Kick off the evening with a glass of wine while perched atop the new and improved Santa Monica Place (395 Santa Monica Place, 310-394-5451). Yes, it’s a mall, but it bears no resemblance to those dreaded retail vortexes (or to the bunkerlike Frank Gehry-designed structure that was razed to make way for it). The glass-and-steel complex boasts an open-air third floor we like to call the lido deck because of its expansive ocean views and frequent entertainment (DJ-backed happy hours, ice carving). Grab a bite at one of six full-service restaurants (on weekends expect to wait if you don’t have a reservation). From here it’s a five-minute drive to Vidiots (302 Pico Blvd., 310-392-8508). The 25-year-old video store recently debuted its Vidiots Annex—a screening room with surround sound, HD projection, and comfortable seating for 30. The annex offers classes almost every night on subjects such as auteurs and cult films taught by Industry experts like Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan (drop-ins are welcome; one-off classes are $30 to $40). We’re partial to the free Saturday Night Film Club, with guest-moderated features and documentaries starting at 8 p.m. (seating is first come, first served). Discuss the movie’s highs and lows over cocktails at the nearby Basement Tavern at the Victorian (2640 Main St., 310-392-4956), a new subterranean speakeasy-esque bar in a landmark 1892 building. Don’t be put off by the Dumpsters beside the entrance; inside, twinkling chandeliers and leather chairs make for a luxurious yet low-key retreat.
Photograph courtesy flickr/Kevin Labianco