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Enjoy a California summer day on the beach at Santa Monica

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A family vacation would not be complete without taking the kids to the beach. Specifically, the beach alongside Santa Monica's pier provides an excellent location to introduce family members to the fun of swimming in the Pacific.

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Walking from the parking garage toward the sea, a big blue sign stretches over the pier. It announces fun ahead. Sure, the famous ferris wheel and amusement park rides beckon, but eyes are drawn beyond, toward the wooden planked pier laden with meandering pedestrians. Many food vendors and performers attract attention, including a lady conducting palm readings. The air smells of the sea, as a brisk breeze makes the heat tolerable.

Along the north side of the pier, people watch kids' big grins as they first experience the Pacific Ocean suck the sand slightly away from beneath their feet. The children splash into the waves, sometimes diving under and body-boarding back to shore. Others play frisbee, twirl each other around, or bury their siblings in sand. Parents gather under giant, colored umbrellas and fend off seagulls from their bags of McDonald's french fries.

All in all, Santa Monica Pier deserves its reputation of a family friendly destination. The variety of colors, activities, and people provide endless hours of entertainment for people of all ages.