Why I love the carousel:
1) It gives my two year old so much joy. On our last trip, she did two rounds -- the first on a classic horse, the second on a wascally rabbit.
2) The Carousel is at the foot of the pier, meaning that on a busy weekend afternoon, you don't have to battle too many of the crowds, which are mainly concentrated further down the pier.
3) It's historic. The Carousel building's "Byzantine-Moorish style" (according to the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corporation) was originally built in 1916, and then restored in the early 1980s.
4) The price is right. A merry trip 'round is only $2 per adult and $1 per child three years and over; tots two and under are free.
Of course, once you're at the pier, there are tons of other things to do, from dragon-swing ride to solar-powered Ferris wheel, though all of that is best avoided on summer weekends, in my opinion.
Top photo: Siona's sidekick on her first go-round (I accompanied her). Bottom photo: Siona and Daddy