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When it was first built in the late 1920s, the Crystal Pier in San Diego’s Pacific Beach neighborhood offered a classic amusement park setting above the water. Imagine a rainbow of flashing arcade lights and elegantly dressed couples dancing the night away in the Crystal Ballroom.

Today’s pier offers a much more subdued experience—in all the best ways. The amusement park and ballroom are gone, with only the Crystal Pier Hotel remaining. Guests stay in updated 1930s-era cottages, ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites, each with a seaside sundeck. The historic wooden pier is a serene spot to enjoy sweeping coastal views or watch surfers at play, plus the adjacent beach is an inviting spot to lounge with your toes in the silky sand. For a livelier scene, the intersecting boardwalk offers a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of eclectic shops and restaurants. SeaWorld San Diego is also just four miles away.

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