Taking a trip to SoCal is a dream for many. Every year millions of visitors head west to take their family on the ultimate Southern California adventure by sharing thrilling days at Disneyland, spending endless sun-filled days on the beach, and visiting the most instagrammable place in LA — the Santa Monica Pier.
There’s only so much time in the day, though, and many want to know: “Can you do Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier in one day?”
Disneyland and Los Angeles are a hotbed for Southern California tourism, and one of the most important things a vacationing family can do if they want to visit both is to learn about the nuances of the southern California commute.
Can You Do Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier in One Day?
While technically, you can make the drive from Disneyland to the Santa Monica Pier in one day, guests wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy all that both destinations have to offer. Wait times at Disneyland can get long, so guests would be wise to ensure that they have all the time they need to see and enjoy everything they came to see at SoCal’s most popular tourist destination. The Santa Monica pier, on the other hand, can be enjoyed in a half a day or can be stretched into a full day if desired.
So, how long does it take to get to the Santa Monica Pier from Disneyland? Southern California traffic can be unforgiving at times. What may be a simple 45-minute drive on one day could end up taking 3 hours on another day, depending on the time of day and roadblocks drivers encounter. If visitors try to see too much in too short a time, they could end up staring at taillights longer than they do enjoying themselves.
If you want to visit both Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier, then a little planning will make your time at both even better, and rest assured, there is absolutely no shortage of things to do in LA once you get there!
Navigating the Drive From Disneyland to the Santa Monica Pier
Finding an open pocket of traffic during the day can be difficult. Traffic tends to begin around 6am most days and can continue towards midnight. The most difficult time is rush hour, which can begin as early as 3pm and last well into the evening. Sometimes drivers are lucky and enter traffic during a moment of congestion relief, but those moments can be rare and counting on them may hinder your plans.
The shortest distance between Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier is the 5 North to the 10 West. However, many commuters go back and forth between Santa Monica and other locations in Southern California for work, which can sometimes turn the 10 freeway into a parking lot for hours.
Different routes utilizing various highways are numerous, but there’s no denying that it’s difficult to escape once visitors get locked into a chunk of traffic.
The Best Way to Get From Disneyland to the Santa Monica Pier
For visitors who would like to combine their trip to Disneyland with a trip to LA and the Santa Monica Pier, one of the best options would be to make the drive at night. Visitors can help ease their commute from one destination to another by checking out of their Anaheim hotel in the morning and planning to arrive in Santa Monica that night.
Spend the day of your life at Disneyland and then, just before the park closes, head straight to Santa Monica while the traffic congestion is at a low point. Check into your beautiful and unique Santa Monica hotel by the beach, get a good night’s rest to the sound of waves crashing, and wake up to the warm sea air invigorating you for the second half of your dream Southern California vacation.
There Are Many Other Things to Do in LA When Visiting Disneyland
Even if you’re only spending one day in LA before heading to LAX, it’s better to stay in a local hotel—if only for the convenience of getting to the airport with little hassle. There’s plenty to do in LA if you wake up in Santa Monica and have to be at the airport for an evening flight. This list will cover a few things to do in LA on and around the Santa Monica Pier for visitors who only have a day and for those who have a little more time…
Step 1: Luggage Storage
This step is for visitors who have just arrived and cannot immediately check in to their hotel or those who have checked out of their hotel and have some time to spend in the area before departing. There is no luggage storage on the Santa Monica Pier, and rolling luggage across the wooden planks of the Pier is challenging.
If you’ve just checked out of your hotel and need a place to store your bags while you enjoy the surrounding sights, then, check with your hotel first. Many accommodations are happy to store their guest’s luggage for a few hours.
There are also additional options for luggage storage near the Santa Monica Pier for those who do not have the option at their hotel.
Step 2: The Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park
Disneyland isn’t the only amusement park to visit in Southern California. Pacific Park is located right on the Santa Monica Pier, and this venue offers guests a dozen rides, midway games, ocean-front food outlets, and excellent shopping. It’s also LA’s only admission-free amusement park. Guests are free to explore the Pier and the Park and only have to pay for the rides and games they wish to enjoy—and at a fraction of the Disney cost. It’s home to the West Coaster roller coaster and, of course, the iconic Pacific Wheel—the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel—seen in every picture of the Santa Monica Pier.
Step 3: Third Street Promenade
A stone’s throw away from the Pier is the Third Street Promenade. This 3-block stretch is known for its substantial shopping options, restaurants, and street performances. Visitors can enjoy a leisurely walk along the path, taking in the pristine weather and unique public performances before heading to the last destination.
Step 4: Santa Monica State Beach
Just down the steps of the Santa Monica Pier lies a 3.5-mile stretch of wide-open sand and ocean. Visitors can enjoy an ice cream from the Pier as they walk along the California coastline with their feet in the water, play on any of the playgrounds, rent and ride bikes, or simply sit down in the sand to enjoy the world-renowned California sunset.
Bidding Farewell to LA and Southern California
Looking back on a trip to Disneyland and LA, visitors want to recall the happiness and fulfillment in each moment, knowing they made the right choice in visiting Southern California. Both Disneyland and the Santa Monica Pier have wonderful experiences to offer guests, and visitors who plan their vacations well will be able to enjoy both destinations to the fullest. And when the time comes to board at LAX, they will know that they made the right choice by choosing to spend the night and take the time to enjoy everything LA has to offer.
Feature image by @jennydisneydreams