With proximity to one of the world’s most popular attractions—the beach—piers and boardwalks are beloved global mainstays. Yet, even these classic attractions keep up with changing tastes and trends and catering to new generations while holding onto a timeless charm that appeals to all ages and backgrounds.
Fun in the Sun—and the Water
Not surprisingly for a pier located in Southern California, the famed Santa Monica Pier is a health and sports enthusiast’s paradise.
“We take full advantage of our location and weather with a number of free fitness experiences, such as ROGA (a running and yoga class), and our two-day ‘Ocean Sports and Beach Festival,’” explains Elana Buegoff, pier administrator, City of Santa Monica.
The sun and water-drenched festival draws plenty of spectators to watch athletes compete in beach volleyball, stand-up paddleboard racing, ninja obstacle courses, skateboarding, and more. There’s even a special pool “pawty” for pooches.
At Busselton Jetty in Australia, fun is to be had both on and under the pier. The nonprofit is home to an underwater observatory where visitors can peer through glass to watch hundreds of marine species swimming in a spectacular artificial reef. Visitors can don virtual reality glasses to experience the sensation of “diving through the jetty piles with marine life and mermaids with 3D vision,” according to the jetty’s website, or they can get up close and personal with marine life without any glass partition separating them. The jetty offers seafloor-walking excursions that require no scuba training. Visitors wear a special dive helmet and backpack while accompanied by professional divers on a walk underwater near the end of the pier.
Welcoming Guests of All Abilities
At the Grand Pier in Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom, dedicated “Autism Hours” cater to guests for whom many attractions can be too intense of a sensory experience. During these hours, operators dim lights and subdue music and overhead announcements. The hours typically take place monthly on a Sunday morning.
“It is generally quieter on the Pier when we first open on a Sunday morning, anyway, in terms of visitor numbers. But by opening earlier once a month, it makes the environment even more welcoming for those who experience difficulties with large crowds or too much noise,” says Lucy Graham, group marketing manager for the Grand Pier.
Last December, the Grand Pier extended its autism hours to a dedicated time during the seasonal Santa’s Grotto. “We’re committed to doing whatever we can to make sure that the Grand Pier is a family-focused attraction that truly offers something for everyone,” adds Graham.
The Santa Monica Pier has also made substantial upgrades to open up access to visitors of all abilities. This includes a 5-foot, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant path that extends the entire pier, plus the addition of an ADA-compliant chariot and portable ramp to the Santa Monica Pier’s historic carousel.