The Santa Monica Pier made its debut in the summer of 1909 and has been impressing locals and visitors ever since. Here you'll find classic amusement park rides, concession stands, areas designated for fishing, an arcade, and 3.5 miles of walking and biking baths.
If there is a move to Santa Monica in the future, you want to set aside a day to explore all the Santa Monica Pier has to offer. Check out this list of great things to do on the pier so you can plan a day you'll never forget:
In The Morning
Before you get to the pier, swing by Jinky's Cafe for a healthy smoothie or a hearty breakfast with a southwestern twist. Sit down for a big plate of Belgian waffles or pancakes, Or go a little crazy and order the famous Banana Nutella Stuffed French Toast. Once you're filled up and ready to go, you can head to the Pier. From this downtown cafe, you're less than 5 minutes to the pier.
In The Afternoon
There is so much to see and do on the Santa Monica Pier, but there are five main attractions that are a must-see when visiting Santa Monica for the first time.
Featured in hundreds of TV shows and movies, Pacific Park is what you think of when you think of the Santa Monica Pier. It's theme park rides, concession stands, arcade games, and endless opportunities for people-watching. Pacific Park is free, but each ride is priced individually. If you want to experience it all, buy a wristband and ride all 12 rides as many times as you want. Some of the most popular rides include:
The Historic Merry-Go-Round
The historic merry-go-round was assembled in 1922 and has 44 gorgeous hand-carved wooden horses. You can’t visit the pier without taking at least one ride on the carousel, complete with upbeat music and colorful lights. Tickets are $2 for adults, $1 for children, and free for children 2 and under.
The boardwalk-style arcade games will transport you right back to your childhood. Basketball hoops, ring toss, water races, whack a mole, and balloon bust are just a few of the carnival-inspired games you’ll find along the boardwalk. For more gaming options, step into the Playland Arcade and spend the afternoon playing skeeball, air hockey, claw games, and foosball.
There are classic arcade games like Street Fighter 2 and Marvel Vs. Capcom, and more than 10 themed pinball machines. The arcade is the longest family-run business on the Pier, and many consider it one of the most iconic arcades in America.
The New York Trapeze School opened on the Santa Monica Pier in 2008 and offers group classes on the ancient art of trapezing. Trapeze School New York offers a variety of classes and workshops to accommodate flyers of all experience levels. Classes range from around $40-$60, and you can choose from flying trapeze classes, silks, trampolines, or aerial hoops. There are youth programs and classes that offer great options for parties and corporate events.
If you’re not feeling up to flying over the pier on a trapeze, just walk by and watch other people do it!
Heal the Bay Aquarium
This interactive marine center features hands-on activities, educational workshops, touch tanks, and family-friendly exhibits that highlight the beauty of the sea. Walk through the aquarium and get a close-up look at over a hundred different species of plants and animals. Check the calendar for community volunteer events, seasonal events, and watch a real shark feeding!
Tickets for adults and kids are $10.00 and kids 12 and under are free with an adult ticket.
In The Evening
The fun on the Santa Monica Pier doesn't stop when the sun goes down. Many locals like to wait until the twilight hours to come down to the pier and experience it at sunset. After a busy day of riding rides, shopping, snacking, and people-watching, you can wind down your day at the Santa Monica Pier with dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp or Pier Burger.
Check the calendar to see if you're visiting during one of Santa Monica's Locals’ Nights. Locals Night happens every third Thursday from September through May and is designed to showcase artists and vendors that are local to Santa Monica. Listen to music from local bands, buy art from local artists, and participate in activities and programs designed to celebrate Santa Monicans.
The Bottom Line
Living in Santa Monica means being just a short drive from one of the nation's most iconic boardwalks. Every time you go you'll see, eat and do something new. It's a great place for people-watching, date nights, family outings, and a night out with friends.