The Santa Monica Pier has to be up there on the list of most photographed places in LA. I've been before but this time I went with one intention - to ride the Pacific Ferris Wheel. The pier is picturesque. On the water, it has a great beach vibe, an aquarium, and an amusement park all in one place. It is a landmark that cannot be duplicated.
The pier originally opened in September 1909. The first roller coaster, The Blue Streak Racer was put in in 1916. The pier flourished through the decades with rides being replaced or updated or even shut down. Attractions were added and it quickly became a destination spot for tourist and locals alike. In 1983 a pair of storms wiped out nearly 1/3 of the pier however the people of the community came together, raised money, and it was rebuilt by 1990. In 1996 the last major addition was added to the pier, the Pacific Park which brought back the full scale amusement park with coasters and an old fashion carousel.
Ideally I wanted to ride the Ferris wheel while the sun was going down but because of other constraints ended up there at night. We got to the pier around 8ish and it was quite dark. It was a breezy weeknight so it wasn't as crowded as I expected however there were a lot of tweens running around. We bought our tickets to the Ferris Wheel which were $5 each. There was a short line but they take your picture while you wait (to of course sell you later). The ride was about 5 min but it stopped frequently to let people get on and off. The view at the top was still amazing even though it was dark. After our ride we went to the arcade and played a couple of games of skeeball before taking off.
The pier would be a great 1st or 2nd date activity. There are street vendors and lots of concessions and restaurants. If you go in the winter check the calendar for time for the rides because the hours are limited.