Coming along for the (new) ride

From the carousel built in 1922 to the newly installed solar-powered Ferris wheel, the Santa Monica Pier has always focused on family-friendly attractions. But when Pacific Park on the pier kicks off its summer season this weekend, almost half the park’s rides will be new. Classic kiddie attractions like Ship-Ahoy and the Red Baron have been replaced by five rides designed to make the theme park more appealing to families with young children.

Instead of simply waving and taking pictures from the sidelines, parents will now be able to sit with their children while they pilot the Sea Planes or try not to get dizzy on Inkie’s Air Lift, a teacup-style ride with a hot air balloon theme. (For old-school fans, classic rides such as the West Coaster roller coaster, Inkie’s Scrambler, the Pacific Plunge and Sea Dragon remain.)

Pacific Park occupies two acres of the 7-acre Santa Monica Pier, currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. The five new rides at the park, which is allowed to have only 12 rides, represent a minor thematic shift not to mention a significant financial investment. “This is the most money we’ve ever spent in a single year improving the park,” says Jeff Klocke, Pacific Park’s director of marketing and sales.

Perhaps the most noticeable changes are in the bumper cars. Instead of oblong cars, the park’s new bumper car ride, Sig Alert EV, features round cars with bases that look like oversized inner tubes. And unlike traditional bumper cars, these gliding monsters with high-backed seats have levers that allow riders to go forward and backward (excellent for achieving maximum ramming speed) or spin the car 360 degrees. There’s also a fenced-off area for mini-bumper cars for children 3 to 9 years old.


Pacific Park has never boasted the flashiest rides or the most bone-jarring roller coasters, but it has one advantage over nearly every other amusement park in Southern California: no admission fee.



Pacific Park at the Santa Monica Pier

Where: Santa Monica Pier, Colorado and Ocean avenues

When: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Hours vary -- call ahead; rides subject to weather closure.

Price: Free admission

Contact: (310) 260-8744,