I was asked the other day if I have a favourite LA landmark. I may be a little biased due to living in Santa Monica but I realised that it would have to be the Santa Monica Pier.
One of the things I love about Santa Monica Pier is the history
Santa Monica Pier is over 100 years old and is made from two adjoining piers. The first Pier opened in 1909 and was called the Municipal Pier. Its primary use was to cast sewage out to the Bay from pipes beneath the Pier. Thousands of people attended the opening because it was the first concrete Pier on the US West Coast. Fisherman began using the Pier and eventually the burgeoning community sought an amusement park. In 1916, a short wide Pier with a ‘Pleasure Park’ atop was built along the south side of the original Pier, thus creating one large Pier.
The Pier has had its ups and downs. Due to rust, there was a part collapse in 1919. In 1924, a ballroom was added. By 1962, hobbies had changed and the ballroom was turned into a roller skating rink. In 1983, there were two storms which resulted in a third of the Pier being completely destroyed. Plans were already underway to revitalize the Pier because it constantly needed repairs but nature sped the process along. Since its restoration, the Santa Monica Pier has grown increasingly popular. In 1996, the current incarnation of the amusement park, ‘Pacific Park,’ was added as well as the Aquarium. In addition to these two attractions, during the summer, the deck area is used for concerts and outdoor movies.
So apart from the interesting history, what’s so great about the Pier?
Candy floss… People watching… Boogie boarding… Or in my poor husband’s case, breaking four ribs boogie boarding! Here are some suggestions for less rib breaking-prone activities:
- Visit the kitschy Pacific Park amusement park which has a dozen rides. One being a solar panelled Ferris wheel.
- Play silly games in the arcade and make use of the photo booth in there to commemorate your visit!
- Check out the 1920’s carousel with a vintage soda fountain that serves all sorts of treats.
- Rent a bike at Blazing Saddles and explore Santa Monica.
- Watch the street performers.
- Pop into some of the surrounding stores, restaurants and pubs.
- Spot the sea lions that swim beneath the pier.
- Attend to trapeze school.
- Take in the view.
- Steal a cheeky nap on the beach.
My personal favourite is a visit to the wee Aquarium. You can tell the place is held together with plenty of love and care. It’s located underneath the Pier and run by a non-profit called Heal the Bay, which is dedicated to marine conservation, environmental education and preventing pollution. It’s $5 to get in or free if you can convince the cashier you’re under 12! The aquarium contains 100 species found from around the Bay. They have a few touch tanks for the children (and me) with a variety of kelp, starfish, and other echinoderms. You can watch the sharks being fed, look at animals under a microscope; there are even local seabird tours. Last time we were at the Aquarium they had these amazing shark egg cases on display, alive and wriggling about. Don’t get me wrong. It’s small and you can probably get through it in 30 minutes or an hour with kids, but that’s part of the charm for me. Alas, they are closed on Mondays so if you want to check their opening times or their events schedule (when they feed the sharks or starfish), click here.
To round your visit off, I recommend making a final pit stop to the Route 66 sign at the end of the pier. This sign marks the end of the legendary American highway and symbolises that the Route only ended because the sea got in the way.