Attraction of the Week: The Santa Monica Pier
You’ve seen it in countless movies and TV shows. It marks the official end of Route 66. The long-running amusement park is a historic landmark itself which has been entertaining both locals and visitors for over 100 years. The iconic Santa Monica pier opened on September 9, 1909, with 2009 marking the 100th anniversary. Although touristy and more crowded than other area beaches, a visit to the famous Santa Monica Beach & Pier is a must at least once, if anything just to take some photos and enjoy a ride on the historic roller coaster.
Hop on the famous “Strand” bicycle path
First and foremost, Santa Monica is a gorgeous beach, with the amazing Santa Monica mountains providing a stunning backdrop. From here, you can easily hop on the Marvin Braude path aka “The Strand” for a leisurely bike ride. This 22 mile long recreational path connects all of L.A.’s great beach towns. Views of the gorgeous Pacific Coast accompany you the entire route.
Not only is the Strand a convenient means of transportation between beaches, but also a much less stressful alternative to endless driving around attempting to find parking. The path technically starts a few miles down at Will Rogers Beach, famous for being the filming location for Baywatch. Will Rogers is a gorgeous beach, so if you are a Baywatch fan, you may want to ride over. Othwerise, simply start the path a few miles shy in Santa Monica.
The views along The Strand are breathtaking the entire way. You will get to see lots of unique sights that you would miss out on by simply driving separately to each beach town. From volleyball games in action, to surfers enjoying the waves, to unique street performers in Venice, the people watching opportunities are really endless.
The coastal views are out of this world. Hop off your bike for a while and explore the unique shops in Venice, take a relaxing stroll along the pier at Manhattan Beach, fuel up with a smoothie, or simply relax in the sand for a bit – there are endless options for relaxing and sightseeing along the way! It doesn’t get much better in terms of scenic views, fitness, and excitement all rolled into one on a single bike path!
Scenes from the bike trail
There is so much going on and so much to do, not to mention the endless views of the Pacific, that you will probably want to continue down all the way to Torrance, which marks the official end of this breathtaking path. Just remember it will be another 20 miles back if you complete the entire one way session! The views, people watching, fun activities and unusual sights, and gorgeous coastal views will keep you going. Plus, the path is flat and fast. It’s a great fitness workout, a fun day out in the sun, and an entertaining way to explore all L.A. has to offer.
The official end of historic Rt. 66
The Santa Monica Pier marks the official end of Route 66 aka “The Mother Road.” It’s definitely a must see for any fans of Route 66 as there is a great photo opp by the sign, not to mention endless souvenirs and knick knacks to add to your collection.
You are bound to see some crazy entertainment along the way!
And of course…stunning views!
The Pier amusement park
The Pacific Park Amusement park is one of the main reasons so many tourists flock to Santa Monica. Highlights at the pier include carnival style games, a small aquarium, a solar powered Ferris Wheel, and a historic carousel. You can also sign up to take a double decker bus tour of celebrity mansion homes in Malibu via Starline Tours. Charles I. D. Looff, known as a master designer of handcrafted carousels, built the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome building which houses the carousel. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
The steel roller coaster is the real highlight at the Santa Monica Pier and the only ride really worthy of shelling out 12 bucks. It’s an absolute must! Who wouldn’t love amazing coastal views combined with fun drops, twists, and turns?! No upside loops so you can easily snap a few photos! Yes, it’s a bit pricey for a single ride, however, worth it for a ride on the only pier oceanfront coaster out West! Other rides include the pirate ship, the scrambler, a small drop, and a few kiddie rides.
Check out these views from the rollercoaster!
Overall, a visit to the Santa Monica Pier is a worthy addition to any L.A. area vacation, especially in the case of first time visitors. A few hours exploring all the sights makes for an entertaining and memorable 1/2 day out. If you are into Route 66 nostalgia, fitness (the bike path is one of the country’s best), or just looking for a relaxing beach day along with great views, then a visit to the Santa Monica Pier will be a great addition to your trip itinerary.
Other recommended activities in Santa Monica
Third Street Promenade – Third Street is a beautiful area to dine and shop. There’s plenty of attractions here including both chain and local restaurants, a movie theater, and lots of shopping.
Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains – The beautiful Los Liones Canyon trail is just a short drive away from the beach. This easy 1.5 mile out-and-back hike features breathtaking views of Santa Monica Bay and great views of the L.A. skyline.
The Original Muscle Beach – Muscle Beach originally started in Santa Monica, not Venice. Founded in 1934, it later closed and bodybuilding competitions shifted over to a new location in Venice. Today, the gymnastics equipment is an open playground to explore.
Address & Parking Info
The address for the pier is: 350 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401. You can attempt to find free street parking (easier early in the morning or park in one of the many parking garages).