It’s a very popular attraction, so it’s packed day and night. Early morning is still your best bet: watch the surfers doing their thing, and perhaps take a dip yourself!
For more than 100 years, the iconic entrance of Santa Monica Pier has welcomed visitors to one of Los Angeles’ most recognised tourist spots. In its current form, Santa Monica Pier is actually the combination of two individual piers built in 1909 and 1916. It holds arcades, carousels, a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and an aquarium over the waters, in addition to an array of bars and restaurants. But the main thing is the view: stretching hundreds of metres out into the Pacific, amid its rolling blue waves, the pier offers a view of the entire coast from Malibu to Palos Verdes Peninsula.
All manners of street performers, musicians and artists can be found along the pier, so it might take quite a while to walk the length through all the entertaining distractions. However, a stop at Pacific Park is a must, particularly if kids are in tow, as is a stop at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium where there are all sorts of hands-on interactions with knobbly crustaceans. The pier is also popular for fishing, and a license is not required. Head to Santa Monica Bait and Tackle and you can rent some fishing gear; people have been known to catch White Sea bass, mackerel and even small sharks from the pier!
Just south of the pier you can find the Original Muscle Beach, where the California fitness craze really kicked off in the 1930s. Whether you think its admirable or amusing, you can ogle the muscle men with their bulging veins and popping eyes as they enjoy a very public work-out. An amusing contrast can be found close by at the International Chess Park, where young battle old, and trained mathematicians duke it out with homeless folks. Colourful company and sparky contests guaranteed.
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