The Tallest Ferris Wheel in California Provides a Jaw-Dropping View

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Updated: August 8, 2023
© Seyhan Ahen/
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Key Points:

  • It is found on Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park.
  • The Pacific Wheel is the tallest Ferris wheel in California.
  • Stretching 85 feet in width, this immense Ferris wheel ascends over 130 feet above the Santa Monica Pier.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of soaring high above the ground on the tallest Ferris wheel in California. With each slow rotation, you can enjoy breathtaking views that stretch out before you. It feels as if the entire world is your playground!

As you ascend to the top of the wheel, the panoramic views of the California coastline, cityscape, and vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean leave you awestruck. And with its colorful array of lights illuminating the night sky, this incredible Ferris wheel promises an unforgettable experience that will stay with you forever. 

What is the Tallest Ferris Wheel in California?

Located on Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park, the Pacific Wheel is the tallest Ferris wheel in California. This gigantic Ferris wheel is 85 feet wide and rises more than 130 feet above the Santa Monica Pier! The wheel moves at 2.5 revolutions per minute, interspersed with picking up and dropping off passengers of course. What makes this Ferris wheel extra special, however, are the unparalleled views it offers of Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

And did you know that the Pacific Wheel is also the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the entire world?  Solar panels on the roof of a nearby building power this incredible Ferris wheel. In addition, over 174,000 energy-efficient LED lights decorate the massive wheel. These colorful lights produce impressive displays and entertaining light shows in the evenings. You can also watch them online via the Ferris wheel’s live camera feed.

The Ferris wheel currently at Pacific Park was assembled there in 2008. It was crafted by the skilled hands of Chance Morgan Rides at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. However, this wasn’t actually the first Ferris wheel on Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica pier at sunset, Los Angeles
Santa Monica’s Pacific Wheel is 85 feet wide and rises more than 130 feet above the Santa Monica Pier.


The First Ferris Wheel on Santa Monica Pier

When the Santa Monica Pier was built back in 1909, it was not meant to be a destination site. In fact, it was just to help move sewage into the ocean! However, after creating the carousel for Coney Island in New York, Charles I. D. Looff packed up and moved to California. In 1916, Looff purchased land along the south side of the Santa Monica Pier. He developed and introduced new attractions like the Hippodrome, the Blue Streak Racer roller coaster, the Whip, a carousel, and a funhouse.

Although Looff’s rides and attractions were very popular, the World Wars put a hiatus on everything. Sadly, the park fell into disrepair. Then in the 1950s, the city developed a plan to destroy the Santa Monica Pier in order to build a new resort — it never happened, however, due to many local activists who fought against the plan. Later during the 1980s, terrible winter storms destroyed much of the pier.

Then finally, in 1989, the Pure Restoration Corporation went to work on restoring the once-colorful pleasure pier. After much time and energy, they turned the pier into a year-round entertainment hub. The new pier had all kinds of fun things, like nightclubs, gift shops, restaurants, amusement rides, and live entertainment.

When it was finished, the new Pacific Park opened in 1996, complete with a massive 122,000-pound, 90-foot-tall Ferris wheel. The Ferris wheel underwent changes within a few years so that it would run on solar power. The wheel remained at Pacific Park for 12 years. 

Underside view of a ferris wheel rotating downward on California's Santa Monica Pier.
Both the original and the newer Pacific Wheel Ferris wheels are solar-powered.


The Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Ferris Wheel Today

In 2008, Santa Monica Pier received a new Ferris wheel to replace the original one. However, rather than destroying the old wheel, they auctioned it off on eBay! Grant Humphries from Oklahoma bought the old Pacific Wheel for $132,400. It now resides in the Wheeler District of Oklahoma City. There, Humphreys and his brother are creating a new urban development project and waterfront community.

The new (and current) Pacific Wheel is one of the main attractions at the Santa Monica Pier, offering riders a breathtaking view of the California coastline and stunning vistas of the Pacific Ocean. The wheel also has 20 gondolas and is brightly lit with colorful LED lights. Whether or not you decide to take a ride on the Pacific Wheel, its dazzling light displays in the evenings are definitely worth watching.

Today, the Pacific Wheel and Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier are incredible destinations for family fun. The Pacific Park is an amazing two-acre amusement park — and the best part is that it’s free to get in! That’s right! Although the rides have individual costs, you can stroll through the gates without paying a single cent! The park features 13 exciting rides along with midway games, tasty food outlets, and plenty of shopping opportunities to keep you entertained for hours on end.

This video shows amazing views you can experience from atop the Pacific Wheel at Santa Monica Pier.

Wildlife Near the Pacific Wheel

The Pacific Wheel at Santa Monica Pier overlooks the California coastline and the Pacific Ocean, where a wide variety of wildlife make their homes. The Santa Monica State Beach stretches out from either side of the pier, and you can see many birds scavenging on its shores. You could spot Heermann’s gulls, rock pigeons, western gulls, ring-billed gulls, and California gulls, for example. Caspian terns, snowy egrets, grebes, black-crowned night herons, brown pelicans, sanderlings, and marbled godwits are also common visitors along the shoreline. And if you’re lucky, you can watch California sea lions soaking up the sun and playing on the beach and nearby piers. 

The ocean water surrounding the Santa Monica Pier is also home to sea otters, sea turtles, sharks, bottlenose dolphins, jellyfish, kelp, and gray whales. Santa Monica Bay has many rocky shore habitats as well, with tidepools and other areas filled with incredible biodiversity. In the splash/spray zones, there are lichens, filamentous green algae, brown algae, periwinkles, shore crabs, and limpets. At night, raccoons often frequent these areas as they hunt for a yummy seafood dinner. In the middle intertidal zones, there are groups of acorn barnacles, mussels, and sea stars. And the lower intertidal zones often host sea stars, whelks, green sea anemones, sea urchins, fish, crabs, snails, and lots of seaweed.

Santa Monica pier Ferris Wheel in California USA on blue Pacific Ocean
There are all different types of wildlife and plant life living around and underneath the Santa Monica Pier.


Where is The Pacific Wheel Located on a Map?

You can find The Park at 380 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Access to the pier is possible by driving through I-10 or Pacific Coast Highway.

Here is The Pacific Wheel on a map:

Heal the Bay Aquarium at Santa Monica Pier

If you want to get an up-close-and-personal experience with the wildlife of Santa Monica Bay, then head over to the Heal the Bay Aquarium. You can find it just below the Santa Monica Pier. At this award-winning aquarium, you can dive into the world of marine science with exciting activities, educational programs, and incredible events. The aquarium is dedicated to environmental education, sea conservation, and preventing pollution. Over 100 local species are on exhibit, and it provides all kinds of immersive, hands-on activities that cater to all ages.

There are so many fascinating things to see, like the aquarium’s shark nursery and kelp forest. And if you don’t mind getting wet, you can even feel the sandpaper skin of a shark in the touch tanks! The aquarium has tons of local species, from “kissing” sargo fish to moon jellies, eels, sea stars, rockfish, hair rock crabs, octopuses, space slugs, horn sharks, and swell sharks — just to name a few!

The Featured Image

colorful ferris wheel in an amusement park on a clear day with blue sky background, pacific park, santa monica beach, los angeles, usa, november 2022
The Pacific Wheel in Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier is the tallest Ferris wheel in California.
© Seyhan Ahen/

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About the Author

As a professional writer and editor for many years, I have dedicated my work to the fascinating exploration of anthrozoology and human-animal relationships. I hold a master's degree with experience in humanities, human-animal studies, ecocriticism, wildlife conservation, and animal behavior. My research focuses on the intricate relationships and dynamics between humans and the natural world, with the goal of re-evaluating and imagining new possibilities amid the uncertainty and challenges of the Anthropocene.

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