Few locations capture the iconography of Southern California better than the Santa Monica Pier. The beach. The sunshine. The thriving, pulsing crowds and energy. And it’s those exact features that make it a great date spot.
During the summer the beach is going to be the coolest (literally, by temperature) place to be in L.A. And the fact that there’s something for everyone makes it a blast… games, sweets, rides, or just good old-fashioned people watching.
So how do you plan the perfect date at the pier? We’ll break it down below.
Let’s be real, parking in Downtown Santa Monica, especially on a weekend, can be a headache. Luckily, we have an entire article dedicated to planning a car-free day in Santa Monica, which is worth a read if you’re going to visit for a day and/or you’re new to the area.
In any case, we strongly recommend utilizing public transit (either the Expo Line or the Santa Monica bus system) if possible. That said, if part of your date involves driving, just make sure to account for the traffic times getting in and out, as well as the parking costs (they vary by day) associated with the Downtown SM lots.
One of the best things to do at the pier (and that’s free!) is simply soak in the scenery. The throng of tourists, locals, performers, and purveyors can be a little overwhelming at first (especially if you walk up on a Saturday afternoon), but the upside is that there’s always something to see and discuss and laugh about.
A great date, at least in in our book, facilitates communication between the two principals. So don’t be shy, talk to each other!
Games, Rides, and Funnel Cake
Communication might be the foundation of any great date, but the bottom line is, you’ve got to have fun and make it memorable!
Pacific Park, L.A. County’s only admission-free amusement park offers twelve different rides, including the West Coaster, the only west coast, oceanfront, steel roller coaster located on a Pier over the Pacific Coastline. Plus there’s an awesome array of midway games (aka, chances to win your date a big fluffy animal).
Once you’ve hit your limit for games and coasters, be sure to follow it up with a sweet treat (we recommend the funnel cakes!), then cap it off with a ride on the Pacific Wheel. With the big crowd, privacy comes at a premium, so a ride on the wheel provides some much needed one-on-one time, not to mention a killer view of the whole pier.
More Things to do
The nice thing about the pier is there’s lots to do, no matter what your mood or inclination. You and your date could go head to head at skee-ball inside the Playland Arcade, take a flying trapeze lesson at Trapeze School New York, spot some of the sea life inside the Santa Monica Aquarium, or take in some live music at Rusty’s Surf Ranch. If all else fails, just head down to the boardwalk to enjoy a light ocean breeze as the day unwinds.
Stay for the Sunset
One final piece of advice: Make sure you pack a beach towel so you can make the most of magic hour. Right before sunset carve out a spot on south side of the pier and watch as the dusk sun fades and the neon lights up on the big wheel. It is, dare we say, pretty romantic.
Hopefully you’ve had a full (and fun-filled!) day, and if the plan has gone well, you’ve grown a little closer with the person you’ve shared it with.