LA Tourist Attractions: The Santa Monica Pier
The world famous Santa Monica Pier is one of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles. It attracts over 6 million tourists each year.
Over 100 years old, the Santa Monica Pier is probably the largest pier in Southern California and attracts the most people… something you won’t care for too much when you are trying to get into the parking lots! Among the attractions are Pacific Park, an amusement park with a ferris wheel, rollercoaster and other rides. There are arcades, restaurants, shops, and the iconic merry-go-round in the Looff Hippodrome at the base of the pier. There are also outdoor movies and concerts during the summer months.
The pier has also appeared in a number of movies. They include: The Sting, Cellular, Forrest Gump, The Majestic, Ruthless People, Modern Family and a 1995 thriller, The Net where Sandra Bullock evades a cyberterrorist that is trying to kill her on the pier.
The Santa Monica Pier was once two different piers. The municipal pier was long and narrow, existing mainly to carry sewage piped beyond the breakers. It was built in 1909. The shorter and wider Newcomb Pier, aka the Pleasure Pier was built in 1916 by Charles I D. Looff. There was also a third pier just a bit south of it that was also an amusement pier, but it has since been torn down. (There were once actually several piers between the Santa Monica Pier and Venice Pier). The Pleasure Pier flourished in the Twenties, but died off during the depression and most of the amusement park facilities were closed.
The history on when it was revitalized is a bit unclear, but it appears it remained in disuse until about the 1950s. The Pier was designated as a County Historical Landmark in 1975. In 1983 the pier was significantly damaged in a storm the ripped the lower level off. Then a second storm hit while the pier was being repaired, pulling a crane that was being used into the stormy sea and battering it against the supports of the pier. Over a third of the pier was destroyed.
The pier is free, however the individual restaurants, shops and attractions are not. Prices are set by the individual establishments. From the best I can tell, the pier is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but the businesses on it each keep independent hours. By about 10:00 pm you will find most are closed. I’ve been on the pier in the hours after the amusement park and attractions close, but not in the wee hours of the night. If you happen to be there after midnight, you might want to let us know if there is any truth to the urban legend that the Santa Monica Pier is haunted.
North of the pier you will find the Pacific Palisades Park providing walking paths and a stunning view overlooking the pier and ocean. To its south there is the original Muscle Beach and the International Chess Park. There are all the usual beach activities including volleyball. If the shops and restaurants on Colorado Ave and Ocean Ave aren’t enough for you, the 3rd Street Promenade is a 10 minute walk away. We’ve created a list of all the things to do in Santa Monica near the pier to help you have fun on your vacation.
The pier is accessed on the extreme west end of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica. You can drive directly onto the pier and park on it. There are also lots on either side of the pier that are larger and likely a bit cheaper. Traffic here around these lots can back up something fierce. I personally recommend parking in one of the lots a few blocks away and walking to the pier. You can find them on Google Maps. A little more information on parking is available on the Santa Monica Pier website,
More photos after the break…
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