Most of the year, you can find visitors of the Santa Monica Pier strolling under the sun and enjoying the balmy breezes in the evening.
The amusement park, Pacific Park is home to the iconic Ferris wheel that most people recognize as the Santa Monica Pier. The colorful wheel stand 9 stories over the wooden pier deck helping make the seaside location one of the most photographed destinations in all of Los Angeles. The Pacific Wheel, which happens to be the first solar-powered wheel in the world, is just one of 12 exciting rides that inside the amusement park.
If you are planning a visit to the Santa Monica Pier, use this guide to learn about the various rides and businesses on the Pier, including operating hours and more. Afterward, you can plan for your family to be among the 10 million people who enjoy the hotspot every year.
Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier
The Park is scheduled to be open 7 days a week all year long. Operating hours vary throughout the year based off of historic and expected visitor trends. The Park usually opens around 11 AM. During off peak months in the fall and winter, the Park may open at 12 noon on weekdays. During the busy summer months and holidays, the Park sometimes opens an hour earlier at 10 AM.
During these same busy summer months when the sun sets later and evening weather is still warm, the Park will stay open until 10 or 11 PM and midnight on weekends. During the off peak months of fall and winter, the Park will close the rides closer to 8 PM, but sometimes as early as 6 PM. For up-to-date operating schedules, check pacpark.com/hours; the operating calendar is published at the start of each year.
Special events such as Hollywood film productions and private fundraisers will sometimes close the all or part of the amusement park and portions of the pier. Most special events are only for a couple of hours and the Park works with most film productions to keep closures limited.
Inclement weather can also have an effect on the amusement park’s operating hours. Even small amounts of rain can trigger a temporary closure of some rides. High winds and lightning are also factors for park operations. Although not common in southern California, thunderstorms and active cloud-to-ground lightning have been factors for local emergency services to request the closure of the entire pier.
During off-peak months, Pacific Park sometimes goes into limited operation Monday-Thursdays, particularly earlier in the day. This decision is usually made on a day-by-day basis contingent on the weather and number of people in the Park. Limited operation can mean a limited number of rides, games, or food outlets will be open, or that parts of the Park will be closed completely. Typically, limited operation during this time of year means the family share rides and midway games will be in rotation and that a limited number of food & beverage carts open. The primary dining options (Scoop Ice Cream and Treats, Beach Burger, and The Pacific Wheel Pizza Company) and marquee rides (Pacific Wheel, Sea Dragon, West Coaster) are typically unaffected by these types of rotational operations.
The Park strongly encourages guests to check the Park’s website for the current operating schedule prior to visiting and recognize the special events and weather may change the operating hours with little notice.
The Historic Santa Monica Carousel
Dating back to the 1920s, the Pier’s historic merry-go-round is housed in the 1920’s Looff Hippodrome—the oldest building on the Pier. Choose from 44 horses, one rabbit, two sleighs, and one goat as you and your family enjoy this National Historic Landmark. Tickets are $1 for children over 2 years old and $2 for adults.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday, closed Tuesday and Wednesday
Worth noting: You can book your next birthday party at the carousel!
The Playland Arcade has more than 200 games for kids of all ages. Classics, like PacMan and air hockey, stand the test of time against Dance Dance Revolution, rifle shooting games, and other modern games.
Hours: Opens daily at 9 a.m. in the summer and 10 a.m. the rest of the year. Closes at 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 12 a.m. on Sundays
Worth noting: You can win tickets to redeem for prizes, like a giant Slinky or a big handful of candy
Santa Monica Pier Shops & Visitor Center
If you’re looking for guidance or information about Santa Monica, be sure to visit the Santa Monica Pier Shop & Visitor Center. The trained staff offers local advice, guides, maps, and information on nearby hotels, museums, galleries, and events. The area also contains a small souvenir shop for you to pick up something at the end of the day.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, but closed on Tuesdays.
Worth noting: Visitor center staff and multilingual
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Run by the nonprofit Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium features more than 100 different sea flora and fauna that live in the Santa Monica Bay. The touch tanks and daily educational activities will make a splash with kids. Admission is $7 for adults and kids over 13 years old, with a $2 discount for California residents with IDs. Free entry for children under 12.
Hours: 12:30 to 5 p.m. daily
Worth noting: Closed on Christmas Day; Story Time scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturdays
Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals
Blazing Saddles has been a mainstay on the Pier for 40 years and rents everything from surfboards and boogie boards to umbrellas, chairs, mats, and volleyballs. They also rent a variety of bicycles: cruisers, electric bikes, children’s bikes, tricycles, choppers, and tandems. If you’d like to learn more about the area, feel free to schedule a bike tour!
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Worth noting: Talk to them about Perry’s Beach Butler service for a lazy afternoon at the beach
There are plenty of souvenir shops worth browsing while you visit the Santa Monica Pier. Marlene’s Beachcomber and 66 to Cali are just some of the many businesses to duck into for something special to remember your time at the Pier. Marlene’s Beachcomber is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. 66 to Cali is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.
When it comes to restaurants, be sure to check out local favorites, such as Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica Pier, which is open from 11 a.m. until midnight. If you want to catch your own dinner, visit the Santa Monica Pier Bait and Tackle—open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
All of the businesses on the Santa Monica Pier are independently owned and operated. Hours may change for holidays and special events. Check their websites to confirm hours and offerings.
Feature image courtesy of @eatmytravel.