Santa Monica Pier and Beach#1 in Best Things To Do in Santa Monica
Price & Hours
- 5.0Food Scene
Santa Monica's 3 ½ miles of shoreline, known as Santa Monica State Beach, are renowned as some of the area's best thanks to the soft sands, ideal weather and bevy of attractions. In addition to the gorgeous stretch of sand, the beach is home to unique amenities like the Original Muscle Beach (a 1930s-era beach park with retro gym equipment) and the International Chess Park. What's more, the beach offers traditional facilities, such as the North Beach Playground and the Annenberg Community Beach House. But perhaps the beach's best-known attraction is its famous pier.
Stretching from the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Ocean Front Walk (the end of Route 66) to a spot above Santa Monica Bay, the Santa Monica Pier is the beach's most recognizable landmark. Not only will you see it in countless photos of the city, but you'll also catch a glimpse of it in several films, including "Forrest Gump." Some of its most popular amenities include a historic carousel, Heal the Bay Aquarium and Pacific Park, which boasts an assortment of arcade games, rides and food stalls.
According to past travelers, Santa Monica's pier and beach are two area must-sees. In fact, one reviewer described the pier as "a piece of Americana," while others said the beach was beautiful and spacious. However, a few recent visitors lamented the pier's thick crowds and tired appearance, adding that some areas are so uneven that pushing a stroller or getting around in a wheelchair can be challenging.
You'll find the pier a few blocks south of the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place in the middle of the beach. Several parking garages are located by Ocean Avenue and the Pacific Coast Highway, but keep in mind that parking here can be pricey and often fills up fast. Consider parking outside the downtown area, using the Big Blue Bus (Route 1, Rapid 3, Rapid 7 or Rapid 10), riding the LA Metro's Expo Line to the Downtown Santa Monica Station or biking to the beach via the Marvin Braude Beach Trail to save some coin.
The beach is free to visit 24 hours a day, while the pier welcomes visitors for free daily between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Exact hours and prices for the pier's attractions and eateries vary by location. Find out more about the pier and beach by visiting the Santa Monica Pier website and Santa Monica tourism website.
More Best Things To Do in Santa Monica
#2 Third Street Promenade
The Third Street Promenade, which stretches from Broadway (by Santa Monica Place) to Wilshire Boulevard, is a popular shopping destination that has an eclectic vibe similar to its Santa Monica locale. This open-air shopping mall is filled with major chain stores like Urban Outfitters and H&M, as well as more unique boutiques like Kenneth Karmiole, Bookseller Inc., a rare, by-appointment bookshop, and the toys-focused Puzzle Zoo. You'll also find that outdoor dining options – many of which use local ingredients – are plentiful. And if you're in the mood to cook your own meal, you can find fresh produce at the farmers market every Wednesday and Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Despite all of the tempting spending options, the promenade's atmosphere is the main draw for many recent travelers. Unexpected extras like the sculptured shrubs and talented street performers are particularly popular with visitors. Many said the pedestrian-friendly layout made it easy to navigate, though others wished there were fewer homeless residents in the area.
Explore More of Santa Monica
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.