Getting Your Kids to Glow

Genie Davis February 13, 2014 No Comments


The Santa Monica Pier Ferris Wheel is transformed for Glow.

This is an event you should plan for three years from now. Yes, unfortunately you’ve missed this year’s amazing Glow event held by the City of Santa Monica, CA, and like a strange species of glowing animal life, it emerges again only every three years. It’s worth putting on your calendar. This free art event lasts from dusk ’til 2 am, and it’s great for families with kids of all ages.


An evening, glowing art show held right on the beach, Glow features a series of interactive lit-up installations on the famous Santa Monica pier, just above the pier, and right on the sand.  It’s really hard to imagine an event as imaginative and enthralling as this one. Adults act like little kids, little kids act like little kids, and the art makes you not only see glowing objects but feel all glowy inside too. It’s pretty wonderful.

Let’s call it illuminating.  If your kids like glow sticks (doesn’t every kid?), playing in the sand, shimmery Ferris Wheels, then come on down. Out of towners should consider Loews Hotel right on the beach, where you can easily pop in and out of the hotel throughout the event, and if you keep the kids up late, you can easily carry them in to bed, too. Many of the rooms have sweeping beach views, which will let you keep on watching the Glow event unfold even after the kids are tucked in bed, and you’re relaxing on your balcony.

Organizers of this solitary but simply magical evening term the light-up art collection of fifteen exhibits “Santa Monica’s signature cultural event.” My kids thought it was the neatest art show they’d ever seen. Street musicians play. Glowing jelly fish the size of a small dog hang from trees. The iconic Ferris Wheel at the end of Santa Monica pier is re-lit in an ever changing, vibrant mandela pattern.  The works are created  by both local and  international artists who are commissioned specifically to create large scale, colorful, and above all glowing art that stands for just this one night.

Shifting sand changes the shape of this glowing netting on the beach.


There were a lot of highlights in the 2013 event. A big favorite was the geodesic dome. Lit from inside, where people danced, jumped, and played, you could watch the antics outside, as the people inside formed giant shadow puppets. Then there was the enormous purple netting built on a dune that was designed to change shape – both the glowing netting, and the sand. The kids could literally alter the art by playing in the sand.Titled The Space Between Us, some people stayed for long periods of time, watching the netting shift, enjoying just lying back on the sand. Back on the pier, men and women put on hats that looked like sea creatures, performing as human marionettes. Radio station KCRW sponsored a performance piece which involved downloading a simple app to your smart phone and holding the phone aloft while it pulsed different colors. On the street, a large screen was set up that showed the event taking place. Talk about inclusive!

Giant glass jelly fish and squid bobbed from trees above the pier. A cargo container was turned into a neon ringed tunnel with a screen flashing colorful images at one end. Outside, an enormous fire ring blazed from the roof of the container. The kids were hard to tear away from a phosphorescent glow wall where you could create – and temporarily freeze – your own shadow images. There was also a wishing well, where actual living phosphorescent sea creatures reacted to a disturbance, caused by participants dropping a special “coin” into the well. The drop was illuminated through a thick clear substance. I don’t know how they did it, but it was really, really cool.


Be sure to take some time to simply enjoy the antique carousel, midway games, child-scaled roller coaster and bumper cars that grace the Santa Monica pier itself year round.  You’ll want to budget time for a simple afternoon stroll along Santa Monica’s broad white sands, too. Head south toward Venice Beach for a walk along the paved Strand where zany street performers juggle chain saws and Hare Krishna’s chant.

Take a dining break at the relaxing and entirely good for you Cafe Gratitude a short walk from Venice Beach. This all vegan restaurant has one of the best chocolate mint chip shakes ever, made with fresh mint and almond milk. The coconut milk vegetable ceviche is pretty exceptional, too. Kids will love the veggie tacos and house made veggie burgers. It goes without saying that in a place where menu items are slugged I am Awesome and the like that the produce is all organically sourced.

Not quite your thing? Right on Santa Monica Pier you’ll find Mariasol Mexican Cuisine, Bubba Gump Shrimp, and the kid-friendly ice cream and fries at Pier Burger. Not to mention stands selling pretty exceptional funnel cakes.

Part circus, part art show, part wholesomely hedonistic extravaganza, this event will be one your family will be talking about for years to come. So get ready, get set, mark your calendars and reserve your rooms now when Glow comes shining around again in 2016.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Reviews, Sharing Experiences, Tips and Hints, Travel Excursions

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