You can't mention the Santa Monica Airport without bringing up a bit of controversy. To its neighbors, it's a noisy, dangerous nuisance. But for those of us who don't live underneath its flight path, SMO is an incredible place to celebrate LA's rich aviation lineage; it was the birthplace of the commercial airline-pioneering Douglas DC-3. Above all, its public observation deck is the best place to hear the roar of jet engines only feet from an active runway.
As you approach the main entrance, the staircase to the observation deck is hidden underneath the tree to the right.
The observation deck is literally right on the runway. So behave.
Though technically an extra seating area for Typhoon, you can walk upstairs for a great vantage point, albeit sans shade.
Feel free to creep on pilots as they prepare for departure.
Speaking of eavesdropping, you can listen to takeoff and landing radio chatter thanks to a few sets of speakers outside.
Take advantage of the mounted telescopes if you want to track the planes more closely.
We're sure the pilots have a fantastic view, but we're pretty impressed from here on the ground.