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Uncover the History of the Santa Monica Pier with New ‘Secret Story Tour’ Digital Interactive Experience.

Rediscover the iconic Santa Monica Pier through an immersive, location-based digital quest and a new Pier Prize program to support Pier Businesses.

A facet of the rich history of Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Pier has entertained visitors for 111 years. Generating nearly 8 million visits annually, the Santa Monica Pier is usually filled with visitors year-round, but with COVID-19 regulations still in place, the Pier has been quieter than usual. To protect the members of the community, attractions such as Pacific Park and the Historic Merry Go-Round have remained closed, but the Pier is open and ready to welcome visitors back with new activities that everyone can enjoy.

The Santa Monica Pier remains committed to ensuring the health and safety of the community, visitors, and staff. The Pier is open daily with limited operations and capacity. Face coverings are required on the Santa Monica Pier and all guests are encouraged to practice physical distancing and not gather in groups.

Located on Ocean Avenue, and the last stop on U.S. Highway Route 66, the Santa Monica Pier continues to be an emblem of Santa Monica pride and a reminder of the rich history of the city. The vintage 1940s neon sign lighting up the night with hues of yellow, blue and white, symbolic of the sunny Santa Monica Beaches, has symbolized home for many residents over the years. Since its 1909 conception, the Pier has always been the place for a day of fun and celebration, but amusement park entrepreneur Charles Looff had plans to turn the celebration into a must-see destination installing the first amusement park by the sea in Santa Monica. The park was equipped with the Blue Streak Racer roller coaster and Looff Hippodrome carousel, but after 15-years the Great Depression swept across America causing the permanent closure of Looff’s Pier. It was not until 1996 that we saw an amusement park return to the Santa Monica Pier after two vicious storms barrelled against the Pier in 1983, destroying nearly a third of the structure. The Santa Monica Pier we know and love today is actually the outcome of the restoration project set out to restore the Santa Monica Pier to its former glory, finishing construction in 1990 and introducing Pacific Park in 1996.

Game design duo and founders of the Wild Optimists, Ariel Rubin and Juliana Moreno Patel began working on a new project with Santa Monica Pier Corporation nearly a year-and-a-half ago with the intention to provide the Pier with its own virtual tour, but with an added sense of fun.

The game utilizes escape-room-like puzzles and augmented reality to create the interactive and immersive experience, where users can complete each level and receive a fun fact about the Pier, as well as take a photo using the augmented reality feature on the app. According to Patel, “augmented reality is taking things that are physically there, right in front of you, and then overlaying them with some virtual element” and further goes on to explain that “the way that most people are probably familiar with it is if you just think of filters.” The augmented reality feature “gives you a chance to take a step back in time and take a photo as it would have looked at that point,” says Patel. As the Pier moves forward with re-opening, Patel says that “the timing of this was, in some ways, absolutely perfect” where Pier-goers now have the opportunity to effectively social distance, but still interact with the Pier in a new and exciting way. Executive Director of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, and one of the masterminds behind Secret Story Tour, Negin Singh says that “It’s [Secret Story Tour] a fabulous way for the family to get out of the house and explore the not-so-known world at the Pier, all while keeping socially distant!” She goes on to say, “It’s our job at the Pier Corp. to dream up all sorts of fun ways to engage with the public and help bring the magic of our pier to life and we can’t imagine a better way to do it in these times than the Santa Monica Pier’s Secret Story Tours. We are grateful to our partners, The Wild Optimists, for bringing their amazing imagination to this project.” To access the app, go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store on mobile devices beginning October 15.

As you explore the hidden secrets of the Pier, don’t forget to stop into the many amazing businesses along the way. Visiting the pier for the first time? Don’t forget to grab a fun, vintage souvenir to take home from 66 Cali, or a Pier-themed T-shirt from Tees R Us. While you’re there, you might get hungry and what is more perfect than fresh seafood at The Albright? If you’re just looking for something to nibble on, grab a quick snack from Wetzel’s Pretzels or The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. While you’re shopping, take advantage of the brand-new Pier Prize program where you can collect stamps for every ten dollar purchase made at participating stores from September 28 through November 8. Once you redeem all three stamps, you can be entered to win some amazing prizes, such as free Santa Monica hotel stays, restaurant gift cards, exclusive merchandise and much more. The Pier Prize stamp card can be downloaded for free on the Santa Monica Pier’s website at santamonicapier.org, along with the full list of participating businesses and prizes.

Although you may not be able to fly through the air on the West Coaster at the moment, collect your first pier Prize Stamp and fly through the sky at Trapeze School New York, Los Angeles (TSNYLA). The Trapeze school is located on the north-west side of the Pier behind Pacific Park, where you will learn the art of flying trapeze, aerial trapeze, trampoline trapeze and much more.

After a 3-month closure, General Manager of the TSNYLA, Kenna Stevens, says that “we’ve been kicking since June,” returning to their 90-minute class sessions as of June 25. Stevens explains that everyone at TSNYLA are “doing everything they can to keep their students safe” including wearing a mask at all times, cordoning each student onto their own 6 foot by 6 foot “island” to stretch on and creating single seating units to keep your items separated from other students to combat overcrowding of one specific area. Stevens credits her flying, mask wearing “ninjas” for supporting their business through the closures and making it possible to come back with such a strong support system.

Although Pacific Park remains closed, The Pier Corporation saw the need of many fitness centers looking for an outdoor space to continue their fitness classes while Los Angeles’ Safer at Home order stays in effect. The Pier Organization came up with the idea to repurpose the Pier Deck parking lot into an outdoor fitness studio equipped with 84 designated workout spaces lined with astroturf grass that can also be used as a beautiful picnic spot. Some of Santa Monica’s most popular fitness centers have been invited to participate in the Pier Fitness Program including Pure Barre, Circuit Works, AZ I AM Yoga and many more studios to come. All fitness classes are limited to a total of 20 participants, with masks required.

Participating yoga studio, AZ I AM Yoga is where reality meets spirituality incorporating music and sound to create an entrancing yoga experience. Owner Alanna Zabel, has created music-fusion yoga classes, which are designed to create a deep connection with the spiritual side of ourselves as you focus on being in touch with the present. According to Zabel, we are all “vibrational beings” and music and vibration can create a healing in our bodies and mind that can help treat many ailments from anxiety to physical injuries. This is why Zabel has created multiple different styles of yoga-fusion classes, designed to maintain our health and reach spiritual enlightenment through sound, music and vibration. Starting in early October, Zabel will be bringing her unique yoga classes to the Santa Monica Pier and is excited to participate in the power of group classes once again.

Zabel plans on bringing many of her popular classes to the Pier, including serene sound bath meditation sessions every Friday, popular Vinyasa-music fusion classes and her signature yoga-barre classes that incorporate Yoga, Sculpt, Barre, Pilates and Core Stability exercises. Whether you are a beginner, or an experienced yogi, classes are open to everyone. Zabel says that she is “so grateful and excited” to bring her students together once again on the “iconic” Santa Monica Pier.

Whether you look to the Santa Monica Pier to enjoy a day of family fun, participate in an invigorating fitness class or partake in a leisurely sunset walk, the Pier continues to be a safe environment for everyone to enjoy. For 111 years, the Santa Monica Pier has become an iconic facet to the culture in Santa Monica and stands as a reminder to the evolution of our City by the Sea. To show the Pier the love it deserves, immerse yourself in the Secret Story Tour and unlock the hidden treasure troves of the Pier’s history, or dine at one of the many delicious eateries, all while watching the Pacific Ocean swallow the afternoon sun. And don’t forget to punch your stamp card while you’re at it! More info: santamonicapier.org.

Find a complete list of businesses open on the pier.