Santa Monica is an ideal winter getaway, with its outdoor lifestyle and laidback California attitude

Santa Monica lives up to — and goes beyond — the city’s motto: “Fortunate people in a fortunate land.” Especially during this time of year. The California destination provides the perfect break from the hat-scarf-and-gloves routine of a New York winter. The sunny weather, energetic fitness enthusiasts and cheerful Californian dispositions are contagious. Quickly after landing you will feel relaxed and on “Pacific Time.” While Los Angeles conjures images of Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood Hills and gridlocked traffic, Santa Monica — only 14 miles from LAX — could not be more different, with its laid-back style and health-conscious culture. On the boardwalk, strangers exchange smiles, and carefree couples on rollerblades are more commonly seen than the text-while-walking throngs of city dwellers. Getting here is easy. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. Carry on your luggage (the dress code is officially beach casual), arrive at Los Angeles International Airport and pay $1 to hop on the Big Blue Bus. That’s an eco-friendly service that will take you to the Santa Monica beach in just 30 minutes. There are beach hotels to fit every budget. For your trip’s splurge, try Casa del Mar. The service is fit for royalty, the decor details are impeccable and the views are akin to magazine photographs. Casa del Mar is also the perfect home base for a long weekend getaway. The atmosphere is beach-elegant and the walls in the expansive lobby and in the guest rooms are filled with vintage California and beach-related books, reflecting both contemporary and historical roots. Even the most discerning traveler would relish the amenities, which include a serene spa, in-room Jacuzzi baths, live music daily and a swimming pool overlooking the ocean. After check-in, head to Perry’s bike rentals to pick up beach bicycles. They will be your only necessary transportation Continue Reading

‘Hunger Games’ star Jennifer Lawrence works up a sweat jogging in Santa Monica

Jennifer Lawrence plays an incredibly fit, arrow-slinging fighting machine on-screen as "Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen – and it looks like the “It girl” actress is just as determined to stay in shape off set. Jennifer Lawrence cools off after a jog along the beach in Santa Monica, Calif. (KVS/Gaz Shirley/ Wearing a simple black t-shirt, leggings and a pair of orange Nike running shoes, the 21-year-old maintained high energy as she kept up her fast pace. PHOTOS: CELEBRITY FIT CLUB Getting in shape for 'Catching Fire'? Jennifer Lawrence is spotted after a workout. (KVS/Gaz Shirley/ It's likely the fit star is working to get in shape before reprising her role as action hero Katniss in “Catching Fire,” the upcoming second installment of the "Hunger Games" trilogy adapted from Suzanne Collins' hit book series. Lawrence is set to once again star  alongside former co-stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson in the dystopian film, due out in theaters in November 2013. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Mountain lion euthanized after wandering into downtown Santa Monica

A mountain lion made a surprise appearance in downtown Santa Monica Tuesday and had to be euthanized when it tried to flee a courtyard into a public space, police said. The 75-pound wild cat, estimated to be about 3 years old, was spotted around 6 a.m. near an office building on Second St. near Arizona Ave. — just steps from the popular Third Street Promenade shopping district, police said. Authorities originally hoped to tranquilize the animal for release back into the wild, but the cat tried to bolt before the sedative could do its job. “The tranquilizer takes about 10 or 15 minutes to take effect, and while we were waiting, the animal attempted to charge out of the courtyard,” Lt. Robert Almada told the Daily News. Officers tried using pepper spray as well as a high pressure water hose to contain the cat but were unsuccessful, he said. “He attempted to flee into a public space multiple times, and unfortunately officers had no choice but to deploy their firearms,” Almada said. It’s unclear how the mountain lion ended up in the densely populated urban area, but Almada said he suspects it wandered over from the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. “I am unaware during my 21-year-career of ever having a mountain lion in downtown Santa Monica,” he said. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Santa Monica smoking ban: City outlaws lighting up EVEN in your OWN apartment

It may soon be a lot harder to find a place to smoke in Santa Monica, Calif. The Santa Monica city council approved an ordinance Tuesday that would bar new tenants of apartments and condos from smoking inside their residences, according to NBC 4. The smoking ban, which will require a second vote by the City Council to become law, would take effect 30 days after it is approved, the Santa Monica Patch reports. Existing residents would not be exempt from the new law, either. They would have to decide whether to designate their residences smoking or nonsmoking if the law goes into effect. "If you want to keep your unit for smoking, you may do so, but you must speak up," Adam Radinsky, head of the Consumer Protection Unit in Santa Monica, told the Los Angeles Times. The ordinance also includes a mandate that would require landlords to compile a list of residences that have been designated smoking in their buildings, according to the Santa Monica Patch. Landlords would be required to give that list to prospective tenants. The new ordinance would not be enforced by police or landlords, according to Radinsky. Neighbors would have to file actions in small claims court if less formal efforts to enforce the rule failed. Lighting up is already prohibited in the coastal city's beaches, parks and restaurants, and within 20 feet of the entryways and windows of any public buildings in Santa Monica. Some Santa Monica locals, however, believe that the new ordinance is a sign that the city council is going too far. "I really don't think they should be telling people what to do if they are paying for the place they're living in," Jennifer Jones told NBC 4. KNBC "If you want to keep your unit for smoking, you may do so, but you must speak up," said Adam Radinsky, head of the Consumer Protection Unit in Santa Monica. Santa Monica tops the list of many California cities that are seeking to implement new restrictions that curb second-hand smoke, Continue Reading

Woman sues Santa Monica for $1.7B, saying ‘smart’ parking meters are making her sick

A California woman is suing the city of Santa Monica for $1.7 billion, claiming radiation from the new “smart” parking meters is making her sick. Denise Barton says she’s suffered ear infections, tightness in her neck and back and an irregular period since the smartphone-friendly meters were installed last March. “I figured that’s the value of my life and health, considering how much I had to go through as a child,” Barton, who also suffered neurological damage after a car accident when she was younger, told ABC News. Barton also seeks $1.7 million each month, after the $1.7 billion she demanded in the claim, filed on Aug. 6, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. She says the city shouldn’t be able to implement potentially harmful technology. “I know it seems a little big, but they can’t do things that affect people’s health without their consent,” Barton told the newspaper. “I think that’s wrong.” The new meters allow drivers to use their smartphones and credit cards to purchase parking minutes. Sensors detect when a car leaves the space and clear any money that’s left on the meter. “The meters use basic wireless technology that is commonly available and utilized in Wi-Fi and cellular communications,” a city spokesperson told ABC News. Assistant Finance Director Don Patterson said the radiation level is “the same as someone using a cell phone walking on the sidewalk,” according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. “The Wi-Fi is very low-level and only communicates between the meter and the sensor, about 5 to 8 feet,” Patterson said in an email to the newspaper. Patterson adds that Barton’s claim is the only complaint of its type that has been made about the meters. Barton says her health problems began in late April, shortly after the meters were installed. She went to the doctor in May with an ear Continue Reading

Jennifer Lawrence rushes to aid of woman who collapses in front of her Santa Monica home

She’s the arrow shooting heroine in the blockbuster movie “Hunger Games” and didn’t quiver when faced with a real-life emergency Monday evening.Actress Jennifer Lawrence rushed to the aid of a young woman who collapsed outside her Santa Monica, Calif., apartment building, police confirmed to the Daily News. Lawrence stayed with the woman until help arrived. (Sasha/ “It was a couple of juveniles involved in the incident. It could have been alcohol related,” he said of the girl's medical condition. “She’s okay."photos obtained by Lawrence was joined by neighbors outside her Santa Monica complex. (Sasha/ Police cleared the scene at 8:18 p.m. with only a report, meaning the juvenile was not transported for further medical care. [email protected] Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Ballot measure banning circumcision may be up for vote in Santa Monica

A group out to ban circumcision of boys under 18 in San Francisco wants to snip the practice in other parts of California. The private-parts advocacy group, MGM Bill, successfully petitioned this month to have the ban put up for a ballot vote in San Francisco next November. It now hopes to push a similar initiative in Santa Monica. The proposed ballot measure would allow the procedure once males are 18 years old and make it a misdemeanor if it was done before then. MGM Bill spokeswoman Jena Troutman says its a similar protection that girls already receive. "This bill is identical to a female genital mutilation bill that has already passed," she explained to Fox News. The common practice, which involves removing the foreskin on infant males, began as a religious practice for Jews and Muslims, but is done on most infants in America. A 1999 task force on circumcision by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 1.2 million male infants are circumcised in the United States every year. Many doctors consider it a normal practice and some studies point to it being a good way to lessen the spread of STDs and may prevent certain cancers. "If you raise your child to be smart and practice safe sex," circumcision is unnecessary, Troutman told the "If you're raising a dumb kid who won't use a condom, then go ahead and cut off two-thirds of his nerve endings and one-half of his penile skin." The group, on its website, maintains it's mentally scarring to men. "Many men who are circumcised suffer the same psychological effects found in rape victims," the group wrote. "A sense of great loss and feelings of anger, distrust, and grief are common among circumcised men who are aware of the functions that the foreskin performs." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Investigators hunting for homeless man in connection with blast at Santa Monica synagogue

Police are hunting for a disturbed homeless man in connection with a large explosion at a Investigators initially thought the blast at Chabad House Lubavitch of Now, Jewish organizations are being urged to stay vigilant as cops search for 60-year-old "The device appeared to have been deliberately constructed," Santa Monica police The explosion shattered windows, punched a hole in the synagogue, and sent the pipe ricocheting into a neighboring house where a young boy was sleeping. There were no injuries but about 100 people were evacuated from the area for more than five hours. Police said they first believed a worker sparked the incident but were able to connect Hirsch to items found at the scene. He is known to have spent time at synagogues and Jewish community centers asking for handouts. Hirsch's motive is not believed to be anti-Semitic and he is also wanted for unrelated local charges, Trisler said.The "We have no evidence of any kind of threat to any Jewish institution or evidence that this was a hate crime," said Susskind said the alert was "not intended to create undue alarm" but to keep people on the lookout for a man who appears to be disturbed. With News Wire Services  Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

‘True Blood’ co-stars Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer looking for home in Santa Monica

Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer aren't wasting any time: the "True Blood" twosome are already hunting for their own love nest after getting engaged earlier this month. The co-stars - who play onscreen lovers psychic Sookie Stackhouse and vampire Bill Compton - hit an open house and checked out two moderately-priced homes with a Realtor in Santa Monica over the weekend. The pair is said to be looking for a cozy and modern abode with additional bedrooms for Moyer's two children, Billy, 8, and Lilac, 5. ROYAL RE-ROMANCE? Sarah Ferguson is causing some Royal gossip by choosing her ex-husband as a vacation mate. The Daily Mail says the Duchess of York is holed up with Prince Andrew in a secluded mansion near Sotogrande, Spain; the couple's kids, Beatrice and Eugenie, opted to hang with Sir Richard Branson in the Caribbean over the weekend instead. Fergie's boyfriend of two years, tycoon Geir Frantzen, clearly didn't get the memo about this getaway. And with perpetual bachelor Andrew still single, perhaps love is in the air  again. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Nine Santa Monica hotels for a sunny SoCal experience

When many out-of-towners start California dreamin’, they’re likely imagining the sun, sand and surf of Santa Monica. From the iconic Santa Monica Pier to the abundant shopping and dining options on the Third Street Promenade, this SoCal jewel has long attracted families, couples and entertainment-industry stars. The high-end hotels and elegant coastal retreats have also played a major role in luring travelers. And while Santa Monica offers dozens of solid properties to pick from, here are nine that have particularly captured our attention. Casa del MarSurprising as it may be, Casa del Mar is one of only two hotels in Santa Monica that are located directly on the beach. This rare real estate is further enhanced by a pool with beach views, full-service spa, and opulent rooms with huge jetted tubs and tasteful decor. Another reason it one-ups other hotels in the area: In 2015, Obama White House designer Michael Smith gave the property a major makeover, resulting in a luxe atmosphere with loads of beachy details. But its story dates back much further than that. Originally built as a glamorous beach club in the 1900s, Casa del Mar has been a place where Hollywood A-listers and well-heeled locals have rubbed elbows for a long time (and now you can join the cool club, too). Oceana Beach Club HotelIf you’re searching for a Santa Monica hotel that’s a bit less of a high-powered hideaway for Hollywood hotshots, check into the relaxed and intimate Oceana Beach Club Hotel. A small number of rooms (70) means that staff has the time to offer personalized care for each guest. Expect a porter to take your bags upon arrival, a doorman to hold the door, and everyone to be trained to act as a concierge. Plus, rooms are airy and spacious, with homey touches like coffee-table books and potted plants. It’s this sort of welcoming atmosphere that compensates for the lack of on-site amenities (you won’t find a spa here, and expect to walk 10 to 15 Continue Reading