The idyllic Route 66 that leads out to California ends in the most picturesque location, out on a pier that overlooks the grand Pacific Ocean. Here you can watch the sunset on the water, smell the sea salt in the air, see the surfers on the waves, and understand why so many come to settle out in La La Land.
After our day poolside in LA, we took trip out to Santa Monica pier, promising the kids rides and the beach. It was Memorial Day weekend, so everyone had the same idea, and traffic was terrible. We parked in the first open parking garage we could find and walked a mile to the pier. As we came up to the entrance and walked over the bridge, the sight was overwhelming. The pier was filled with a sea of people, enticing rides, and the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. The kids were excited taking it all in, most excited for the rides they could see in the distance.
Everyone was a bit hungry, so we went to get some food first. All the sit down restaurants we wanted to go to had obscenely long lines. But we saw the Albright had a relatively short line and open tables. A small restaurant on the pier since 1977, it served a selection of fish and chips, seafood soups, etc. My kids got cheese quesadillas and beans (because why would they every eat fish voluntarily), while my husband and I got the classic fish and chips. The food was amazing, and we quickly devoured it.
The next stop was the Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier, where all the amusement rides are located. I quickly did the math and worked out that the bands that allowed unlimited rides paid for themselves in 4 or 5 rides. I bought the kids unlimited bands, and bought myself a ticket for the Ferris Wheel. My children are generally not daredevils, so they were contented going on all the smaller kiddie rides.
Once I knew the bands had been worth their while, I wanted to go on the famous Pacific Wheel ferris wheel. At the end of the pier, it stands 85 feet tall, is the world’s only solar powered Ferris wheel, and gives a panoramic view of southern California’s shoreline. I love ferris wheels and couldn’t wait to see the view. My husband has a fear of heights and hands down refused to go. My son decided he would be afraid of it as well and passed. But my daughter wanted to go. She wanted to see it up high with Mommy.
The two of us had a large 6-person gondola all to our selves. I was less then thrilled with this because we had to sit on one side, which meant there was no one on the other side to counter balance, causing us to tip back a bit. Good thing my two afraid of heights decided to stay down. It was also quite chilly now that the night had fallen and we were ill prepared. I had a light scarf in my purse and wrapped it around me and my daughter. This both provided a little warmth, and made sure she was close and wouldn’t try and stand up or reach out.
As we went up, both of us were a little nervous. I could tell by how hard I was hugging her, and how hard she was squeezing my hand. As we went up and stopped, the gondola rocked a bit and we were both silent. Then we moved again and the next stop was the top. Looking out, you could see the lights of the city in the distance, and the lights up and down the coast line. Below, you could see the bright, colored lights of the pier, and the people below. Right near by was the roller coaster that came close and you could hear the screams of delight as they whooped past. Our nervousness dropped. Soon, we were pointing out what we could see to each other. The wheel went around a few times, stopping occasionally, but allowing us to enjoy the view and the ride. At the end we bounced off with excitement, with my daughters excitingly telling my son all he missing up top. However, once he heard of the rocking, he was not jealous and seemed happy to have skipped it.
As we were going to leave, my son and daughter begged us to go back and do one more ride. They had seen the “shark” ride, and wanted to go on it. They were excited to sit in the Sharks mouth. Shark Frenzy is a classic Tilt-a-Whirl ride, where the cars are shark mouths. It was the bigger than the other rides they went on, but they really wanted to and made the height requirement (barely, technically my son was my daughters chaperone) so I said ok. They excitedly waited in line, and got in the car. We watched them twirl around and around. They didn’t look as happy as on the other rides, but it was fast, so I didn’t think too much off it. We waited at the exit, and as soon as the ride was over, they came over to us. My daughter walked over, looked right at us and then said calmly, “mommy, I did NOT think that through”. Then she burst into tears. It took everything in my power not to burst out laughing.
By now the night was late, and the kids were tired. It was clear they were too traumatized to go on any more rides, and we still had a mile to walk to our car. We walked/herded the kids back to our parking garage, and headed back to our AirBnB. The kids were asleep almost instantly, and we drove back to the city center, leaving the sand, sea breeze, and lights of the pier in our rear view mirror…for now.