Santa Monica Beaches, Muscle Beach, Santa Monica Pier

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Santa Monica beaches. Officially this stretch is Santa Monica State Beach, although it's run by the city. State-run Will Rogers State Beach is just to the north.

Readers' Digest rated the beach of the "Seven Best Beach Strolls in the Nation," in its America's Best: the 2006 List.

Santa Monica Pier at night Start your tour of Santa Monica beaches at the foot of Colorado Avenue where it meets palm-line Ocean Avenue, at the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

Photo opportunity: Don't miss the famous sign marking the entrance to the pier. We love this photo of the pier sign at night.


The structure was built in 1909 and is the oldest surviving pleasure pier on the West Coast. Be sure to ride the hand-carved 1922 carousel (kids ride for 25 cents, adults for 50 cents), brought to the pier in 1947.

A few steps farther down the pier check out the considerably more modern Pacific Park amusement park (it was built in 1996) alongside Playland arcade.

Pacific Park is home to the only steel roller coaster on a pier and the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel (it's a good thing Santa Monica is sunny 343 days of the year). Admission to Pacific Park is free.


The pier also offers a fresh fish market and great dining opportunities, including The Lobster - which overlooks the pier from above the entrance ramp, Mariasol, Rusty's Surf Ranch and the boisterous Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Restaurant & Market, a theme eatery based around the movie Forrest Gump.

Like on all California piers, no license is required to fish off the pier, and rental equipment, bait and tackle are available.


Under the pier, at beach level beneath the carousel, be sure to visit the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, run by the nonprofit organization Heal the Bay.

The group's brouchures describe the aquarium an "ocean classroom," with touch tanks, aquariums and a microscope laboratory. Admission is $5, link to the aquarium's Web site for hours.


The pier itself sets unusual hours: it never closes. In light of its urban setting, a Santa Monica Police Substation at the pier's midway point ensures public safety.

One great opportunity if you're visiting in the summer: free outdoor movies right on the sand on Santa Monica Beach.


You've heard of a drive-in, but a surf-in? Kidding. Either way, check out the city’s visitor Web site for an event schedule.

Santa Monica Muscle Beach To the pier's south, near the volleyball courts, visit Muscle Beach.

Yes, THE Muscle Beach. First developed in the 1930s, the three-acre, outdoor gym's parallel bars, rings and padded gymnastics area have attracted stars, starlets and body builders ever since.

In its heyday it drew the likes of Kirk Douglas, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, Jayne Mansfield and fitness guru Jack LaLanne.

Muscle Beach is also the birthplace of Hot Dog on a Stick, which opened at the site 60 years ago and is still making the same tasty corn dogs and hand-stirred lemonade.


If chest mates on the beach aren't your style, try chessmate on the beach, at International Chess Park, just a few steps away.

The venue features public chess tables and a human-scale chessboard set into the sidewalk. Spectators are welcome.


Santa Monica Singing Beach Chairs Photo opportunity: Be sure to check out the public artwork Singing Beach Chairs created by artist Douglas Hollis.

The chairs' backrests are actually 14-foot-tall aluminum tuning forks or panpipes or whatever you want to call them.

Visit in a strong wind and the chairs will "sing" (in a delicate, if hollow, lyric soprano) as the pipes resonate. And yes, you can sit in them.


North of the pier, cross on up to Palisades Park above Santa Monica Beach and be sure to visit the Camera Obscura where Broadway meets Ocean Avenue.

And who can visit Santa Monica Beach without taking in at least a mile or two of the South Bay Bicycle Trail? It's shown in the photo at the top of this page.

This wide, paved beach path shows up in countless movies: Think rollerbladers zipping by and beach volleyballers in the background.

The path starts in Pacific Palisades, north of Santa Monica Beach and runs south through Venice Beach, all the way to Torrance -- 22 miles away.

Prefer trendier transportation? Segway Segway scooter (Segway prefers to call them "human transporters") tours are available through Segway L.A, a few storefronts south of the pier on Ocean Avenue.


North of Santa Monica, visit Will Rogers State Beach, one of 85 state parks in California offering free AT&T wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi.

South of the city, visit famous, crowded, eclectic Venice Beach.

Come back soon to our Santa Monica Beaches page: we'll be adding more dining, activities and accommodations news.

Be sure to read these related articles...

Santa Monica Introduction Page

Hotels Near Santa Monica Beaches

Resturants Near Santa Monica Beaches

Santa Monica Directions and Parking

Malibu Introduction Page

A Camera the Size of the Room

Beach and pier photos courtesy of Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau. Farmers' Market and Camera Obscura photos, copyright 2007

Santa Monica Main Street

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