UCLA students have it pretty nice. Surrounded by notable bars, restaurants, a movie theater and more, Westwood is a college student’s dream come true.

However, as amazing as this area is, Bruins are still encouraged to venture off campus/Westwood a little bit and see what else Los Angeles has to offer!

The area we recommend: Santa Monica.

Instead of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Taco Bell, Jose Bernstein Restaurant, and Frida Mexican Cuisine for Mexican food, try:

Casa Martin Mexican Restaurant
1654 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90401
The homemade corn tortillas are everyone’s favorite! Their crispy tacos and margaritas are also amazing. If you are looking for excellent and authentic Mexican food at affordable prices, Casa Martin is your best choice. This small, family-owned and operated restaurant is a hidden gem located near Santa Monica Pier, just waiting for you to discover.

Border Grill
1445 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Definitely try the weekend brunch with $30 all-you-can-eat small plates when you have the time (and stomach)! Border Grill has all kinds of Mexican items, including chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, pancakes with Mexican chocolate chips, several tacos, taquitos and many other offerings. Although the food is a little bit overpriced, you will be impressed by the variety and amazing taste of each item on the menu.

Instead of Yamato Restaurant, Ami Japanese and Tomodachi Sushi for sushi, try:

Sugarfish By Sushi Nozawa
1345 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Sugarfish is an amazingly simple and shockingly affordable sushi place. There aren't any over-decorated rolls with fancy name. Instead, they serve sushi with high-quality fish, rice at the right temperature, authentic matcha hot tea and offer genuine services. It can get very busy during lunch and dinner hours, but it’s worth the wait!

607 Colorado Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
This little sushi spot serves a wide variety of creative rolls and dishes. The fish is always fresh, and it melts in your mouth. Try the Ninjin Roll, Spicy Tiger Roll and Dragon Roll. Quick friendly service, good food and reasonable prices—you will go back again!

Instead of 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, Lamonica’s New York Pizza, and Lucia’s Café for pizza, try:

Stella Barra Pizzeria
2000 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
I highly recommend the regular crust pizzas at Stella Barra Pizzeria. The crusts perfectly combine crispy and thin without sacrificing doughy-ness and taste. Besides, the pizzas are fresh, organic and not too cheesy. Most importantly, the portions are huge! Also, try the Italian chopped salad, which is a unique twist on your regular Italian chopped salad. Tasty food, tremendous service, reasonable prices and a great atmosphere make Stella Barra the perfect pizzeria for those of us who love pizza!

Fresh Brothers
1447 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Fresh Brothers has traditional Chicago-style deep-dish pizza with tons of toppings under the cheese. However, the food there is not greasy. As for the price and value, it's pretty reasonable. If you are looking for a place away from the beach crowds to enjoy pizza, try Fresh Brothers.

Instead of Yogurtland and Diddy Riese Cookies for desserts, try:

Perfect Blend
707 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Are you tired of Yogurtland and Pinkberry? If so, then Perfect Blend is your next best choice. Its froyo is really good, with rotating flavors and various toppings. Brian, the owner, is one of the nicest and down to earth guys I have ever met. He says he wants to make his drinks healthy but still yummy. Thus, he never uses fake powders – it’s all fresh fruit and real sugar. Perfect Blend is at the intersection of Pico and Lincoln in Santa Monica, a very busy spot near a high school.

Soda Jerks
200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
On a bright, sunny California day, nothing is more enjoyable than hanging out around the beach with a handmade milkshake or sundae, so go to Soda Jerks for ice cream! It is a very cute shop near a carousel on the inner Santa Monica Pier. It has traditional floats, sundaes and banana splits. My favorite one is a scoop of vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce and a scoop of chocolate ice cream with hot caramel sauce. You will definitely go back for more!

Instead of Barney’s Beanery, Sepi’s and Whiskey Blue for bars, try:

Bar Chloe
1449 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
As a hidden gem in Santa Monica, Bar Chloe is easy to walk past without noticing it. However, what you’re missing out on is a gorgeous cocktail bar untouched by most tourists. The space is not huge; it’s intimate. The food is not expensive, yet it is still more than decent. The ambiance is very dark with a very chill vibe, and the bar is always full of lovely, fun people. Come here to meet up with friends!

Instead of Regency Bruin Theatre and Regency Village Theatre for movies, try:

Laemmle Monica 4-Plex
1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Laemmle Monica 4-Plex gives you more options when it comes to playing films. Although the inside is a little dated, the sound and picture quality are perfect. The main theater is a large room with about 50 rows—not overcrowded but enough for tons of people. It is the best place in Santa Monica to see indie films, older movies and limited releases.

Instead of the Geffen Playhouse for live entertainment, try:

1418 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401
If you still enjoy magic shows, then Magicopolis is perfect for you. Located on the west side of Fourth Street between Broadway and Santa Monica, it is a very cozy house with a perfect size for amazing magic shows. The auditorium has 150 seats, and each seat has a great view of the stage. The shows are funny and entertaining with great acting.