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How to Visit the Santa Monica Pier
By:James Barnett

Where Los Angeles meets the ocean, the Santa Monica Pier is one of the most photographed places on the west coast. Seen in many movies and in particular the opening credits of the television show "Three's Company", the pier offers many people a great way to spend the day at the beach. There is shopping and dining, places to fish and bicycle, and a very popular amusement park, with bumper cars and a Ferris wheel. The pier is also a choice location to watch the California sun sink below the horizon.

Plan to visit anytime of the year, but note that winter weather can be unpredictable and summer can be very busy.

Plan to arrive on a weekday when most Angelenos are at work. Also, plan to arrive early and get a prime parking spot. By noon many of the parking spots are usually all gone.

Prepare to spend the morning hours in a fog bank. Even the most beautiful southern California days often begin as foggy mornings. The stores open up around nine or ten so spend the time shopping.

Stake a claim to some prime beach real estate early, near the pier where the food and restrooms are. If the day gets too hot, use the shade from the pier as an advantage.

Note that many of the stores offer either beachwear or novelties. But they are also excellent if one has forgotten any last minute items such as chapstick or sunglasses.

Ride the bicycle along the pier. It's a great place for a casual ride and visitors are not restricted. One can ride out to the end of the pier and back. Opt instead to access the bike path that strands the Los Angeles Beach from Orange County to Malibu; a great place to people watch.

Opt to fish instead. The pier has a bait store that sells licenses and rents fishing equipment.

Ride the amusements. The roller coaster and bumper cars remind one of San Diego's Belmont or the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, amusements of another age. The coaster is mild by modern standards, but because of its location it's still quite a thrill.

Play the games of chance. No that getting the ring into the bowl is almost impossible, but that's the point.

Save riding the Ferris wheel until just before sunset. Not only is the view of the Pacific terrific from this vantage point, but there are also great views of the pier and the City of Santa Monica.

Plan to indulge in some of the nightlife. There are great places on the pier or on the beach nearby that offer a great beach party ambiance.

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