The iconic Santa Monica Pier - featured in Hollywood movies like Titanic, Forrest Gump, and They Shoot Horses Don't They? - is living history and modern seaside family fun at its finest.
It is home today to some of Santa Monica's most popular attractions: Pacific Park, the West Coast's only amusement park located on a pier; the Santa Monica Aquarium; a 1930s-era carousel; and a variety of entertainers, restaurants, and shops.
You can also play more than 200 games at the Playland Arcade; fly over the Pier with the greatest of ease at trapeze school; even go fish with local anglers (you don't need a fishing license to drop a line off the Pier) at the Pier's western end.
It's easy to spend an entire day - or night - exploring the westernmost terminus of Route 66: Santa Monica Pier.
Located at the foot of Colorado Avenue, the Pier was built in 1909 and quickly gained a reputation among locals as the best fishing spot in Santa Monica. It was designated a Santa Monica historic landmark in 1976.
The Pier is also home to an original carousel hippodrome that opened in 1916. The Loof Hippodrome today is a designated National Historic Landmark.
Still a favorite local fishing spot, today the Pier is also wildly popular for its weekly outdoor concerts under the stars each fall. The events are free to the public.
The iconic neon Santa Monica Yacht Harbor sign gracing the entrance to the Pier? It too is a slice of Santa Monica living history, unveiled in 1941.
There's so much more to tell, and you can get the full story on a Free Historical Walking tour, offered Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and noon.
No need to RSVP; interested visitors need only show up at the Pier Shop at the historic Merry-Go-Round (Carousel) building before tour time, and look for the blue-shirted Pier docents.
Pacific Park Santa Monica is the only admission-free amusement park in Los Angeles. It also holds the distrinction as the West Coast's only family amusement park physically on an oceanfront pier.
While getting into Pacific Park is free, you'll have to pay between $3 - $20 a ride if you want to do more than look, however.
All day access wristbands with unlimited rides are a lot more cost effective if you'll be making an afternoon of it here. The rides, however, are just the beginning.
The amusement park is also home to Playland Arcade, a classic arcade where you can indulge in more than 200 games from pinball to skeeball and beyond.
If watching fish is more your style, check out the Santa Monica Aquarium under the Pier below the carousel hippodrome, at 1600 Ocean Front Walk.
The Aquarium offers up-close views of indigenous marine life. Stop by for interactive exhibits and hands-on presentations.
Weekends, check out Shark Sundays from 3:30 - 4 p.m. to feast on a little shark knowledge while the resident swell and horn sharks chow down.
When was the last time you tried something new and really out of your comfort zone? I thought so. If you're feeling daring, you can fly above the Pier with the greatest of ease at Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Santa Monica.
No prior experience is necessary for the two-hour Flying Trapeze class or the one-hour Aerial Silks class. Adventure seekers over the age of 6 are welcome to swing and soar like Superman.
You definitely won't go hungry here - and you don't even have to leave the Pier to refuel. Pacific Park offers over-the-ocean dining options.
There is also a food court at Pacific Park, and food carts located throughout the Pier. Suffice it to say there's little chance you'll go hungry for any length of time here.
You can print a Santa Monica parking map here. There is parking on the Pier deck, accessible via the ramp at Ocean Avenue and Colorado.
There are also two lower lots accessible via Appian Way. Fees vary depending on the season and the location of the lot.
The Pier is always open, and always fun, year-round. But check with individual business for specific hours of operation.
Get more information on Parking in Santa Monica here.