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Holidays at the Santa Monica Pier

Published on November 26, 2018

Every holiday season, visitors and locals alike visit the Santa Monica Pier. With warm days extending throughout the month of December in LA, the Pier is a great place to take in the beach without getting in the chilly Pacific waters. The Pier attractions celebrate the holiday season in many ways. Here’s a few highlights to consider when planning your trip to Santa Monica around the holidays this year:


See the fun holiday-themed lights on the world-famous Pacific Wheel

The Pacific Wheel is a fixture on the Los Angeles coastline. Every night, it’s dancing and dazzling light programs shine from Malibu to Redondo, are often featured on TV, and contribute to the Pier’s “Most Instagrammable” status. Wheel light programs change seasonally, and, on special holidays, the Wheel may feature custom programming in celebration. During the holiday season, the Wheel has featured a waving snow man, sparkling Christmas tree, and even a running Rudolf the Reindeer, blinking-nose and all!

The lights are turned on a few minutes before sunset each day so that the lights slowly become visible as the evening light fades. December has the longest nights of the year, so the lights are visible as early as 4:30 PM. Twilight or just after is the best time for photos when there’s still a little glow from the setting sun left in the sky. The beach south of the Pier is a great place for taking photos of the Wheel with the Pier and evening glow in the background. When sharing photos on social media, be sure to tag us (@pacpark) or use the hashtag #PacificPark so we can check them out.


Get your photo taken with a mermaid

You might be planning to stand in line at the mall so you can get a photo with Santa Clause, but you could defy your family’s holiday card expectations this year by sending a photo with you next to two fully-costumed mer-people. The Santa Monica Pier Corporation is offering a unique holiday photo opportunity at the Santa Monica Pier in partnership with Mermaid Wrangler Photography.

The mer-people will be at the Pier from 3-7 PM each Friday in December before Christmas, and thanks to sponsors the Santa Monica Public Library and Dark Tide Productions, these colorful and kitschy photos are free! Be sure to tag your mer-photos so we can share them on Instagram.


Find that perfect gift shopping on the Pier

The Santa Monica Pier has gift shops and souvenir carts year-round. You can find just about anything for the beach-lover in your life. Gifts like a Santa Monica Lifeguard sweatshirt or snow globe make great gifts anytime of the year. If you think you’ve seen all the beachy-gifts the Pier has to offer, then you’ve never experienced UniqueLA. This artisan-focused marketplace started in December of 2008 and instantly became the largest ‘buy local’ shopping event in the country. Every year close to 50k attendees come to discover independent designers/artists and buy local at the various markets they hold around the country. For one weekend only, this eclectic menagerie of artisans and craft makers pop-up on the Santa Monica Pier offering gifts and sundries that range from hand-made soaps to one-of-a-kind art.


Enjoy unique holiday dishes at Smorgasburg

Smorgasburg is the largest weekly open-air food market in Los Angeles. The market features over 90 food and shopping vendors. For two weekends a year, Smorgasburg comes to the west side and fills the Pier’s parking deck with LA’s top foodie must-eats. Smorgasburg started in Brooklyn, New York and was quickly dubbed “The Woodstock of Eating.” The market features unique pop ups, start-up chefs, and family run eateries that offer the visitor a literal smorgasbord of bites and snacks. Smorgasburg LA’s winter edition happens Saturday, December 8th just outside the east gate of Pacific Park.


See the Sea Dragon’s Village art displays in the windows of the carousel building

Harkening back to department stores in Manhattan, the famous Looff hippodrome building gets in the holiday spirit by featuring window displays that highlight fun holiday themes. This year, LA-based artist Myriad Slits has created dioramas of an undersea wonderland with seahorses, jelly fish, sand castles, and a long, reticulating sea dragon. The carousel building will also host several holiday parties and events throughout the holiday season. When no events are taking place, be sure to take a ride on the historical carousel inside.


Go ice skating outside at Downtown Santa Monica’s Ice

Every winter, an outdoor skating rink is erected at 4th street between Arizona Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. For $15 you can have the novel experience of lacing up a pair of ice skates and sliding around an 8,000 square foot rink of solid ice in the warm SoCal sun. Very few cities in the world offer the opportunity to enjoy a traditional winter recreation like ice skating paired with walking down to the water’s edge to catch some sun on the beach. The season runs from early November through mid-January and the event organizers offer cabana rentals, family-friendly games, and special events throughout the season.


Bob Baker Marionettes Dance at the Carousel

Bob Baker Marionette Show

The Bob Baker Marionettes have been a cultural institution in LA for over 50 years. These suspended puppets are the passion of the late Bob Baker who began as a puppeteer and toy maker in his teens. Baker’s company provided creative projects across Los Angeles, from puppetry and design on Disneyland’s Main Street, to countless contributions in film and television. Baker and partner, Alton Wood, turned a scenic shop in downtown LA into a family entertainment institution: The Bob Baker Marionette Theater. The Bob Baker Marionettes have performed around the globe (even on Navy ships and submarines!), with an inventory of nearly three thousand puppets.

This winter, the Marionettes come to the Santa Monica Pier for a series of holiday-themed performances at the Carousel. On select Thursdays, there will be 2 shows (6 & 7 PM nightly) open to the public. This is a FREE event, so come see these wonderful marionettes as the dance and sing for the holidays.

Photo courtesy of Bob Baker Marionette.