Do you want to know where Jim Morrison played his first public show? How about the once-secret history of special commandos trained on the Santa Monica beach? Maybe you’re more interested in the founding of the modern movie industry, the City’s role as a global fitness trendsetter or the now ubiquitous cartoon sailor with a penchant for spinach created on the Santa Monica Pier?
These answers and many, many more are part of the weekly Downtown walking tour offered by the Santa Monica Conservancy.
The volunteer tour-guides have access to a wealth of local history including the Tongvas, Californios, European settlers, Gold Rush, the city’s founding and modern evolution but the tours are not a dry lecture.
“There’s so much story to tell. It just fills me with enthusiasm and a kind of a joy when I’m telling that story and I think all the other docents feels the same way,” said Kay Pattison who co-organizes the tours with Margi Falk.
Organizers said the tours are a dynamic interaction between guide and group that highlights the information the group finds most interesting while building a human connection between participants.
“It’s a fascinating story,” said Pattison. “I look at all of us, the docents, we’re storytellers, we’re telling the story of Santa Monica, which has an amazing history for a small city on the edge of the Pacific.”
Pattison said the tour doesn’t shy away from the City’s less glamorous, but no less interesting, history but it does put everything into context to explain how Santa Monica came to be the city it is today.
“There was a time when we were pretty down in the mouth out here and we actually have become a destination for tourists,” she said. “They come here specifically because they want to be in Santa Monica.”
She said that enthusiasm for the city is embodied in the docents who love sharing their knowledge with locals and visitors alike.
“I enjoy it so much, there’s something about being a tour guide when you spend a couple of hours with a group, there’s a bond that’s created. I definitely feel it at the end of the tour. We go on an adventure together and have touched one another, it’s a unique feeling.”
She said a bond forms during a good tour that elevates the experience for everyone involved.
“This is an adventure when you go on this walking tour, you go on an adventure,” she said. “You’re going to learn aspects of Santa Monica, that no one knew existed.”
Pattison said the tours put the city in a different light and personalize it in a way that creates a meaningful connection to the place.
“This is a living city and we’re saluting the past and looking toward the future because when (founders) Baker and Jones founded the little township of Santa Monica, this is what they wanted,” she said. “Jones said Santa Monica is going to become the most prominent city in Southern California. We’re the dream he dreamed.
The tours are offered every Saturday at 10 a.m., starting at Hostelling International, 1436 Second Street. The default tour is about two hours and ranges over about a six-block span of Downtown Santa Monica. Tours are $10 for the public, $5 for Santa Monica Conservancy members, LA Conservancy members and City employees. Cash and check accepted. Walkups are welcome provided space is available but reservations can be made online (www.smconservancy.org/events-programs/downtown-walking-tours/. To make a reservation within 24 hours of a tour or to arrange private/group tours (with two weeks notice) email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (310) 496-3146.