Here they come: Photos show crowds returning to Southern California tourist hot spots

People pack a sunny pier.
Crowds fill the Santa Monica Pier as people take advantage of the warm weather during spring break in Southern California.
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
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After a year of business closures and travel restrictions that have devastated the tourist economy, merchants and visitors say activity is starting to pick up.

“I do feel like the pandemic is over,” said Kemuel Kendrick, 19, who was shopping at the Santa Monica Promenade with three friends from Charleston, S.C. “Obviously, we all have masks on, but otherwise, I don’t really have that fear anymore.”

Public officials, however, say the pandemic is not over and are sounding the alarm that the next week or so — spring break combined with Passover and Easter Sunday — could unwind California’s hard-won gains against the coronavirus. The confluence of events could spark increased travel, social gatherings and celebrations — all of which could, without precautions, heighten the risk of coronavirus transmission.

L.A. Times photographers visited some popular local destinations and found locals as well as out-of-state visitors congregating — a number of them without masks and social distancing often nonexistent — to enjoy the warm weather.

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Santa Monica

Five young men without masks eat at an outdoor table.
A cadre of college friends visiting during spring break from New York and New Jersey dine at Blue Plate Taco in Santa Monica.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Two women, without masks, hold drinks and chat.
Seattle residents Stephanie French, left, and Mariah Sand visit Santa Monica Pier.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
A man, woman and three small children look from a pier over a busy beach.
Jose Rivera, wife Stephanie and their nephew and two nieces check out busy Santa Monica State Beach.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Venice

A couple kiss while out strolling.
Edward Talbert and Destinie Moffet, of Los Angeles, share a kiss as they walk on the boardwalk in Venice Beach.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
People fill Venice Beach boardwalk.
From left, Shaley Villagran, 9, cousin Taide Palacios, 14, cousin Kaylee Prado, 9, friend Ashley Montenegro, 11, and sister Chastelyn Villagran, 11, enjoy their ice cream cones on the Venice Beach boardwalk.
(Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Two men battle for a soccer ball.
Soccer players make close contact while dueling for control of the ball on the Venice Beach sports courts.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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People crowd to watch acrobats perform.
At Venice Beach, people crowd to watch boardwalk performers. A lack of social distancing is a factor that has health experts concerned.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Old Town Pasadena

Two people with masks walk by as a crowd at a table laughs and talks.
Patrons sit inside and out at the 35er Bar on Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
People wait to cross at a light.
Pedestrians pack sidewalks on Colorado Boulevard in Old Town Pasadena.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Closeup of a man on rollerblades.
Alex Sosa of Long Beach practices his skating next to Long Beach City Hall.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

More visual journalism from the Los Angeles Times.