Santa Monica Pier has been entertaining the city's visitors since the early 20th century. It's home to a wealth of traditional seaside attractions, from Pacific Park's looping rollercoaster to a classic carousel of carved wooden horses. Street performers keep the crowds entertained while stalls hawk snacks and cotton candy, much as they have since the pier was built in 1909. After sunset, the bars crowd comes out and entertainers play live music under the stars.

The pier is flanked by the soft white sands of Santa Monica Beach, where you can laze around in the sun or swim and surf in the rolling blue waves. Walk to the end of the pier for the most outstanding views of the California coastline stretching as far as the eye can see in both directions, or have dinner at one of the pier restaurants and enjoy spectacular sunsets with your meal. The Pier is Santa Monica's most photogenic spot.

Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles - one of the highlights of 12 Best Things to Do in Los Angeles and 14 Best Family Things to Do in Los Angeles (Read all about Los Angeles here)

A brief history of Santa Monica Pier

The West Coast's first concrete pier, Santa Monica Pier was built in 1909 and featured a wooden rollercoaster, Wurlitzer organ music and a funhouse. The earliest surviving entertainment from the Pier's history is the Santa Monica Pier Carousel, built in the 1920s by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and made famous when it featured in the 1973 movie The Sting. It was restored in the 1990s and is currently housed in Looff Hippodrome, where you can ride one of 44 hand-painted wooden horses.

The pier is the most westerly point of iconic Route 66, which ends here at the ocean. Take a selfie with the historic marker which commemorates the famous highway. You can grab a photo of the striking neon sign for Santa Monica Yacht Harbor which was installed in 1941. If you want to learn more about the pier's history, free walking tours take place on weekends.

What are the highlights of Santa Monica Pier?

Santa Monica Pier’s biggest draw is Pacific Park, a retro amusement park with rollercoasters, bumper automobiles, pirate ships, and flying teacup rides. It also has the world's first solar-powered Ferris wheel, with panoramic views of the coast from the top of the arch.

There are more classic games at Playland Arcade, a family-owned arcade where you can play skeeball, air hockey, and arcade games like Guitar Hero and Super Mario, or win a cuddly toy at the water shooting galleries.

Head under the pier for Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where you can see local wildlife like two-spot octopus and horn sharks, or gently pet hermit crabs and sea cucumbers in the touch tanks. If you'd rather eat the fish than look at them, there's a bait and tackle shop and dedicated fishing platform at the end of the pier. Stalls dotting the pier sell cotton candy and ice cream, while street acrobats, jugglers, snake charmers and magicians entertain passers-by.

Good to know about Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier is only half a mile south of downtown Santa Monica. You can take the Big Blue Bus, which shuttles visitors between the pier and downtown Los Angeles. Pacific Park and the arcades have no entry fee, only individually priced rides. Bring some small bills with you as they’ll also be useful for tipping the street performers who pass the hat around after every show.

The Original Muscle Beach, where stuntmen, acrobats and bodybuilders practiced in the 1930s and 1940s, is just south of the pier. Next to it is the International Chess Park, where you can play a game on the outdoor tables or jump around on the human-sized chessboard. You can also cycle, skate or walk along the South Bay Bicycle Trail, which passes by the end of the pier and continues for several miles along the coast to Venice Beach.

Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles

Location: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401, USA

Phone: +1 310-458-8900

Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer