Santa Monica Pier
The Last of the Great Pleasure Piers
Santa Monica Pier is one of oldest piers in California. It is a great vantage point to see some best views of the Santa Monica Bay. You can see the entire coast from Malibu to Palos Verdes Peninsula and on a clear day you can even see Catalina Island. If you are curious about the price of admission, you will be pleased to know there is no charge to enter the pier. The Santa Monica Pier is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is a must see if you are visiting Santa Monica. This famous pier is within walking distance of Third Street Promenade and offers the one of the most spectacular sunset views in the Los Angeles area.
Attractions at the pier include the popular Pacific Park with a wide variety of amusement rides for everyone. You can also find the National Historic Landmark building of the Looff's Hippodrome, home of the vintage 1922 Santa Monica Carousel. Just below the carousel, at the beach level, visitors may also get a chance to visit the interactive hands-on Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
For the young and old alike, a stroll along the planks of Santa Monica Pier will allow you to be entertained by live street performers, musicians and artists. Your furry friends may go strolling with you but they are not allowed inside the Pacific Park and some other areas. You can also ride your bike to get the pier by taking the bike bath along the beach.
Santa Monica pier is also popular for fishing. Anglers can catch White Sea bass, leopard sharks, tiger sharks and mackerel. A license to fish is not needed to fish at the pier and you can get your fishing gear at the Santa Monica Bait and Tackle, which also has rentals.
The Twilight Dance Series is a series of free concerts that was started in 1983. During the summer on Thursday nights, you will be entertained by local and international throughout the night. The concert starts at 7:00 PM so get there early to get parking and a good spot in front of the stage. Parking is available both on the pier itself or the large parking lot next to the pier, but during popular concerts the lots fill up fast.
Pacific Park can boast to the fact that it is the only amusement park located on a pier and is also the only admission-free amusement park in the Los Angeles area. What more can you ask for? You have the sun, the waves, the beach plus thrilling rides that will take your breath away and leave you craving for more.
Pacific Park offers 12 exciting thrill rides for young and young of heart. The park has a large Ferris Wheel, the Pacific Wheel, which can take you 130 feet above the pier and give you a spectacular view of the ocean and the pier. The Pacific Wheel is not only spectacular when the it lights up at night with its 160,000 LEDs, it was also the first solar power Ferris Wheel. The park also has a five-story tall West Coaster rollercoaster, a nine-story tall Pacific Plunge Tower Ride, a Sea Dragon ride, and the Sig Alert bumper car rides to name a few. Individual rides are $3.00 to $5.00, but you get unlimited rides on most of the attractions if you purchase an all-day wristband. An insider tip is to check if they are selling the wristband at the local Costco in Culver City at almost half the price.
Twilight Dance Series
Santa Monica pier is also home to the Twilight Dance Series a free concert venue during summer. The summer concerts were accidentally started in 1983 after the success of the concerts during Save the Pier Week. This was a campaign to raise funds to save the pier after it was partially destroyed by a winter storm brought on by the El Niño phenomenon. Since then, Santa Monica Pier has hosted the Twilight Dance Series Concerts featuring an eclectic mix of international and local artists.
The concert is on Thursday evenings starting at 7:00 PM during the summer months. Since the concert happens on the pier itself, don't expect to get any form of organized seating. One tip is to come early to get a good spot and bring a cushion or a folding chair to sit on, though you may not be able to see the show during the second act, as everyone may be up on their feet. A popular alternative is to bring a blanket and have a picnic on the beach and listen to the concert, though you will not be able to see the show. Alcoholic drinks are not allowed in the premises and dogs must be kept on a leash.
The Twilight Dance Series has featured popular musicians such as the Indigo Girls, Patti Smith, Los Lobos, Joan Beaz and others from different genres of music. There are surprise musical artist every year so make sure you check the Twilight Dance Series Schedule.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, a marine science aquarium, is a relatively new addition to the pier. It is located beneath the carousel, at the beach level. It was previously known as the Ocean Discovery Center. It is a place to go for families, students or anyone interested in the local marine life. It is open to the public and attracts around 65,000 visitors per year.
This interactive aquarium is operated by Heal the Bay, a non-profit organization, which strives to keep the public aware of the need for environmental preservation. In the aquarium, the staff offers a one-of-a-kind view into the ocean world. Santa Monica Pier Aquarium also includes interactive displays, with lots of materials for kids. Crafts and other activities are offered to entertain your young ones. Kids can have fun in the new Kids' Corner, an interactive place with lots of books, games and puzzles with an underwater theme. The Kids' Corner also has a puppet theater where visitors can create their own characters from a wide array of puppets as they invent their own sea-themed stories. Visitors are also educated on marine conservation and other ecology related issues. All throughout the day, visitors can get to watch short educational films in the Santa Monica Bay Room.
The other exhibits in the aquariums include touch tanks full of marine life such as Sea Stars (Star Fish for you old-timers) sponges and other tidal creatures. There are also large habitat tanks displaying indigenous sea creatures in Santa Monica Bay and their habitats. These tanks include a displays of Sharks, Rays, Moray Eels, and a Sandy Bottom Tank. The aquarium is closed to the public on Mondays.
Fishing on the Pier
Since the pier opened over a 100 years ago, fishing on the Santa Moinca Pier has been popular. For anglers and fishing enthusiast, there are designated spots to take your hook, line and sinkers for a relaxing time spent fishing. You don't need a license to fish on the pier. The massive Santa Monica Pier extends almost 2,000 feet from its entrance on Ocean Avenue. However, only about half of it is actually over the water. Anglers can fish on the deck of the Santa Monica Pier or go to the end of the pier where there are lower levels designed for anglers for better fishing locations. In some strategic spots you can be as close as 10 to 12 feet above the water's surface. The pier is also wheelchair-friendly, with rail heights of 41 inches, specifically designed for wheelchair-bound visitors.
Anglers can catch Pacific mackerel and white croaker, the most common fish at the pier. There are other fish varieties such as queen fish, surfperch, sea perch, halibut, bonito, and sharks. Of course, anglers don't just go there for the fish, they also go for the fun and lively atmosphere the pier offers while waiting for their catch to bite. For an insider tip, if you want to catch mackerel, the best spot is at the end of the pier and if you want croakers and barred surfperch, then go closer to the shore. You may get your fishing supplies and rentals at the Santa Monica Bait and Tackle shop at the end of the pier. The pier caters to the anglers with lights, benches, fish-cleaning facilities and rest rooms.
Santa Monica Pier History
There is an interesting History of the Santa Monica Pier. The pier first debuted on September 9, 1909 as a municipal pier to carry the sewage past the bathers at the beach. The pier was a simple concrete pier with no attractions of amenities. Amusement park entrepreneur Charles Looff built a second pier next to the original pier in 1916. The new pier was built as an amusement pier with a rollercoaster along with other thrill rides. It was not long before both piers were combined as one large pier to compete with the many other amusement piers in Santa Monica Bay at the time.
In 1922, the Santa Monica Carousel opened featuring 44 hand-carved and hand-painted wooden horse in the Looff hippodrome. The carousal has been fully restored and is still in use today. The La Monica Ballroom open in 1924 with a 15,000 square foot dance floor making it the largest dance hall on the West Coast. In the Thirties, a breakwater was created and the pier became home of a yacht harbor.
By the 1960s the amusement piers were in decline in Santa Monica Bay with six piers being demolished. The Santa Monica Pier became the only pier left standing. In 1983, two severe winter storms destroyed one third of the Santa Monica Pier. A movement was started to save the pier. A concert series played during Save the Pier Week and gave birth to the popular Twilight Dance Series which are free concerts performed on the pier throughout the summer.
In 1996 Pacific Park opened as an amusement park featuring many rides including a Ferris Wheel and a roller coaster. On September 9, 2009, the celebration of Santa Monica Pier's 100th birthday. The Santa Monica Pier is still going strong and is a "Must See" for anyone visiting Santa Monica.