“All I wanna do is have some fun. I gotta a feelin’ I’m not the only one. All I wanna do, is have some fun. Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.” – Sheryl Crow
Recently Brian had to go to LA for a work conference, and I was fortunate enough to have enough PTO to tag along!
I had only been to LA once before for my own work trade show and didn’t have a chance to see any of the sights that trip. I was really looking forward to seeing a few Hollywood highlights with Brian, visiting Santa Monica Pier, and spending some time at the nearby theme parks the days he was working and I was traveling solo.
We booked our flights in and out of Burbank to save on costs, and I made a quick list of places we could briefly visit along our drive from the airport to Long Beach. After a few hours exploring a handful of Hollywood highlights, we headed along Santa Monica Boulevard toward Santa Monica Pier.
While I had heard about the pier, I didn’t know much about it. I have always associated it with California beaches/surfing and summer fun, but I had no idea when or why it was constructed and how it’s used today.
After a little research, I learned it opened on September 9, 1909, as the first concrete pier on the West Coast! In 1916 the pier was expanded to include the arm that houses the amusement park rides, and in 1919 it started to undergo repairs when the concrete started to rust and the pilings began to collapse.
The pier and its attractions went out of style during the Great Depression but had renewed fame in the early 1940s when they installed a breakwater, creating a harbor for yachts. The iconic blue sign in my pictures was installed that year by the city in recognition of the new yacht club!
World War II put a temporary end to activities and the pier became home to displaced commercial fisherman who had to turn over their typical harbors to the Navy. After the war, the pier couldn’t recover its recreational splendor and by the 1960s there were plans to demolish it. The community came together in 1973 and won an initiative to preserve the pier forever. In 1987 the restoration plans began and in 1990 the new pier opened–it’s been growing in popularity ever since, and serves as the final destination for travelers completing their journey of Route 66!
We drove until we could drive no farther and found paid parking at an abandoned Sears building a couple blocks from the pier. We walked down a cute boulevard toward the water where hundreds of people were milling about waiting to cross the street. There were several nearby parks, including Palisades Park (which I only know from the song!) and people in all forms of attire making their way to and from the pier and beach.
The pier was packed with people hanging out, visiting the shops, grabbing food, enjoying the buskers, and riding the amusement rides. We headed all the way out to the end of the pier first and then took a leisurely walk back.
From the end of the pier we could look out over either side of the beach. To the north, the beach is backed by the mountains, and to the south the beach stretches out beyond the outcropping of amusement park rides.
We saw a few people on a lower level pointing to something in the water, which ended up being a friendly harbor seal. I think he was interested in the people fishing and what they were drawing up on their lines!
There were several entertainers on our route back, including an older guy in an almost inappropriately revealing outfit who was dancing and singing on a headset microphone to music blaring from his amp.
He was terrible at both but so amusing that you couldn’t look away. He totally owned his performance—I give him that! Plenty of people were stopping to take pictures and video and leaving him tips so we continued on and toward the rides in search of ice cream.
I usually go for fairly decadent ice cream desserts—I’m a turtle sundae kind of girl, especially since we’ve given up carbs outside of vacations. Maybe because it was hot, but the mango sorbet sounded amazing to me so I opted for my own treat while Brian tried superman ice cream for the first time.
I tried to warn him that it would likely turn his mouth blue (I sort of couldn’t get over the fact that he had never had it/tried to explain it’s more of a kid’s ice cream) but he had to try it. I don’t think he loved it, but my sorbet was amazing. It was a perfect mid-afternoon treat!
After our treat we were ready to head to Long Beach so we finished our dessert and headed back toward our car. Along the way we passed what ended up being the most impressive busker—a younger guy playing a drum set.
He had current songs playing in the background, and he simply played the drums along with the songs. But he was really good! He was going above and beyond the traditional drum line of the song, flipping his drumsticks all over and tossing them up in the air.
Really talented and very entertaining to watch—we stayed for a little while and I gave him a good tip before we moved on.
Overall the pier was everything I expected it to be—low key, festive, and a little slice of summer! A perfect California/ Los Angeles experience!