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Santa Monica Pier: The Most Famous Pier on California’s Coast

June 3, 2021 /
Santa Monica Pier Los Angeles

Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

Anyone who wants to visit Santa Monica must start here. The pier is the most popular location in Santa Monica and is always open. This place is frequented by both residents and tourists and has been a landmark of the city for over a hundred years, so it has a long history. Since September 9, 1909,  it has gone through a series of ups and downs. There have been many structural problems, calls to knock it down, the damage caused by Mother Nature, and also the hard times during the Great Depression and wars. But thanks to the commitment of those who wanted it to succeed, the pier has always risen from the ashes and is now a vibrant place beloved by the community, the pride and joy of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Pier: Things to Do and Attractions

The Santa Monica Pier, a symbol of both Los Angeles beach life and the legendary Route 66 (of which it marks the end), is one of those “classic” attractions that anyone planning a California road trip itinerary should consider. So let’s find out what awaits us at this fascinating attraction in the Greater Los Angeles Area

Santa Monica Yacht Harbor

Santa Monica Pier things to doThe pier is composed of various areas. The first is the access ramp with sections for vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians, which leads to the intersection of Colorado Avenue with Ocean Avenue, marked by the white and blue arch of the Santa Monica Yacht Harbor, in front of the pink building of the Del Frisco’s Grille (located at 1551 Ocean Ave). In reality, the arch is only a historical icon dating back to the 1940s when there was an internationally renowned boat dock. The first person who bought the space for his boat was Charlie Chaplin. This is a place where many visitors stop to take a picture.

The ramp leads from the coast to the beginning of the pier itself, where there is a large square-shaped platform (which can also be accessed on foot from the beach). At the end of this platform, there is a traditional pier that stretches out over the water. The pier is not only a place for a beautiful and long walk on the Pacific Ocean where you can admire romantic sunsets and beach views; it is full of life and there are activities and fun for everyone. Let’s take a closer look.

Santa Monica Merry-Go-Round

visit Santa Monica PierOnce you cross the bridge, you will arrive at a parking lot, and next to it, you will see the historic building that houses the Santa Monica Merry-Go-Round, an enchanting piece of history of the 20s, which has undergone a faithful renovation. For this reason, it still retains all its charm. When the carousel is in operation, the 44 horses (no two horses are alike) together with a rabbit, a goat, and two sleighs move in harmony. We would like to remind you that, unlike the other horses, the horses of the outer ring do not move, they are fixed. The cost of the ticket is $1 for children and $2 for adults.

Heal the Bay Aquarium

In the lower part of the building, there is the Aquarium. To access the aquarium, you must pay for admission. You can find interactive activities and the”inhabitants” of the sea such as seahorses, moray eels, jellyfish, stingrays, and sharks, to name a few. The structure can be booked for an event and is closed on Mondays. In the same section of the pier, there is the Santa Monica Pier Shop & Visitor Center, the ideal place to get souvenirs and valuable information. The atmosphere on the pier is lively: the people, the colors, the sounds, and the scents… As a result, walking on the pier turns into a pleasant and classic experience.

Route 66 Sign “End of the Trail”

Santa Monica Pier Route 66Let’s not forget that just beyond the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., you will see the sign “Route 66, end of the trail”. When the pier was officially awarded the title of “last stop on Route 66” (the Mother Road goes from Chicago to Santa Monica), the old road sign was brought back here. I recommend stopping at the little 66 to Cali, a kiosk selling memorabilia of the historic road.

Pacific Park

Santa Monica PierYou will pass by restaurants and shops until you reach the Playland Arcade and then the Pacific Park, the amusement park overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the only one of its kind on the West Coast to be located on a pier. Its most representative point, the icon of Santa Monica par excellence, is the Ferris Wheel. It is solar-powered and is visible beyond the pier. At night, it lights up in a thousand colors. Here every attraction has a cost and everyone can choose where and how to spend their time, whether it be riding a thrilling roller coaster, sailing on a pirate ship, free-falling from a tower, or simply walking. There are also attractions for children and food stands with snacks, burgers, popcorn, pizza, and ice cream.

Tickets to Pacific Park

In the summer, there are open-air concerts on the pier, as well as movies and activities for the whole family. Along the pier, fishing enthusiasts can devote themselves to their favorite hobby; they can be confident that they will catch a lot of fish without any issues, because historically, this place has a reputation for abundant fishing.

Where to eat on the Santa Monica Pier?

Santa Monica Pier Dove MangiareBesides attractions, entertainment, walks, and pleasant views, there are also dining options at the pier and we’d like to mention two, starting with the aforementioned Bubba Gump Shrimp Shrimp Co., which is part of the restaurant chain inspired by Forrest Gump. You can enjoy your meal while admiring a beautiful panorama in this Bubba Gump location overlooking the ocean and the beach. The main ingredient on the menu is the shrimp, which is cooked and presented in various ways.

Then you can try Mexican cuisine at Mariasol, which also overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The food is good, maybe not to the highest level, but the location makes it worth going here. The venue also has a children’s menu and bar service with cocktails, beer, wine, and drinks. Upstairs there is an event room. The last building you will see on your long walk on the pier is Route 66 Last Stop Shop, where it is possible to dine and shop.

To conclude, I recommend all the activities and tours available in Santa Monica. To view them click on the button below.

All activities in Santa Monica


Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Marianna Licia e Paolo

There are two passions that we share: photography and traveling, especially in the United States.

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