Covering just 2 acres, with 12 rides and 14 midway games, Santa Monica Pier’s own Pacific Park has beaten out the top dogs in the California theme park industry to bring home the title of “Best Amusement Park” in California in Yahoo! Travel’s “The Best Amusement Park in Every State” roundup.

“In a state so packed with great amusement parks, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier stands out for fun, atmosphere, and the sheer joy of playing on this famous landmark,” Yahoo! Travel stated as itsreason for honoring the little park.

Jeff Klocke, vice president at Pacific Park, is humbled by the win. But Klocke has a pretty good idea as to why they beat out the competition.

“I think that, first of all, I have tremendous professional respect as well as personal respect for all those incredible parks in southern California. I’m a huge Disneyland fan. Big Universal fan. Knott’s Berry farm fan. Everyone offers an incredible product and we’re really proud to be part of the family amusement parks in California,” Klocke said.

“But that being said, I think we all sell a similar product, which is experiences and fun. And you know people crave that experience they had as a child. And I think parents can come here and ride the scrambler — the scrambler is one of our most popular rides — and they can look at their 6-year-old and say, ‘My mom took me on the scrambler when I was your age.’ And maybe that scrambler wasn’t here at the park, but it was somewhere else. And those lifelong experiences that we share with our family are really what we sell and really what makes us authentic.”

The park is home to the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, the Pacific Wheel. Other rides at the park include The West Coaster, a steel roller coaster that races 55 feet over the wooden pier, and children’s rides like Inkie’s Air Lift Balloon Ride. The park also has a food plaza and retail shops overlooking the ocean.

Pacific Park is also the only admission-free amusement park in Los Angeles, something City of Santa Monica economic development administrator Jennifer Taylor believes contributed to its Yahoo! Travel ranking. Taylor also believes the free admission affects how the park contributes to the economy of the city.

“I think it encourages more people to go with the free admission,” she said. “People tend to then spend more money on ride tickets, game tickets, food and on T-shirts and things on the pier. And by having the free admission I think that attracts even more people whether they can buy things or not.”

The 2014 Santa Monica Travel & Tourism Economic and Fiscal Impact Report did not specify how much the park contributes to Santa Monica’s tourism spending, but it states that spending on attractions reached over $57 million in 2014, a 54-percent increase from 2013. Santa Monica Travel & Tourism CEO and President Misti Kerns believes the park’s new honor will only make that number grow.

“Being named the best amusement park in a state full of such incredible options in the category will certainly help boost Santa Monica visitation,” Kerns said. “We are excited and believe this well-deserved recognition will continue enticing people to visit Pacific Park, check into one of our wonderful hotel properties and further explore all that our destination has to offer.”

Pacific Park will celebrate its 20th anniversary next May.

Photo by Nicholas Salazar: Pacific Park attracts thousands of visitors to Santa Monica Pier each year.

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