Is It Any Good?

A Santa Monica icons…

The Santa Monica Pier is one of those things that you take for granted as an Angeleno. I mean, when making up a list of things to do with you’ve got friends coming into town, it’s doubtful that the Pier will make the top ten. But, maybe it should.

The Pier itself is actually two piers, once owned separately. According to Wikipedia:

The long, narrow Municipal Pier opened September 9, 1909, primarily to carry sewer pipes beyond the breakers, and had no amenities. The short, wide adjoining Pleasure Pier to the south, a.k.a. Newcomb Pier, was built in 1916 by Charles I. D. Looff and his son Arthur, amusement park pioneers.


The Carousel was built in 1922 on the Pleasure Pier and features 44 hand-carved horses. It was rebuilt in 1990 inside the Looff Hippodrome. A calliope provides musical accompaniment.


The La Monica Ballroom opened in 1924 and closed in 1962. The La Monica Ballroom was the home of Spade Cooley television broadcasts in the early fifties. In 1955, the ballroom became the Hollywood Autocade housing over 100 unusual cars. From 1958 until 1962 it served as a roller skating rink, first as Skater’s Ballroom and then Santa Monica Roller Rink. The speed skating club won many state and regional championships. The bridge to the pier and entry gate was built in 1938 by the federal Works Project Administration, and replaced the former grade connection.


The Looff Pier, then known as Newcomb Pier, was acquired by the city in the 1953. In the 1960s various plans were proposed that would entail removal of the pier. The strangest one called for the construction of an artificial island with a 1500-room hotel. It was approved by the City Council, but citizens formed “Save the Santa Monica Bay” to preserve the pier. The outstanding order to raze the pier was revoked by the city council in 1973.

So, on the one hand, one of the reasons we may not have the Pier in our Top Ten is that it’s basically a tacky amusement park jutting out over the water, with scores of stands selling terrible beach food, and selling overpriced Beachcomber bric-a-brac that you probably don’t want to buy.

On the other hand, it’s…jutting…out…over…the water. C’mon, man.

Now, granted, coming here will put you in competition with a thousand other Tourists climbing over themselves to get into the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. (I mean, seriously? All the places in L.A., and you’re going to go to a Merchandizing franchise?) You’ll be competing with all the people who regularly go to the Pier to fish…yes, fish. You’ll be over the one beach in L.A. that probably sucks (Most natives I’ve spoken to feel that Santa Monica Beach is just a little too close to the city, and therefore more than a little nasty).

But dude…outoverthe water.

There is something about that sea breeze, about hearing your feet flip flop across the wooden structure that snaps you right out of Los Angeles-mode. And once you stare out into the expanse that is the Pacific Ocean, there is no place you’d rather be.

If you’ve got visitors coming to town, as I did, schedule this little pit-stop early. After dealing with LAX, and the traffic, and the drivers, coming here just might convince them that living in California is actually worth it.


PARKING: The Pier has…parking. (It’s not a garage, and its hard to call it a lot). I think you’re going to find Street Parking nearly impossible to find, unless its crack-of-dawn early in the morning on Ocean Avenue. I suggest doing what I did, parking at Santa Monica Place, the local mall, and walking the two blocks over to the Pier. Afterward, skip the blah offerings at the Pier, and have lunch inside the Air-conditioned cool of the mall, which actually has a number of really good dining options.


The Santa Monica Pier
200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A
Santa Monica, CA