Other than the Hollywood Sign, there may be no site more iconic in greater Los Angeles than the Santa Monica Pier. The arched neon sign at its entry debuted in 1940, when the pier actually led to the stated “yacht harbor.” Today, it’s more a family fun zone. My ten-year-old adores cruising the pier, riding a few rides and trying a snack or two. If I’m with her, we’re definitely stopping at the teeny Hot Dog on a Stick just south of the boardwalk; this red shack is as vintage as the pier, having opened in 1946.
I can’t say I get to Santa Monica that much anymore, but I see the joy of a staycation here, especially for beach-loving families. If you seek a room that’s just steps from the sand, check out The Pierside, a brand new hotel at the corner of Ocean and Colorado avenues (aka, right at the pier). Though the ground floor restaurant and gym are still under construction, the hotel has been welcoming guests since January. There are 132 rooms and suites ready to book, plus a cozy lobby that includes The Board Shop, a one-stop shop for beach necessities, from boogie and surfboards to paddle ball gear. Guests can check out such items at no charge for two hours, perfect for an afternoon by the sea.
In the lobby and in guestrooms, a cool, coastal color palette creates a sense of ease and relaxation: You’ve made it the beach, man, so just chill out and have some fun. I love the blue day beds in the rooms (it’s also a pull-out bed) and the cheeky beach wallpaper hidden in the closets. The team has also replaced the hotel desk with a multifuctional living space with mod pedestal table, great for a take-out dinner, but also for a spot to work or just fire off a quick email.
Outside, a brilliant mural by Shepard Fairy graces nearly the entire west side of the hotel, and there’s a pool perched above the 10 Freeway. Onsite restaurant The Surfing Fox, set to open this summer, will offer lots of al fresco seating. A burger here on a sunny day will please guests of any age, not to mention locals who won’t be able to resist the setting.
And of course, this corner of Santa Monica is full of additional family-friendly activities, and you don’t really need to get in your car for them. Walk in bluff-side Palisades Park or Tongva Park (both neighbor the hotel) and take the littles to Cayton Children’s Museum. If you want to try a part of the beach that’s particularly great for kids, hike it to Annenberg Community Beach House, where a historic pool, splash pad, playground, and a beach restaurant await. This is one of my family’s favorite Santa Monica spots.
There are must-visit places nearby for adults, too. If you can manage to sneak away for an evening, grab a steak (and some complimentary peanuts) at local haunt Chez Jay, which has been operating since 1959, or visit Ester’s Wine Shop for a wine-and-cheese filled escape. And do not miss some of the best sandwiches in greater L.A., which you’ll find at Bay Cities Italian Deli on Lincoln Boulevard. These make for perfect picnic food, no matter where you’re setting up your blanket.
After all of your adventures, you’ll be thrilled to head back to The Pierside, your (temporary) home by the sea.