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The best things to do at Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a pier at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, California, United States. The pier contains an amusement park, concession stands, and various areas for views and fishing. It is one of the most iconic attractions for those visiting Los Angeles and Southern California. It has a whole week’s worth of attractions packed into a beautiful pier with something for everyone. Read on for the best tips on activities to do and food to eat while you’re at Santa Monica Pier.   

Santa Monica Pier 3 scaled

Admission & Hours

Admission to Santa Monica Pier is free. The games and rides at the pier may have their own cost and depending on what you want to do, your typical day can range from free of charge to a couple hundred dollars. 

The Santa Monica Pier is open all year round and daily hours are 6 am to 10 pm. If you wish to know the time to spend on the pier, you will be able to stroll up and down the pier in under an hour. However, if you wish to get involved in the action you would like to have at least about two hours to yourself. You can easily spend a day at the pier by yourself, but three to four hours is also reasonable. 

Things to do at Santa Monica Pier

  • Pacific Park Amusement Park – It is one of the largest and grandest attractions of Santa Monica Pier and is located right on the pier over the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Park’s legendary Ferris wheel is visible on Santa Monica Beach as well. The park opened in 1996 and has occupied two acres of games, rides, and food for the entire family to enjoy. It is open all year round from 11 am to 9 pm and there is no entry fee required.   
  • Ride the Carousel – The iconic Santa Monica Pier Carousel is situated in the Loof Hippodrome building which is at the far end of the Santa Monica Pier. Remember to take a look at the building itself while you’re riding the carousel as it is one of the oldest buildings on the pier and a historic landmark.   
  • Heal the Bay Aquarium – The aquarium is located on the lower levels of Santa Monica Pier and is open all year-round Wednesday to Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. The cost is $10 for adults and free for children under 12. You will find a wide variety of animal and plant life from Santa Monica Bay including a kelp forest, shark nursery, eels, lobsters, and jellyfish inside the aquarium.   
  • Playland Arcade – The Playland Arcade dates to the 1950s and offers the best 20th-century nostalgia such as air hockey, Skee-Ball, pinball, and foosball. It is located right beside Pacific Park and is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. This is one of the must-visit activities on the pier.   
  • Trapeze School – It is perhaps one of the most unique attractions at Santa Monica Pier. It is right beside the Playland Arcade, and you can watch students training here at Trapeze School. Trapeze and aerial arts students fly through the air in a free show.   
  • Iconic Route 66 sign – The original Route 66 sign is at the very end of the Santa Monica Pier and marks the end of the iconic American highway. You can also visit the Last Stop Shop here for one-of-a-kind “Route 66” merchandise to celebrate the historic American east-to-west route.   
  • Events – Along with all year-round attractions on Santa Monica Pier, there are also special events that take place all through the year. Catch the Santa Monica 360 Beach Festival in June which is free for all ages or check out the PRIDE festival and PRIDE events that happen all month long. During the summer, the pier is the perfect place to spend your 4th of July weekend for the Twilight Summer music series with concerts that run until late August to September. During the non-summer months, meet Santa Monicans at Third Thursday’s Local Nights which happens once a month. There is also Wellness and Waves, which is a weekly community event wholly focused on health and fitness activities.   
Santa Monica Pier 2 scaled


There are plenty of food options located on the pier and in and around Sants Monica as well. Here are some of them listed below.  

  • Soda Jerks – This is inside the legendary carousel building and appeals to nostalgia with classic 1940s American ice cream and soda shop vibes.   
  • PierBurger – It is an all-American burger joint with window service with indoor and outdoor dining.   
  • Bubba Gump Shrimp – It is probably the most famous of all Santa Monica Pier restaurants. It is part of the famous American seafood chain and made famous by the movie ‘Forest Gump’.  
  • Seaside on the Pier – They provide fresh seafood and classic American food in a casual setting.   
  • Cassia – This is an award-winning, high-end South Asian cuisine spot which is recognized as of Los Angeles’s top restaurants. It is one of the more expensive options though.  
  • Birdie G’s – Birdie G’s provides American cuisine with Eastern European influence that is served in a trendy, industrial setting in Bergamot station.   
  • Crudo e Nudo – Local, fresh seafood that is served with a modern Italian twist and set in a very cozy atmosphere.  

How to get there

If you are arriving there by driving, it is located right on the Pacific Coast Highway, which makes it a popular spot for California road trippers that are heading south down the coast. There are a few preferred parking options, and a few of them are given here. 

  • Parking lot on the Pier: 300 Santa Monica Pier
  • Lot 1 North: 1550 Appian Way
  • Hot Dog on a Stick: 1633 Ocean Front Walk

There is also an accessible city transit system available in Los Angeles that offers direct service to Santa Monica every day. The ones coming by foot, take bus 8 Downtown Santa Monica and it will bring you right to the pier at Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue. You can also bike your way there by using LA’s bike share service which is a bike rental platform that reaches all over Los Angeles by bicycle. 


  • Shore Hotel – It is just 0.3 miles from Santa Monica Pier and is one of the best value hotels near Santa Monica Pier. It is in a beautiful location and has wonderful service to boast.
  • Ocean View Hotel – It is just 0.3 miles from Santa Monica Pier and has a seaside view and very friendly and helpful staff. It is very clean, and the beds are very soft.
  • The Georgian Santa Monica – Located just 0.4 miles from Santa Monica Pier and has an amazing view of the pier and the Pacific Ocean.


  • If you have a very limited budget, it is recommended that you eat beforehand or go to one of the coffee kiosks down the beach as it will help you save a couple of bucks.
  • You should save the solar-powered Ferris wheel for the sunset and take in the brilliant views of the horizon.
  • Hotels in Santa Monica can be very budget-friendly, especially if you’re looking to book in advance.
  • It can get quite hot during summer months so make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing.

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