Los Angeles is famous for a multitude of reasons and one of the most fun and famous is Santa Monica and its boardwalk planked pier; loaded with rides, restaurants, and arcade.
This beautiful seaside town, located south of Malibu and north of Venice Beach just off Coast Highway offers three-and-a-half miles of coastline, an average of 340 days of sunshine a year, and a quintessential California beach experience. For adults out for a day of fun in the sun or families looking for the perfect way to please the whole bunch, you can’t go wrong with Santa Monica Beach.
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Breakfast at Wexler’s Deli
Start your day at the Wexlers Deli located on Santa Monica Boulevard for breakfast or to pick up some picnic essentials. They offer a combination of traditional New York style items, such as the smoked salmon and cured fish as well as European inspired dishes. For breakfast order fresh-squeezed orange or carrot juice and homemade granola, or if you are looking for a more hearty meal try the buckwheat waffle with berries, smoked salmon eggs Benedict or the matzo brei. If you choose to pick up lunch to go, their deli menu will not disappoint. Offering all the usual suspects, as well as a few vegetarian options this is a first-class way to picnic.
Time at the Beach
From here, make your way a few blocks west, to the city’s greatest natural asset, a stretch of broad sandy coastline that sits on part of the longest beach path of its kind in the world. The trail stretches 22 miles from Malibu to the north and Torrance in the south and is where you will find bikers, skaters, walkers, joggers and performers.
After scoping out the beach, claim your spot in the sand. Not too close to the bike path and near enough to the water to feel the ocean breeze and keep an eye on the kids, then settle in. Soak up the sun, ride a few waves, walk the sandy shore.
Bike or Skate on the Boardwalk
If you and your family enjoy a more active exploration of the beach scene, rent bikes or rollerblades from one of the nearby shops such as Segway. For a few bucks, this is a great way to experience the local mode of transportation as well as check out more of the famous bike path.
Head south towards Venice Beach and take in the entertaining phenomenon of artists, musicians, performers, vendors, and the world-famous Muscle Beach. This renowned workout spot is a true sight to behold. After checking out the tanned and muscled men, weave your way north, back through Venice’s eccentricities. At this point, you may think, ‘Only in California’!
Stop midway back for a picnic lunch at one of the many benches or grassy areas- or try the Fig Tree Café on the Venice Boardwalk. They offer an outdoor patio and lots of organic and local food options.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
Next, continue north to Santa Monica and visit the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
Housed at beach level under the pier, the Aquarium features hands-on presentations and interactive exhibits of organisms from Santa Monica Bay. Programs and resources include books, crafts, story hours and films.
Route 66 Sign at the Santa Monica Pier
Afterward, head up and onto the Santa Monica Pier- the finish line to the famous Route 66. The 1080-foot-long pier dates back to 1909, and today is home to the 1922 National Historic Landmark- the Looff Hippodrome Wooden Carousel, that continues to thrill children for just 50 cents a ride, Pan Pacific Amusement Park, Playland Arcade, many restaurants and of course a stellar spot for people watching.
Pan Pacific Park
After strolling the pier, make your way to Pan Pacific Park- a combination of rides and carnival games- where entry is free and individual ride and game tickets can be purchased. The giant solar-powered nine-story Ferris wheel ride offers an unobstructed ocean view from the pinnacle of its rotation and has earned a top spot on the Automobile Club‘s “Eight Great Places to Pop the Question” in Southern California.
If you have little ones make your way to Kids Cove, where six pint-sized rides such as the red baron airplanes, pier patrol car ride, bumper cars are available, many of which, parents can accompany the kids.
For older kids and adult buzz-seekers, check out the motion-simulator theater, a five-story roller coaster- the West Coast’s only steel roller coaster on a pier- and the Pacific Plunge; a nine-story tower ride that lifts riders 150 feet above Santa Monica Bay.
Mariasol Cocina Mexicana Restaurant
After your thrill-seeking missions have been met, make your way to the end of the pier to the family-friendly Mariasol Cocina Mexicana restaurant. Decorated in rustic Mexican folk art they offer traditional Mexican fare and great ambiance; the tortilla soup is well worth a try as well as their famous mega grande margarita. Choose a table on the upper deck or outside patio to make the most of your dining experience.
Make sure to hang around for the sunset. Watch it from the pier, find a quiet spot on the sand or with a margarita at Mariasol. Your day will not be complete without experiencing the awe-inspiring beauty of a Santa Monica sunset.
Santa Monica Resources:
Wexler’s Deli ((424) 744-8671; 616 Santa Monica Blvd)
Segway Los Angeles (310-395-1395; 1660 Ocean Ave. -2 blocks south of the pier)
Fig Tree’s Cafe (310-392-4937; 429 Ocean Front Walk. Venice)
Looff Hippodrome Carousel (310-394-8042)
Playland Arcarde (310-451-5133; 350 Santa Monica Pier)
Pan Pacific Park (310-260-8744; 380 Santa Monica Pier)
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium (310-393-6149;
Mariasol Cocina Mexicana (310-917-5050; 401 Santa Monica Pier)
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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.