Pacific Park (Santa Monica Pier)

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With a name reminiscent of a bygone California era and a need to compete with the magic of Disney, modern Pacific Park is located on the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, CA. Touting itself as “LA’s only admission-free amusement park” and sporting some of the most amazing views that southern California has to offer, Pacific Park is a great addition to any LA-area vacation.

Pacific Park Santa Monica Pier History

The modern day Pacific Park opened on the Santa Monica Pier, located at the foot of the Pacific Ocean, on 25 May 1996. It was the second Santa Monica amusement park in history to tap into the California and LA area idolization of oceanfront life, and one with a name reminiscent of its ill-fated cousin, Pacific Ocean Park. However, Pacific Park has enjoyed a much longer and more successful run as a top LA attraction.

Though not an official remake of Pacific Ocean Park (or POP), Pacific Park is located in a similar area with a similar goal: to attract locals and visitors looking for an authentic, character-free LA amusement park experience. POP, opened as a joint venture between CBS and Santa Anita Park in 1958, was meant to be the “Coney Island of the Pacific” though its fate was largely sealed as a result of Santa Monica’s efforts to renew its Ocean Park district. The effects of this move restricted access to and bankrupted the park in 1967.

Though POP was located about 1 ½ miles south of the current Pacific Park, its design inspired the current Pacific Park and helped to establish its free entrance strategy. POP famously offered a “pay one price” option meant to compete with Disneyland’s individual ride-based fare. Today, Pacific Park’s strategy as a free entrance amusement park sets it out from the crowd and often draws more LA locals that the other, more commercial ventures found in the area.

In addition, its location on the Santa Monica Pier makes Pacific Park doubly interesting. The pier, which was introduced as part of the 1909 California Admission Day, has been a hallmark location in greater LA for well over a century. The Pier includes the monumental Hippodrome building and a carousel (both now LA-area landmarks).

The addition of Pacific Park in the 1990s was the result of a long-fought battle between the City of Santa Monica and the people of the area who saw the pier as a major attraction and important piece of historical significance. The “Save Our Pier Forever” campaign was instrumental in establishing the Santa Monica Pier as the important landmark it is seen as today.

Pacific Park: The Main Attraction

Sitting on two gorgeous oceanfront acres, Pacific Park offers guests a dozen different rides, including the country’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, midway games, entertainment, and more. Having departed from the one price model now used by Disney and others, Pacific Park is more of a traditional amusement park/carnival atmosphere which allows visitors to decide between individual ride tickets, unlimited ride wristbands, and a multitude of pay-as-you-play midway games. Indeed, unlike POP, Pacific Park is truly a Coney Island-esque destination. And, like Coney Island, the park is enjoyed as much by locals as by tourists, offering a far more “authentic” LA-area experience.

In addition to traditional carnival fare and breathtaking scenery, Pacific Park is also open for use as a birthday party location or location shoot for television and movies. Because it is located on the historic Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park also rich with LA-area cultural history and a great place to spend the day. Visitors are free to enjoy the sun and the sounds of the Pacific Ocean as well as shop, dine, and experience some of the best attractions of the Pier and its historic buildings.

Why Pacific Park is a Must-See

Pacific Park is a real diamond among gem stones on the LA-area amusement park scene. With a rich history as both the second attempt at authentic carnival-esque entertainment on the West Coast as well as its location on the historic Santa Monica Pier, Pacific Park represents true California fun at its very finest.

Where to Buy Pacific Park Tickets

There are a number of ways you can enjoy admission to this attraction.

Save up to 20% online at Smart Destinations. If you add more than one attraction to the cart, you will get an automatic savings of up to 20%. It’s called Make Your Own Pass.

Pay Full Price and purchase a ticket from Pacific Park (Santa Monica Pier) either online or in person.

Purchase a Tourist pass. Pacific Park (Santa Monica Pier) is available on the Go Los Angeles Card.