Growing up in SoCal, one of my favorite weekend getaways was to Santa Monica, just a few miles west of downtown Los Angeles. This savvy city is all about pleasure on a SoCal sunny day: playing at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, shopping, body surfing, bicycling, and beach combing.
Savvy Tip: Skip down this page for discount wristband offer
It helps that Pacific Park has free admission. And you can sometimes find deals and coupons for the rides (scroll down this page for a link). Pacific Park features a dozen rides, an old ferris wheel, midway games, ocean front foods and seaside shopping, tasty kettle corn, free music during the summer, and beautiful views of the Santa Monica Bay.
Beneath the historic Carousel you’ll find the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, featuring more than 100 species of marine animals and plants. The Aquarium is a popular spot, especially for families. That is, if you can peel the kids away from the roller-coaster and arcade games.
Santa Monica’s wide beach is a fun place to relax (head over to Marlene’s Beachcomber to pick up beach towels, mats, and sunscreen. Or you can rent cruiser and cycle the 22-mile Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail, aka The Strand, along the oceanfront, or all the way south to Torrance. You’ll find several places around the pier to rent bike.
Food and snacks are available all over the Pier, at the food court, or at one of the restaurants: Pier Burger, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Rusty’s Surf Ranch, Soda Jerks, Ristorante al Mare (fine Italian dining), or Mariasol Cocina Mexicana (try their Margaritas).
If a little shopping is on your to-do list, head over to the Third Street Promenade in downtown Santa Monica (pedestrians only) the designer shops and galleries at Santa Monica Place.
Santa Monica also has some fun farmers’ markets that run all year long: Saturdays on the lawn at Virginia Avenue Park, Sundays at the Main Street market in Heritage Square, and both Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Downtown Santa Monica market.
Santa Monica Pier Pacific Park Discount Tickets
- Discount Ride Wristband: Get Unlimited Ride Wristbands here for $10.95 – $39.90 (full price is $17.95 – $75.90).
- Combo Attraction Pass: If you’re doing the tourist thing, you can save up to 55% on top Los Angeles attractions, including Pacific Park, with the Go Los Angeles Card (you’ll pay nothing at the gate). The card lets you choose as few as two or as many as 31 attractions to visit, or as many as you want (the more you see the more you save). Instant access (print or show on your smart phone.)
Know Before You Go
- Address: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Aquarium: Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, California 90401 (on the beach level of the Pier, directly below the historic Pacific Park Carousel).
- Getting There: Take The ramp at the intersection of Ocean and Colorado is your most direct route by car, bike or foot. If you know where you’re coming from,
click here to map your route.
- Parking: To Park on the Pier deck, take the ramp at Ocean and Colorado. Or try one of the two lower lots off Appian Way.
- Airport Shuttle: You can catch a shuttle to/from Los Angeles International Airport, around eight miles south.
- Open Hours: The Pier is always open, but each business on the pier has its own hours. (See Pacific Park hours.)
- Official Info: Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park and Aquarium official website.