Santa Monica is one of California's many tourist hot spots because it embodies what many people all over the world perceive the west coast to be: a magical place where you can have fun in the sun, play in the waves, and meet cool people.
And that's exactly why I've always considered Santa Monica (and Los Angeles in general) to be one of my favorite escapes.
But when I took a short trip to Santa Monica recently I discovered something outside of all the sunshine and beaches. I discovered peace, harmony, and happiness in a little stretch of paradise called Palisades Park.
As my husband and I set out that day with only plans of strolling along the boardwalk. But as we moved down the boardwalk we saw a bridge over the highway that led to who-knows-where. So we decided to cross that bridge and see what we could find.
That is when we walked right into the immaculately manicured Palisades Park. We crossed that bridge really only expecting to see buildings, sidewalks, and people we stumbled upon a peaceful oasis instead.
As I walked along the park's curvy path I was in awe of how everything was meticulously cared for and planned out. Every tree was perfectly twisted and trimmed. There were bird of paradise flowers scattered about along with rose bushes, palm trees, and seemingly a million other plants that were completely foreign to me.
Everywhere I looked there was some new natural wonder that I just had to stop and stare at. To top it off, the sun was setting which gave the whole park a magical golden glow that made me feel as if I was dreaming.
To say Palisades Park is beautiful would be an understatement, but perhaps the most beautiful part was the people. When you get to the park you shake loose a lot of the tourists that fill the boardwalk and beaches.
What you're left with are a lot of locals who are simply enjoying life.
We saw an elderly man sketching on a bench, a couple lounging in a hammock together, a large birthday party, and so many other lovely people just laughing, having fun, and relaxing.
So if you find yourself in Santa Monica, forget the beach, the boardwalk, and the shopping. Instead, take a step back to feel the true essence of the city and take part in what life is really about: being happy.