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Cruising the Santa Monica Pier and Boardwalk

Soak up local history and stroll the zany boardwalk to Venice Beach
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 miles
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly

Overview:  Bordered by Venice to the south and Malibu to the north, Santa Monica's claim to fame is its historic pier, built in 1909. The pier,... more »

Tips:  * Pay $8 and park in the convenient Santa Monica State Beach lot. Your car is safe and you're short steps from the beach, pier and... more »

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Points of Interest

Begin your tour at the historic Santa Monica Pier, built in 1909. From this vantage point you get a flavor for the area and awesome views of iconic California coastline.

Allow one to two hours to explore the bustling pier, brimming with vendors, local artists, eateries and entertainment. Catch whiffs of ocean air mingled with the smell of grilled... More

This enchanting aquarium is located at beach level under the carousel. Notice the wall mural depicting ocean scenes. Inside, the staff makes good use of small space, stuffing exhibits, three touch tanks and educational materials into every crevice.

Feel a sea star or sticky anemone and find rockfish in a kelp forest exhibit. The jellyfish exhibit... More

The original Hot Dog on a Stick stands out like a bright red umbrella on the boardwalk, just steps from the pier. Sure, you can find these hot dog places at most malls but the food seems to taste better here at the beach. Order a veggie dog, turkey dog or cheese (pepper jack or American) on a stick and a cup of cold, tangy lemonade. Munch your... More

Watch bodybuilders at the original Muscle Beach, just south of the pier. Better yet, flex your muscles in the open-air gym. Test your strength at the fully restored chinning bars, parallel bars and rings. There's also a small jungle gym for children.

Don't confuse this original outdoor gym with Muscle Beach Venice, a separate facility.

Across from Muscle Beach is the International Chess Park. Permanent chess boards are embossed on long picnic tables. Bring your own chess pieces to start a match or watch serious players compete. Some of the regulars are master-level players. Or sit at a bench while sipping lemonade (from Hot Dog on a Stick next door) and enjoy the ocean breeze.

Santa Monica's wide sandy beaches stretch for 3.5 miles between Venice and Malibu. Feel tension melt away as you bask in warm Southern California sunshine. Cool off with a dip in the ocean or catch the perfect wave on a surfboard or boogie board.

Join a volleyball game at one of several beach courts, where several U.S. Olympic beach volleyball... More

From the pier, you can either walk north toward Malibu, or head south toward Venice along Ocean Front Walk. The paved path to Malbu is scenic and serene.

But it's on the boardwalk between Santa Monica and funky Venice Beach that you'll see zany characters and street performers. Keep an eye out for a guy who walks on glass and a roller blader... More