There's lots to do on the Santa Monica Pier besides just fishing or watching the surfers from above. There are restaurants, an aquarium, an old fashioned carousel and a mini theme park called Pacific Park. The Playland Arcade features modern and also vintage video games.
A Little History
This historic pier originally opened a little over a century ago, in 1909. It started out as a long wooden municipal pier, and later a wider pleasure pier was built next to it. The amusement park was built by Charles Loof, the same bloke who built Coney Island's first carousel. What you see today are the 2 piers combined.
Much of the pier was destroyed by storms in the 80's, but it was rebuilt and reopened in 1990.
The original amusement park had a wooden roller coaster, a fun house with a long slide, and other rides. That was later replaced with a few rides for little kids, and then in 1996 Pacific Park opened.
Pacific Park in Santa Monica has various thrill rides, including a roller coaster which twists and turns and careens with screaming riders above everyone's head as they walk around the park. There are also rides like the Pacific Wheel Ferris Wheel, the Pacific Plunge and more.
There's no admission fee into the park, but you pay a few dollars per ride. Or you can buy unlimited ride wristbands.
Food stands offer ice cream, dippin' dots and other fun foods. There are also fun zone games where you can try your hand at winning a stuffed animal or two.
You can find this historic carousel indoors at the front of the pier. A few vintage arcade games from the early 20th century line the inside walls of the building. This building is the historic Hippodrome, built in 1916. The HIppodrome is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today's carousel was built in 1922 and hand carved. It was originally on the Venice Pier, but moved here in 1947. The carousel was restored in 2002.
This is a very small aquarium located under the pier at the front. Kids are free, and adults are a few dollars. You can go in and stick your hand in the touch tanks, while knowledgeable staff tell you what you're touching.
Inside, there are hundreds of species found in Santa Monica Bay. This primarily educational aquarium is run by the Heal The Bay organization. They are closed on Mondays.
Rusty's Surf Ranch is located in the historic Billiards Building on the pier, which used to house a bowling alley and billiards tables. Rusty's has food, entertainment and a really cool display of vintage surfboards.
The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is themed from the movie Forest Gump, which was partially filmed on the pier. They serve lots of fried shrimp and other things in a family style atmosphere.
Santa Monica Pier Seafood has fresh seafood, fried seafood and clam chowder.
Mariasol Restaurant is found at the end of the pier. They serve Mexican food with great views.
The Santa Monica Pier is found at the end of Colorado Avenue. There is a huge lot to the right of the pier, and another lot on the left side of the pier itself. Parking fees can range widely, depending on the season.
Alternatively, you can park in the parking garage at Santa Monica Place (down the street) for a couple of hours free if you get your ticket validated at one of their shops or restaurants.
A 2 hour metered parking lot can be found to the left of Colorado Ave. between Oceanfront Walk and Appian Way.Home > More on visiting Santa Monica > Santa Monica Pier