Santa Monica Pier and Beach

#3 in Best Things To Do in Los Angeles
Santa Monica Pier and Beach picture1 of 4
Santa Monica Pier and Beach2 of 4
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Key Info

200 Santa Monica Pier

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Beaches, Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.8

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 5.0Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Just west of downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica contains one of the most legendary beach scenes in the United States. Santa Monica also boasts an abundance of great restaurants and excellent nightlife spots. The 3 miles of shoreline are renowned as some of the best in the area thanks to the soft sands, ideal weather and bevy of attractions. "State Beach," as it's known, has over 200 days of sunshine a year and acted as the backdrop for the popular television series "Baywatch."

Santa Monica is a very walkable part of town, and many recent travelers suggest you explore the area by bicycle. Many visitors say the pier is a must-visit spot and fun to see. One of the most scenic rides is along the 22-mile bike path, known as The Strand, which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean and takes riders through Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey along with Venice, Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches. Travelers also recommend riding the Ferris wheel at the pier and people-watching at the Third Street Promenade.

In addition to the famous pier's Ferris wheel, visitors can zip around on a roller coaster, catch lively street performances, play carnival games and grab a bite to eat from one of the food vendors or at a sit-down restaurant. Several bemoaned the high price tag on some of the pier's food and attractions – ride tickets cost $5 to $10 each – but with free entry, your losses will probably be mitigated. The pier is open 24 hours a day, however, hours will vary for local businesses. Parking is plentiful and costs between $7 and $25, depending on the season and lot location. Travelers can also get to the area by taking the Big Blue Bus or riding the Metro's Expo Line to the Downtown Santa Monica station. For more information, check out the Santa Monica Pier's website.

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Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park1 of 26
The Getty Center2 of 26
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Griffith Observatory and Griffith Park

Griffith Observatory sits on the south face of Mount Hollywood and overlooks the Los Angeles basin. Its location gives visitors impressive views of the surrounding area, which many rave about. But there's more than just a pretty photo-op here. The observatory hosts fascinating exhibitions and features a top-notch planetarium.

Most recent visitors cited the beautiful setting as Griffith Observatory's main draw, though the free entry was certainly a bonus. However, you will have to pay between $3 and $7 to see the planetarium shows. Griffith Observatory is open from noon to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, with extended hours on weekends. Free but limited parking is available along the winding roads leading up to the property, or visitors can park in the small lot by the observatory for $10 per hour. A gift shop and cafe can be found on-site as well. For more information, check out Griffith Observatory's website.

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