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THE SANTA MONICA PIER’S Ferris wheel has held reign as the world’s only solar-powered wheel for the last decade -- but last year the California amusement got even more energy efficient when it was replaced with the nine-story $1.5 million Pacific Wheel, which lifts riders more than 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean, lights up the sky with 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights, and generates more than 71,000 kilowatt hours of renewable photovoltaic power from sunlight.


Not to be left on its (not) green behind, the Heal the Bay Santa Monica Pier Aquarium also underwent an eco-friendly makeover to become a certified green business. Its eco-lift included installing more environmentally friendly, low-mercury fluorescent bulbs; improving the energy efficiency of the animal life-support system; and using 100 percent recycled post consumer plastic (like milk and margarine containers) for the new sandy-colored aquarium display bases. Popular exhibits that feature plant and animal life from the Santa Monica Bay include three touch tanks, a shark exhibit, and a kelp forest exhibit.

Among its other treasures the Pier has taken care to maintain is the circa-1922 all-wooden carousel that’s housed by the 1916 Hippodrome. It’s one of fewer than 70 merry-go-rounds of its kind that are still operating worldwide, and each horse on the carousel was dismantled, repainted, and restored back in 1980, while its machinery was replaced in 2006. You can just go to observe, like Marilyn Monroe herself (she spent many a day in the 1960s watching the horses go round), or you can climb on up for a spin. You’re guaranteed a smooth ride. Corner of Ocean and Colorado avenues, www.santamonicapier.org