Anyone who has ever visited Santa Monica knows that the Pier is definitely the focal point of tourism and attraction. It’s been around for about 100 years now, and currently features a whole bunch of different rides, games, restaurants, trinkets for sale, independent performers, and live events like concerts and meet-ups.
Finding Parking for the Santa Monica Pier
The best place to park is at the following address:
This lot runs right up alongside the boardwalk itself, and is open for all-day parking for a single price that varies seasonally. You can enter the parking lot directly from the PCH when traveling south, look for signs that say “Pier Parking” and exit to your right just before merging onto the 10 East Freeway. You can also enter via surface streets in Santa Monica, but the area can be a bit confusing so I highly recommend using Google maps or GPS on your phone to go straight to the address.
Park here and you’ll be able to stay the whole day without having to walk far at all to get to the Pier or back to your car.
Santa Monica Pier Restaurants
Everybody’s gotta eat. With such a strong fishing influence on the Pier you can definitely expect quite a few seafood options, but you can find just about everything else on those salty planks, or at least adjacent to said salty planks. Let’s start at the end of the pier and work our way inland.
Mexican food. Margaritas. Beautiful ocean views at the westernmost point of the Santa Monica Pier make Mariosol a no-brainer for many.
Scoops Ice Cream & Treats
Waffle cones and Bana splits. Funnel Cakes & Milk Shakes. Pick yer’ toppings. It’s Ice cream. Oh yeah.
One of two burger joints on the pier. We are going to hold off on taking any sides (for now) to see if we can get any free food bribes out of this blog post, but I will say that both of these locations are pretty good and offer all the essential American classics like grilled cheese sandwiches, corn dogs, hot dogs, burgers, and fries.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
If you prefer your crab commercial, hit the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. for a guaranteed experience. If you’re a fan of the Forrest Gump movie this can be a lot of fun, and you can rely on all of their dishes to have a good amount of quality control and to all be pretty good. If you really want some high-grade seafood I would recommend either The Albright or The Lobster right at the top of the pier, but Bubba Gump’s has a ton of seating and pretty good service, great option for larger parties.
Rusty's Surf Ranch
This restaurant & bar offers seafood and grilled eats with live bands on the weekends. Surfboards are a big part of their interior design, not unlike our office, Poseidon Surf Shop right up the street. Unfortunately I don’t think any of their surfboards are for sale, but the food is pretty good and this place has a very friendly vibe. Good place to grab a drink as well!!
Soda Jerks Ice Cream Shop
This ice cream shop is located in the historic carousel building on the pier. You can grab a delicious milkshake or float, with some amazing specialty sundae options as well. Pretty good ice cream to be found here.
At the far end of the Pacific Park you’ll find a few different places to grab a quick bite. One of them is a cart usually set up right in front of Mariosol (business is cutthroat, right?) This one’s pretty self explanatory: you buy a pretzel and you walk around looking at the attractions. It’s the American way, and this same principle can be applied to any carnival situation flawlessly.
Pacific Wheel Pizza Company
Pacific Wheel focuses on personal pan pizzas feeding 1. You can grab a quick order straight from the window and find a bench somewhere in the park to chow down, or eat your pie on the go.
Just like it’s counterpart, Pier Burger offers the essential American classics and has a good amount of seating under their canopy, inside, and just outside the doors in the sun.
The Albright has a bunch of outdoor and indoor seating, with nice torch heaters outdoors if you plan on stopping in for dinner. The seafood here is really good, great cajun fries… I personally think this place is delicious and I usually opt for The Albright over most other nearby seafood options. The seating is the best, the torches are great at night, and the quality of food has to be just as good as The Lobster overlooking the pier.
Seaside On the Pier
The Seaside Sandwich Co. or Seaside On The Pier will hit you right as soon as you get onto the Boardwalk. This larger restaurant has a bunch of really good sandwiches and a rooftop lounge if you want to lean back and watch the crowds while you chow.
The Lobster isn’t technically on the pier, but it’s about as close as you can get. Right at the top of the large ramp leading you off the pier you’ll find the Lobster. A high-class seafood restaurant that is really popular around dinner time. The western-facing wall of the restaurant is completely glass, and from the vantage point at the top of the ramp you can see the pier below very nicely if you’re lucky enough to get a good table!
Some Other Snack Shacks
Pier Tamales – Good ol’ tamale cart.
Candy Carousel – Bags-o-Candy
Japadog – Japanese inspired hot dogs from a food cart. Nothing out of the ordinary here.
Where Can I Grab a Beer or Cocktail on the Santa Monica Pier?
Big Dean’s: Great open-air beachside bar. Good bar food, great place to mingle with beachgoers.
Chez Jay: Must visit. Chez Jay actually sits directly across the street from our office, and is one of Santa Monica’s most historic bars. Keep an eye out for our blog on the history of Chez Jay coming up soon.
Rusty’s Surf Ranch: Full bar, good vibes
Mariasol: Great margaritas.
Santa Monica Pier Rides
The Santa Monica Pier features a roller-coaster and a full-size ferris wheel, both right along the boardwalk and made just a bit scarier due to the proximity and visibility of the ocean on both. The Pacific Park on the pier is essentially a carnival with a few major rides (listed above), so you can also find tons of fun carnival games where you can win stuffed animals and cool prizes, as well as smaller carnival rides like the “scrambler” and Bumper Cars. You have to purchase tickets for each individual ride at a centrally located ticket booth, not in front of the rides themselves. For this reason, it is highly recommended you go ahead and buy the all-day pass. you only have to get on a few rides to make it worth the cost.
For more things to do in Santa Monica check out TravelMag’s article below – Surf City Tours is featured!