santa monica pier

Explore the Santa Monica Pier

Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway know you’ve arrived in Santa Monica, California when you see the iconic Ferris Wheel and  Santa Monica Pier jutting into the inviting waters of the Pacific Ocean. Set at Santa Monica’s westernmost point, the Santa Monica Pier is a staple of this picturesque seaside community. The pier is one of the many things to do in Santa Monica

Packed with family-friendly activities, vibrant street performers, restaurants and shops, the Pier also offers stunning views and over a century of history.

The History Behind the Santa Monica Pier

Constructed in 1909, the storied Santa Monica Pier was the first concrete pier on the West Coast. It quickly gained a reputation as the best fishing spot in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Pier fishing remains a popular activity to this day. The Looff Hippodrome, now a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1916, followed by the iconic carousel’s opening in 1939. In 1941, the iconic Santa Monica Yacht Harbor neon sign was unveiled–and remains one of the most popular selfie spots in Los Angeles!

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Directions to Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is located at Santa Monica State Beach in the eponymous Santa Monica Pier Area and Ocean Avenue neighborhood. Many hotels are nearby, plus attractions on Ocean Avenue and in Downtown Santa Monica.

Parking around Santa Monica Beach fills up quickly depending on the season and the time of day. The closest parking lot is at the bottom of the ramp on the Pier itself. More parking is available at Lot 1 North, located immediately north of the Pier. Santa Monica Pier and beach is easily accessibly by alternate forms of transportation. Walk, rent an electric bike or scooter or use Santa Monica’s free, on-demand shuttle service to get to Santa Monica Pier care-free.

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By car

If you’re coming to the Pier by car, take the ramp located at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue down to the Pier. If you’re coming on foot, you can take the same route via the pedestrian access sidewalk. The Santa Monica Pier ramp is within easy walking distance of 3rd Street Promenade & Downtown Santa Monica: just head west down Colorado Avenue.

By bike

Bike to the Pier from anywhere along the southern California coast! Take the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (the Strand), a paved path that runs 22 miles along the shore from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades south to Torrance County Beach. Rent or valet bikes at the Santa Monica Bike Center or next to the beach path south of the pier.

By bus

From LAX, Big Blue Bus can take you directly to Santa Monica via Route 3 or Rapid 3. Big Blue Bus also transports riders from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown Santa Monica. Check their schedule for updated timetables. The Metro E Line offers service to Santa Monica from Downtown Los Angeles, Culver City and other Westside Los Angeles locations.

Things to Do at Santa Monica Pier

Stop by the Santa Monica Pier Shop & Visitor Center for area maps, branded apparel, visitor guides and ask for tips and recommendations from knowledgeable staff. If you’re up for the walk, try a historical walking tour. See hidden parts of the Pier, visit the famous Original Muscle Beach and hear stories about celebrity visitors.

Stay at a hotel near the Santa Monica Pier and take in all of the unique adventures and experiences over multiple days.

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Fishing on the Pier

Santa Monica Pier is home to many species of fish, including sea bass and black croaker. You don’t need a fishing license to drop a line off the Pier: at the Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle Co. you can get gear, poles, bait and tips from the locals.

If you’d rather admire the marine life, head to Heal the Bay Aquarium below the carousel for up-close views of indigenous marine life, interactive exhibits and hands-on presentations.

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Find your happy place

Amusement at the Pier

Yahoo Travel named the family-friendly Pacific Park “California’s Best Amusement Park.” The West Coast’s only amusement park located on a pier features the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel: the Pacific Wheel. Santa Monica Pier rides include the West Coaster, a roller coaster towering 55 feet above the Pacific Ocean, plus games, food and shopping. Pacific Park is open year-round, though seasonal hours vary. Learn more in “How to Spend a Day at Pacific Park.”

Take a ride on the wooden horses and sleighs of the Santa Monica Pier Carousel. The famous carousel was built in 1939 in the Looff Hippodrome, a National Historic Landmark and one of the few structures remaining from Santa Monica’s original pier.

Test your skills

Strike up some friendly competition at Playland Arcade, which has over 200 games for the whole family. You’ll find old-school pastimes like skee-ball and pinball alongside newer video games in this classic arcade. Don’t miss getting your picture taken in one of the photo booths.

Fly even higher

The Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Los Angeles is located at the Santa Monica Pier. No prior experience is necessary for the two-hour Flying Trapeze class or the one-hour Aerial Silks class. Adventure seekers over the age of 6 are welcome to swing and soar like Superman.

Get your kicks

Route 66 has many rumored end-of-the-trail locations in Santa Monica. In 2009, the Santa Monica Pier was dedicated as the official western terminus of Route 66, commemorated by a Route 66 sign: a killer backdrop for Pier trip photos. End a Route 66 trek in Santa Monica and pick up a completion certificate at any Santa Monica Visitor Center!

Santa Monica Pier Restaurants

A day of fun can really work up an appetite. Refill and recharge without leaving the Santa Monica Pier. In addition to the food court at Pacific Park and food carts located throughout, the Santa Monica Pier is home to tons of restaurants.

Santa Monica Pier Events

Pier 360 is an all ages festival celebrating the best of beach life. Featuring live music, food and drink vendors, beach sports competition viewing and more, this two day event typically takes place in June on the Santa Monica Pier deck. 

Along with Pier 360, Santa Monica Pier hosts continual programming throughout the year from seasonal Roga (running and yoga) sessions to the family-friendly Front Porch Cinema. Check the Santa Monica Events Calendar for upcoming events.

Don’t Forget Pier Souvenirs!

Grab souvenirs for friends and family or treat yourself to memories of your day on the Pier. In addition to the Pier Shop & Visitor Center, check out these spots for awesome keepsakes:

  • 66-to-Cali: Get your kicks — and your keepsakes — at this stand themed around the historic Route 66.
  • Marlene’s Beachcomber: Find all of your beach needs and plenty of Santa Monica Pier garb at this long-standing institution.
  • Pier Gear: Pick up unique gifts and souvenirs such as sweatshirts, shot glasses, magnets, bottles of beach sand and seashell jewelry.
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