be restored. Since then, this beach house has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Santa Monica area. Before, you had to be quite wealthy or at least have connections that would allow you to access this beach. Now, thanks to the generous donation, the general public is able to visit this historic location for free.
This was too good a deal for me to pass up so I decided to check the place out and went with my kids over the weekend. I learned that parking costs $10 and that it is recommended that you get reservations. We were lucky, though, and not only got a spot but it was literally only steps away from the entrance. As we get closer to the summer I imagine that a reservation will be a must, even on slower days during the week. For those of you without cars there is bike valet available during busy times and the city has organized a bus to take visitors to and from the beach house. This public shuttle provided through the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus company costs only 50 cents a fare, making it a very cheap way to visit this location.
Once inside, we wanted to check out the pool. Aside from the parking, this was the only other part of the Annenberg Community Beach House that came with a price tag. The charge was $10 per adult and $4 per children, but like with the parking, reservations are recommended since there is a limit of 130 people allowed in the pool. Usually the pool will fill up with that many people, but again we were lucky and after the staff did a quick count of the number people in the pool, we were allowed to purchase tickets and enjoy the water. If you make reservations just make sure you can be there before noon. If you can't, your spot with be given away and there are no refunds.
The pool was fantastic. It has beautiful tile inlays with pictures of fish that have been hand painted. It's a very large pool that goes from 4 feet to 8 feet deep and it's actually one of the last remaining parts of the original Marion Davies Estate. This gives it a bit of history to go with the design of the pool so you feel like you're swimming in the past. The locker rooms and changing areas are all clean, modern, and full of space, which is great considering it is a public pool now. Considering how much other pools charge the Annenberg Community Beach House pool is an absolute bargain at $10. It's even cheaper on Mondays, though, which are called Dollar Splash Mondays. From 10 am to noon you can enter the pool and pay only a dollar.
In addition to the pool there is a small water park for kids, where water jets shoot out of the ground, and there are swings and a small jungle gym. While my children played in the water I relaxed on one of the many lounge chairs available, soaking up the sun. There's the beach as well of course, where you can also go swimming. We had had enough swimming for the day but there were lots of people in the ocean having a great time. For the more active visitors there's also volleyball and tennis courts setup for use and private rooms available for parties and other events. The Annenberg Community Beach House is such a relaxing place. There are no speakers blaring out music, the lifeguards were polite and courteous, and we were able to do our own thing and not worry about anything else.
After we were done with the pool and the other outdoor activities, I took my kids to check out the restored part of the mansion. It is the only part of the original mansion that still exists and you can look at the movie memorabilia placed through the building and just admire the architectural details and history of the building. This isn't the most exciting part of the Annenberg Community Beach House but it's free and is definitely worth a look.
We got hungry but unfortunately the snack bar wasn't open yet so we weren't able to get anything to eat. That shouldn't be a problem now that Fred Deni's Back on the Beach Café is open and serving food from 8am to 4pm. Otherwise you can pack food into a basket and cooler and picnic on the beach. Or, pizza can be ordered from the pizza shop down the way and then delivered to you on the beach.
All in all the Annenberg Community Beach House is a great addition to the list of Santa Monica hot spots. For only a few dollars, depending if you drive there and use the pool, you get a great experience; or come on your bike (it is just off the bike path) and just enjoy the beach and it will be free. It can be a day trip or you can make arrangements to rent out a beach house or a nearby hotel and stay even longer. This will be the summer spot to be so make your reservations as soon as you can.