“I’m flying, like Peter Pan and Tinkerbell,” giggles the 5 year old next to you. That pinch of pixie dust sure worked, because suddenly you also feel like like you’ll never grow up.  And even prettier than the sites of London is the sand, sea, and sunset as you soar over the Santa Monica Pier.   A spin on this wheel takes you straight back to childhood, taking your own kids with you…

It’s So Easy, Being Green
Super progressive energy-conscious Santa Monica installed this Pacific Wheel in 2008, the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel, replacing the 1996 original that sold on eBay with proceeds benefiting the Special Olympics.  Well, well, a worldview to feel good about as you ascend 9 stories above the Strand.

Choices, Choices
Young riders soaring at heights of 3-1/2 feet can spin solo, or be accompanied by a grown up, who can stretch out in a gondola with actual legroom.  Choose from oodles of options for tickets:  single rides are a bargain at $5 while unlimited rides are less than $16 for the 7 & under set.  Adventure-seekers who can’t imagine a day without dizziness opt for an annual pass ($99).  Peruse Pacific Park’s website before visiting, and you just may find a nifty discount.

But Mom, I’m Huuuuuungry
When disequilibrium sets in, it’s time for a snack break.  Among the surfers, fishermen, body builders and sun worshipers below, pick a spot to picnic with your pint-sized posse, digging tiny toes into the sparkling sand nearby.  Small fry insisting on park fare will find fast food outposts (Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are popular; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf presents healthier options).

Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier
Free park admission, rides and games extra
Open 365 days; hours vary (generally 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, until midnight Fri. & Sat.)
Online: www.pacpark.com

Insider Tips:

— When kids get tired and need a change of scene (as kids do…) you are right next to a fabulous beach playground with mini monkey bars and swings for all sizes, all with a free view of the sunset.

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— Parking at the Pier can be a pricy proposition (say that 10 times, fast!).  Try the $1/hour lot for 2 hours, at the end of Seaside Way, just south of the main Pier lot.  Or check out the metered parking off the 1700 block of Appian Way; Pacific Terrace has $2/hour meters, good for 5 hours from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm.  Or strap the tiny tots into the stroller (bring your own – no room for rentals on the Pier), and walk from Santa Monica Place parking at Colorado and 2nd Street.

Do you have any tips or tricks for visiting the Santa Monica ferris wheel with your fam?

— Kim Orchen Cooper

Images courtesy of Kim Orchen Cooper.