Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles

California’s iconic destination, the world-famous Santa Monica Pier, attracts over eight million visitors annually. It’s arguably the area's most recognizable landmark and family-friendly harbor.

Things to Do at Santa Monica Pier

It's hard to visit Los Angeles and not check out the Santa Monica Pier with its seaside fishing, unique surf shops, vibrant street performers, and arcade with over 200 games. The rides, the restaurants, the beach…where should one begin? Here's a quick "Know Before You Go Guide" to explore Dogtown's famous Pier in all its glory.

Pro Tip: There are no lockers to rent on the Pier, so leave large travel items in your car.

Located on the Santa Monica State Beach in the Ocean Avenue neighborhood, the first concrete pier on the west coast has become an epicenter for Southern California tourism. First-timers should check out the Pier Shop & Visitor Center to find maps of the area and sign up for the Historical Walking Tour during the weekend to learn about the famous beach landmark, the Santa Monica Pier, and the legendary Route 66.

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Pro Tip: Try the Pier's new interactive mobile experience, "Secret Story Tour," an all-digital history lesson as you enjoy the scenic ocean vistas. Download the app, check for hidden clues, and solve trivia puzzles. Afterward, share your pics on #PierSecretStoryTour.

women splashing through beach with santa monica pier in backgroundDid you know the Santa Monica Pier has its very own amusement park, the Pacific Park®; not to mention an aquarium, trapeze school and free Twilight Concert series every Thursday night during the summer months. Cotton candy, corndogs and fruity cocktails abound at the Pier. Take a gander at these tips to get the most out of your beach excursion.

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Photo Alert: Don't miss the sunset over the ocean for a stunning addition to your Insta-posts. The Lobster restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with incredible views clear up to Malibu.

Santa Monica Pier Attractions

  • Pacific Park: The Santa Monica Pier amusement park has ample midway games, the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel, and the West Coaster, a wooden roller coaster that towers 55 feet above the Pacific Ocean.

Fun Fact: The brightly lit Ferris wheel can be seen from space. It's turned off during the Earth Hour observance.

photo credit: Heliberto Arias via Unsplash

  • Playland Arcade has over 200 midway games for the whole family, from old school classics to new video games.

Photo Alert: Between the beach, the carousel and the Ferris wheel – the photo ops are endless, but don't leave without a shot under the iconic Santa Monica Pier Yacht Harbor sign!

  • Trapeze School New York Los Angeles: Calling all thrill-seekers! No experience is necessary for the two-hour Flying Trapeze class or the one-hour Aerial Silks class. (Participants must be over six years old.)
  • Bike/Rollerblade Rentals: Ride into the sunset and take in the fantastic surrounding on a bike or rollerblades. Try the Blazing Saddles or the Santa Monica Bike Share.
  • Fishing: You don't need a fishing license to try your hand at catching some sea bass. Stop by the Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle for tips and equipment.
  • Heal the Bay Aquarium: Explore this fish museum for special exhibits and interactive presentations to deeply gaze into the beautiful Pacific sea life.

Santa Monica Pier Restaurants & Pubs

  • Bubba Gump Shrimp Co: Seafood here is a must! Forrest Gump would be happy to see his restaurant on the west coast oceanside.

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  • Mariasol Cocina Mexicana: For delicious Mexican cuisine and the best-frozen margaritas in town, Mariasol's is a must-stop.
  • Seaside on the Pier: With scenic views of the Ferris wheel and seaside yachts, try this rooftop bar for specialty cocktails and amazing food.
  • Rusty's Surf Ranch: This casual surf bar and grill serves seafood top-notch bar fare and entertains with live bands on the weekends.
  • Big Dean's Ocean Front Café: Big Dean's famous outdoor patio draws crowds, but its pub food, sports bar and excellent service keep them coming back!

Santa Monica Pier History

The double-jointed 1,600-foot-long Municipal Pier opened in 1909, primarily carrying sewer pipes beyond the breakers. Not long after, engineers built the Pleasure Pier in 1916. Other early attractions include the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome building (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the Blue Streak Racer wooden roller coaster, and the Pier's celebrated carousel featuring 44 hand-carved horses. In 1924, the La Monica Ballroom opened on the Pier. The 15,000-square-foot dance hall was the largest on the west coast, accommodating 5,000 people. It later served as a roller rink for visitors before city planners demolished it in 1963. In 1941, the city unveiled the Santa Monica neon sign.

Fun Fact: The Carousel and Hippodrome are famous set locations for the Paul Newman classic film, "The Sting."

photo credit: Visit Santa Monica via Facebook

After heavy storm damage where over one-third of the Pier was destroyed, the Pier reopened in 1983. Today the Pier prides itself on being eco-friendly with the first solar-powered Ferris wheel. The Pier's Heal the Bay Aquarium is a marine education facility where parents and teachers can gain a wide range of award-winning lesson plans.

Pro Tip: Visitors need to stop by the 66 to Cali store, with Route 66-themed merch!

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Santa Monica Pier Parking

The closest parking lot is the beach lot at the bottom of the ramp on the deck of the Pier. Additional parking is available at Lot 1 North, just north of the Pier.

Santa Monica Pier Hours

  • The Santa Monica Pier is open daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • The historic merry-go-round is open Monday, Thursday-Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Heal The Bay Aquarium is currently open Thursday-Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Pacific Park is open from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday and until 8:00 p.m. on weekdays, but these times vary depending on the season, weather and private events.

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Leashed dogs are welcomed at the Pier, but not on the beach. Smoking is not permitted on either the beach or the Pier. (The 100-year-old wooden Pier thanks you.)

close up of Erin smiling on a sunny day

Written By Erin

Erin Poche` is a Utah-based writer and editor for Tripster and contributing writer for BeyondType1. She also writes and edits for an indie publisher of fanta ...

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