Santa Monica Travel

Santa Monica, California offers more than its beach and year-round warm weather. Its proximity to the greater Los Angeles area makes Santa Monica the perfect base for vacationers and business travelers alike.

Santa Monica contains one of the most legendary beach scenes in the United States. Santa Monica also boasts an abundance of great restaurants and excellent nightlife spots. The 3 miles of shoreline are renowned as some of the best in the area thanks to the soft sands, ideal weather and bevy of attractions. “State Beach,” as its known, averages about 340 days of sunshine a year and acted as the backdrop for the popular television series “Baywatch.”

Santa Monica is a very walkable part of town, and you can easily explore the area by bicycle. One of the most scenic rides is along the 26-mile bike path, which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and is the longest beach bike path in the world. Make sure you ride the Ferris wheel at the pier and people-watching at the Third Street Promenade.

What Should You Pack?

When figuring out what to pack for the beach, there are two tips to keep in mind. First, forgetting an item isn’t the end of the world. Unless you’re heading for a remote, deserted island, chances are you can find a store where you can pick up the extras. Second, don’t stress out over making a packing list when there’s a stress-free beach travel essentials list for you below:

  • Sunglasses and hats offer much-needed sunscreen and flip flops are perfect for navigating hot, sandy beaches. Go pack them now so you’re not kicking yourself later.
  • What about those little items that make beach visits so much more enjoyable? For a little extra comfort on your trip, make sure you pack: Lip balmsunscreenbug spray.
  • Beach toys and goggles are a must for kids. Building sandcastles and viewing the underwater wonders are perennial favorites.
  • Take a first-aid kit with you. Hopefully you’ll only have to worry about a few minor scrapes from seashells, but having your own kit handy is a good precaution.
  • Beach Bag – Your beach bag will likely contain a few of the items mentioned above. For a well-rounded bag, consider tossing in sunscreenlip balmbug sprayfirst-aid kit and water-proof baggies.
  • Beach Gear – No matter who’s supplying the gear, look to have the following items on hand: beach bagbeach chairsbeach towelsbeach umbrella or tentbeach cart and a cooler.
  • Remember: Don’t wait until you’re parched to drink. When you’re out in the heat and sun, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking regularly. So take along a water bottle as well.

Weather – When to Visit Santa Monica

If you’re looking for deals, consider a winter trip. Winter and early spring are the seasons when you’ll find the lowest prices at Santa Monica hotels. This is probably the best time to visit, as you’ll find fewer crowds and less traffic, too. January is an especially good month to visit – the weather usually heats up enough to get a tan consistently throughout the month.

Summer is peak travel season in Santa Monica. This means you’ll find more crowds and higher prices at Santa Monica hotels. You’ll find some of our warmest weather consistently during these months, with the notable exception being the month of June. If it’s sun you’re seeking, skip June altogether. There’s a reason the local lexicon includes the words “June gloom”.

Autumn (late September to early November) is a great time to take advantage of their “Indian Summer” – a time of unseasonably warm, dry weather when the skies are usually sunny and clear and the weather registers at above-normal temperatures. And although temperatures are going up, prices at Santa Monica hotels begin going down in fall, following the busy summer season.

Santa Monica Attractions

Annenberg Community Beach House

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Formerly a private beachfront estate that William Randolph Hearst built for actress Marion Davies, the Annenberg Community Beach House is now open to the public as a place to enjoy the Santa Monica sand in style. No membership is required—access to the courtyards, view deck, splash pad, sand sports courts, children’s play area, gallery, and Marion Davies Guest House is free. The historic pool is open in the summertime for a small fee.

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Santa Monica Beach

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This 3.5-mile stretch of public beach just west of Los Angeles draws millions of people annually to watch sunsets, stroll along the beachfront paths, sunbathe, people-watch, listen to musicians, surf, or ride the 1920’s carousel on Santa Monica Pier. This is recognized as the birthplace of beach culture: stilt-borne lifeguard stations, bikini-clad roller bladers, leggy palm trees, and those remarkable sunsets over the Pacific.

Santa Monica Pier

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This old-timey seaside amusement park has an enduring popularity. Thousands of parents have been dragged by their children toward the Ferris wheel that sparkles at night above the nearly century-old pier. Here, sunset-gazers and cotton-candy-hawkers rub shoulders with elderly men fishing for Pacific mackerel along the 1,800-foot-long boardwalk; there’s a modest aquarium and a group of carnival rides, including a roller coaster and the 44-horse vintage carousel featured in The Sting. Nearby is the Third Street Promenade, a favorite pedestrian-oriented shopping/entertainment district.

Getty Villa Malibu

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This megamansion sits on some of the most valuable coastal property in the world. Modeled after an Italian country home, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, the Getty Villa includes beautifully manicured gardens, reflecting pools, and statuary. The structures blend thoughtfully into the rolling terrain and significantly improve the public spaces, such as the new outdoor amphitheater, gift store, café, and entry arcade. Talks and educational programs are offered at an indoor theater.

Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach

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Part of Malibu’s most beautiful coastal area, this beach is made up of three minibeaches—El Pescador, La Piedra, and El Matador—each with the same spectacular view. Scramble down the steps to the rocky coves via steep, steep stairways; all food and water needs to be toted in, as there are no services. Portable toilets at the trailhead are the only restrooms. “El Mat” has a series of caves, Piedra some nifty rock formations, and Pescador a secluded feel, but they’re all picturesque and fairly private.

Santa Monica Tours, Tickets & Activites

Things to do in Santa Monica

Pedal or Not Electric Bicycle Tours

Santa Monica’s 1st all electric bicycle guided tour along the beach thru the Venice Canals. See sights where tour buses and cars can’t take you. Let the electric bikes take you further than you thought you’d go in this 2 1/2 to 3 hour adventure. Telephone: 310-917-1111 Web: Pedal or Not

Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons

Whether you’re a beginner looking to stand up for the first time or already a surfer looking for an experienced instructor to take your skills to the next level, they would love to help! Learn basic surf techniques: how to pop up correctly, understand positioning in the lineup, basic ocean safety and proper paddling, how to ride the wave, etiquette, how to conserve energy, etc. Telephone: 323-316-8108 Web: Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons

Aqua Surf School

They teach children, teens and adults. Gain lifelong positive memories, friends and surfing skills. We welcome visitors and locals of all levels from first time beginners to advanced. Their instructors are certified in cpr, first aid, lifeguarding, safety and hired based on their ability and passion to teach. Telephone: 310-902-7737 Web: Aqua Surf School

Poseidon Paddle & Surf

Poseidon Paddle and Surf is Santa Monica’s hub for Surf and Stand Up Paddle (SUP) lessons and rentals. In addition to Lessons and Rentals Poseidon is a full service surf shop selling swimwear, apparel, surfboards, paddle boards as well as beach accessories such as sunscreen, sunglasses, towels, etc. Telephone: 310-694-8428 Web: Poseidon Paddle & Surf

Sea Mist Rentals

Quick, easy and ultra-affordable bike rentals at Santa Monica Beach and Pier; immediate access to 26-mile bike path and more! Telephone: 310-395-7076 Web: Sea Mist Rentals

Best Santa Monica Restaurants

Dialogue Above $61

A 21-course tasting menu in a tiny room inside of a food court on the Promenade sounds like a not-very-funny joke. The meal will run you in the high three figures, but you’ll get to chat with the very friendly chef as you eat the inventive, unusual, and extremely delicious food. This is a place where you should go all-in, so ask for a seat at the chef’s counter, add on one of the wine pairings, and have a bunch of fun eating some outstanding food you’ll never encounter anywhere else. Web: Dialogue

Cassia $31 – 60

Cassia puts chef/co-owner Bryant Ng’s Southeast Asian culinary vocabulary at the center of its seafood-forward menu. Occupying the entire first floor of a classic Art Deco building in Downtown, there’s a French brasserie vibe that makes dishes like Ng’s pairing of snails and chickpea curry with clay-oven flatbreads, right at home. The service is family-style and the wine list is deep. Telephone: 310-393-6699 Web: Cassia

Rustic Canyon $31 – 60

Rustic Canyon has been doing farm-to-table dining (without the pretension or white tablecloths) since before it was cliche. Like every other seasonal spot, their menu changes all the time, so go ahead and embrace eating those vegetables you can only find for one week of the year. Your parents, out-of-towners you’re trying to impress, and early-in-the-game dates will all love it here. Telephone: 310-393-7050 Web: Rustic Canyon

Tar & Roses $31 – 60

Unlike almost every other restaurant ever, Tar & Roses has gotten better with age, and feels like it’s been around much longer than it actually has. It’s the sort of place that can be as casual or formal as you need it to be, with a menu that’s perfect for sharing. The oxtail dumplings are non-negotiable. Telephone: 310-587-0700 Web: Tar & Roses

Bay Cities Under $10

Tell anyone in the LA area that you’re eating in Santa Monica and they’ll be like, “Oh sh*t, can you bring me a Godmother?” And unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that they’re not asking you for a new family member – they’re asking you for Bay Cities’ famous sandwich. This family-run Italian deli does make one of the best sandwiches in the city, but you should also know that their meatballs are excellent. Telephone: 310-395-8279 Web: Bay Cities

Best Santa Monica Nightlife

The Bungalow

Stepping into The Bungalow at The Fairmont Miramar Hotel is like stepping into the coolest California house party you’ve ever seen. From the cozy décor to the ping pong tables and readily available board games, it’s easy to feel comfortable here. Stop in early to avoid a long line (before 8pm), grab a Bungalow Margarita or Lychee Gimlet and let the night unfold in front of you. The crowd here is young and very trendy. Telephone: 310-899-8530 Web: The Bungalow

Cast

CAST at Viceroy Santa Monica is a glamorous Santa Monica bar and lounge that plays host not only to the trendsetting travelers staying at the hotel but also to some of Santa Monica’s finest locals, where it’s not hard to kick back thanks to poolside cabanas and weekend deejays. Telephone: 310-260-7511 Web: Cast

The Penthouse

For unparalleled views of the Pacific, a staple in Santa Monica is The Penthouse, located at the top of the upscale Huntley Santa Monica Beach. Enjoy California cuisine alongside signature craft cocktails in one of their swanky restaurant cabanas all while you soak in the 360-degree views of the city and beach. Telephone: 310-393-8080 Web: The Penthouse

Barkowski

For anyone familiar with Los Angeles-raised author Charles Bukowski, add Barkowski to your must-visit list. Paying homage to Charles Bukowski, this retro 1960s-style Santa Monica bar offers up a daily Happy Hour from 5-7 pm that features $2 off wine and beer (regularly $5-$13) and $5 drinks. This dark dive bar is known for its selection of beers, with about 50 options available between draught and bottle. Telephone: 310-998-0069 Web: Barkowski

Chez Jay

When you mention dive bars in Santa Monica, Chez Jay is inevitably going to come up in conversation. Known as the “celebrity dive,” Chez Jay has been serving Santa Monica nightlife for more than 50 years. Grab a seat at the bar and rub elbows with locals while enjoying a glass of wine or pint of beer. Chez Jay, too, has a happy hour, running from 4:30-6pm with specials on wine and a few food items. Telephone: 310-395-1741 Web: Chez Jay

Best Santa Monica Hotels

Casa Del Mar

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One of the few hotels in the LA region with direct beach access, the Hotel Casa del Mar is an exceptional property where glamour and tranquility go hand in hand. Only minutes from the Santa Monica Pier and Main street, the Hotel Casa del Mar is the ideal location from which to start your shopping sprees and sightseeing tours. The hotel’s warm and professional service, two excellent restaurants and swimming pool overlooking the Pacific ocean make this one of the best hotel options in Los Angeles. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Casa Del Mar.

Palihouse Santa Monica 4.5

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Designed to blend residential comfort with a classic and contemporary aesthetic, the property features various room categories including, Classic Guest Suites, Studio Residences, One Bedroom Residences and Two Bedroom Residences. Most rooms feature an authentic pied-à-terre layout, complete with fully equipped kitchens, separate vanity rooms, walk-in closets and statuesque windows, all reminiscent of European-style urban apartments. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Palihouse Santa Monica.

Shore Hotel

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They are Santa Monica’s new green and luxurious beachfront hotel. Shore Hotel is proud to be the first and only newly constructed LEED registered hotel in Santa Monica. Inspired by the convergence of Southern California’s spectacular natural landscape with a unique urban fabric, Shore Hotel is the destination of choice among luxury oceanfront hotels. A short walk from many attractions and just steps from the beach, Shore Hotel’s location on Ocean Avenue allows visitors to effortlessly enjoy endless sunshine and a range of activities year-round. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Shore Hotel.

Viceroy Santa Monica

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The Viceroy Santa Monica is best known for its sexy bar and pool scenes, but Viceroy Santa Monica boasts substance as well: friendly service, an environmental conscience, and a restaurant using locally sourced ingredients. Many of the 162 well-sized rooms and suites have ocean views, and all have sleek Hollywood Regency style and amenities like flat-screen TVs/DVD players and 24-hour room service. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Viceroy Santa Monica.

JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot

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When you’re not soaking in the dazzling surrounding area, treat yourself to a pampering session complete with massages and facials at their on-site spa. Encounter spacious settings in our rooms and suites offering plush bedding and flat-panel TVs for your utmost relaxation. Order a delicious meal to your door with our 24-hour room service or enjoy an elegant fusion of French and California cuisine at Cézanne. They also offer cocktails and light bites at Le Troquet Patio Lounge. Active travelers can maintain their workout routine at their fitness center and outdoor pool. For more informaiton, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot.



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38 Comments

  1. Sha hed

    Great information on Santa Monica!  I have been planning a California trip to the area and this has really provided with all the information I could possibly need.  I am looking forward to some beach time and found the link for the beaches very helpful as well.  Thanks for all the planning tips.  They will come in handy!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great!  I am glad you found everything you need.  Have a wonderful time in Santa Monica!

      Reply
  2. Rgpratap

    Hi Leahrae,
    Wow! Awesome review on beach destination at Santa Monica. Very attractive and perfect place to visit. Very rich information about the beach, restaurants with their price, hotels, surfing spots, tips for packing. A full guide to enjoying the beauty of Santa Monica beach at the fullest. Thanks a lot for sharing this excellent post.

    Warm regards,
    Ranao

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Ranao!

      Reply
  3. Shahed

    I wanted to go to Santa Monika a long time ago. But I did not know what amount to take for this trip. From this article, I got a lot of good ideas for this trip. We would like to go there this summer, as we cannot get the time off in the winter.  I will look at the hotel recommendations and see what the cost is going to be. I want to enjoy it on a summer vacation with my family. Thank you for giving us the best information about this trip.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Shahed.  I know you and your family will have a wonderful time.  Please let me know if I can provide you with any additional information.

      Reply
  4. Cheri

    Oh my…your Santa Monica Travel article brings back some wonderful memories for me! I lived in southern California years ago, and the Santa Monica Pier was one of those special, favorite places my family would visit, but only just often enough to leave me with the fondest remembrances and a desire to return one day. I’m sure many of the shops and restaurants have changed since I was last there, but the ambiance, based on your review, evidently remains the same. I must admit you’ve got me very curious about one thing: what exactly is in The Godmother sandwich that makes it so good? Inquiring minds (and taste buds) want to know! Santa Monica is a great place to experience so much of the best that southern California has to offer, and your article is truly a priceless guide to anyone looking to make the most of their visit. I hope I’ll be able to revisit the area before long myself (I still have family and tons of friends in the greater L.A. area), and I’ll definitely add a visit to the Getty Villa based on your recommendation and description. It sounds like my kind of place. Thanks for your insights and for taking me back to happy times. 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad I could help remind you of all your fond memories from Santa Monica.  I hope you can visit again soon!

      Reply
  5. Än Ja

    Hello,

    first of all I like your website and also the article. If I would have in mind to visit USA and read your article I definitly would go to Santa Monica. I like the short video in the beginning and also that you mention the differences between the travel times around the year.

    The to do´s at the end and that you have that booking com search as well is awesome. Mostly you have to visit a few sites to get this overview of a holiday place and you catch it all in one and that´s the most thing I like.

    For me you did a good job.

    BR Anja

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much!  I am glad you enjoyed my Santa Monica Travel post.  Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  6. Vance Clark

    The article was very informative. I really liked how you added in the map. Gave me a great view of hotel choices and prices.

    I also liked the list of things to pack.  Now I know I will not forget anything when I head to California.  Santa Monica looks like the ideal California vacation spot to me.  

    Very thorough information and just what I needed!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Vance!  

      Reply
  7. Felicity

    Wow! This Santa Monica Beach is really lovely and awesome. I really like the pictures you sent. This is a place I have to visit in my life time. I will have to plan my next family vacation to be Santa Monica beach next winter. Thanks for listing the items to pack along when coming and am sure it’s gonna be memorable experience.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I bet it will be memorable!  Enjoy Santa Monica and let me know how my recommendations were for you 🙂

      Reply
  8. Sammynathaniels

    Thanks for the great travel guide on Santa Monica.  I am looking forward to a beach trip here and all the information is very helpful to me.  How long do you think is a good amount of time to enjoy everything that Santa Monica has to offer?  I want to be able to enjoy the beaches, the restaurants and the sights around the area.  Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Sammy,  I would allow for a good 2 weeks.  That gives you plenty of time and accounts for your travel time to and from Santa Monica.  Please let me know if you need anything else, and thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  9. Seyi

    This is an awesome review of Santa Monica.  I have been looking at a trip to California and really not sure where, as it is a big state!  But after reading this travel guide, I have my mind made up.  Looks like the perfect place to start.  I am curious, would I fly into LA then?  I’m not too familiar with the geography of the state.  

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, you would fly into LA, as Santa Monica is very close.  I think you have chosen the perfect spot.  Enjoy!

      Reply
  10. Vance Clark

    I really enjoyed your article. The graphics were really nice. I liked how you added the most interesting destination spots and some of the pricing for the attractions. Great article.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thanks Vance and thanks for visiting Santa Monica Travel!

      Reply
  11. Ashley

    I love California beaches, I visited this state once and I fell in love with its beauty. But I’ve never been in Santa Monica, though – it really looks awesome from these pictures. I would probably pick the autumn period, since you say it’s still warm enough but less crowded. Also, I think the prices are also lower, right? California seems quite expensive to me, that’s why I don’t visit it so often. But anyway, I really love your suggestion of restaurants – that’s a really helpful tip for people like me, who don’t have a very large budget. So I get all the info I need from your article, I don’t have to check out each topic separately, that’s so helpful.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Ashley, yes if you go in the Autumn the prices will be lower.   You are right that California is expensive, but not if you plan ahead and go when the crowds are gone.  You will have a wonderful time.  Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  12. Topazdude

    Wow, I must say this is really amazing and fascinating. There pictures of the different location is this Santa Monica, is really stunning. I really love taking tour, at least twice a month. Sincerely, I have always dreamed of traveling to Santa Monica, but after going through inspiring article, I have decided to plan a trip there during my spring break with my family to also experience the its legendary beach scenes and year-round warm weather.  Great travel guide!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great!  I hope you and your family enjoy!

      Reply
  13. Emmanuel Buysse

    Great post! It looks like a beautiful place me and my wife should have to visit soon! One question, I know the tourist places are always expensive, but if you go to the less known locations in the area how is the price there? Thanks a lot for sharing and I’ll be waiting for your answer! 

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, definitely a little easier on the budget if you get off the beaten path.  If you head to Dana Point or Carlsbad, you will find the accommodations and expenses to be more budget friendly.  I would check these two areas out 🙂

      Reply
  14. Les

    Thanks a million for the detailed information you’ve supplied on Santa Monica as a beach travel destination.

    It was just what I was looking for and I couldn’t have wished to find a more comprehensive answer to my search.

    I do like the fact that you’ve gone into the most intimate detail including what to pack (sunglasses were a bit obvious tough).

    Thanks again for all your hard work, you helped me a lot!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Les, thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  15. Tracy cole

    Of all the beach mentioned in this article, the one that seems to spike my interest is the santa monica beach

    This is my dream place and i have been longing to check on the place for a very long time, My family and I would love to visit during summer holiday. adventure in such places is usually one of a lifetime adventure that one will never forget in his lifetime.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Tracy, I hope your dream to visit Santa Monica comes for you soon.  You will love it and have an amazing time.  Thank you for visiting beach travel destinations.

      Reply
  16. Colby

    This just got added to my vacation bucket list. Thank you for all the research you put in for me!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome Colby!

      Reply
  17. Jason

    Santa Monica is a short 4 hour drive from me and yet we never stop. Next time we plan on going to San Diego we’ll need to stop for a couple of days. It’s a shame I’ve never heard of a “godmother” and loved in Cali the majority of my life, heck I’ve never even ridden a ferris wheel shame on me and why not experience my first ride on one at a historic location. Thanks for the read and bringing more life my mine.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome Jason, and yes you should take a few days on your next trip and stop in Santa Monica. It will be worth the stop, and ride the ferris wheel! Thanks for visiting my Santa Monica Travel Guide.

      Reply
  18. Daniella

    I have always dreamed of traveling to Santa Monica:) After reading your article, I have decided to plan my trip in September with my family. Great packing list, I’ll use for sure. Casa Del Mar hotel looks stunning, just what I need:) Is there an itinerary you would suggest? I have a big problem knowing where to start and end my trip:) This would be very helpful:) Also, will you write some ebooks guides in the future?

    Thank you very much for this excellent post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Hi Daniella and thanks for visiting Santa Monica Travel. Boy as far as an itinerary goes, I would head back to the post and plan your trip with the attractions and things to do in mind. All of them are the top of my list. So I would really plan those, unless there is one that you don’t want to do 🙂 and fit them in on the days you are not going to hit the beach. I hope that helps. Thanks for stopping by! Oh, ebooks…that is a great idea! I had not plans but maybe I should!

      Reply
  19. Effie

    A dreamy place Leahrae. I am speechless. I really love the Santa Monica Beach and I’m looking forward to a drink at Barkowski. I am a big fan of Bukowski so a drink in this bar is obligatory, isn’t it?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes it is Effie! I totally agree 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Santa Monica Travel.

      Reply

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