The Pier is lively with tourists and locals alike, and its view of the ocean sunset is just amazing. You can fish off of it too!
Ahh... Santa Monica... still one of my favorite places to take a stroll, shop, eat, lounge on the beach, and drink. The Pier is a fantastic place to see the development of the city. There's a combination of the old and the new. The beautiful ornamented carousel, housed in a classic building. The Pacific Park-the sign makes for a great pic.
Anyhoo... The park is awesome, it's got a Ferris Wheel, a whole lot of arcade games, but it's a bit of a bummer. The rides are really expensive, ($5/person for the Ferris wheel!) and while I'm sure the money goes to the keepin up costs of the pier, but the pier could be a really great, cheap thing for kids to do, especially for kids who don't have tons of money. We ARE in a recession, after all...
Also, there's a taco bell and a pizza hut- plus a Coffee bean, and that sort of takes so much of the "classic" away from the pier. There is a great burger joint on it though, and at the end of the pier there's Marisol's- a Mexican restaurant with a GREAT view of the water, and the BEST piña coladas I've tasted since Mexico.