As strange as it sounds, one of Santa Monica's best-kept secrets is its most thrilling arts center. That's mostly because of its location: right by the freeway in a sort of nowhere-ville part of town.
Despite covering eight acres of an old industrial park and comprising Southern California's largest gallery complex, you'd be amazed how many locals barely even know it exists!
Bergamot Station was once — way back in the late 1800s — a train depot for the Red Line trolley running from Los Angeles to Santa Monica Pier. After several other incarnations (an ice-making plant, a water heater factory, you get the picture), the site was abandoned for decades. Then, in the mid-1990s, it was finally reborn as a cutting edge hub for artists.
The complex is home to over 30 galleries, including the Santa Monica Museum of Art (a risk-taking museum without a permanent collection), as well as a nice little cafe. That means you can spend an entire afternoon wandering from one space to the next — instead of driving from gallery to gallery and looking for parking spaces!
Oh, and did I mention admission, and parking, is free?
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