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Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Edgy, artsy, stylish, and a little bit odd—welcome to L.A.’s out-there beach town

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Abutting Santa Monica’s south side on the Pacific Coast Highway, Venice Beach—or simply Venice—was developed as a Los Angeles beach resort that paid homage to its Italian namesake with canals, piazzas, pedestrian bridges, a lagoon, and a colonnaded business district. Designed by eccentric millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905, Venice’s original waterways and charming beach cottages can still be seen on Dell Avenue in the Venice Canal Historic District.

Things to Do in Venice Beach

Today’s Venice, though, is more famous for quirky happenings on its iconic beachfront boardwalk and pier, where mimes, jugglers, musicians, and street performers of all kinds inhabit an ever-changing and unforgettable bohemian subculture. You may also see some of the country’s best pickup basketball games on local outdoor courts. Watch it all from the loud and lively waterfront skate park, or sit near the daily drum circle on the beach. Feel free to grab a can and a stick—or anything that makes noise—and join in. Stop by the outdoor weight room at Muscle Beach Gym, once the home turf of bodybuilder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who later went on to become California’s governor. For a dive into Venice’s film history, sign up for a stroll with Venice Beach Walking Tours. You’ll learn about the city’s role in Orson Welles’ film Touch of Evil (1958) and other locally shot movies. To really go mobile, rent beach cruiser bikes to follow Venice’s stretch of the 22-mile Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail, linking Santa Monica to Torrance. For more ideas, check out 5 Amazing Things to Do in Venice Beach; feel like striking out on a road trip? Head for the Mojave desert from Venice on this two-day adventure.

Restaurants in Venice

There are plenty of destination restaurants, cafes, and food trucks to make sure you don’t go hungry in Venice. On the old-school end, Doors fans can drop by Jim Morrison’s favorite hangout, Hinano Café, which has been in business since 1962, and order up a burger and beer. Or drop by The Rose Venice, a bustling, airy restaurant that’s been serving breakfast specialties (some from the in-house bakery) in addition to one of the most varied menus in the city for lunch and dinner since 1979. Sharing a Rose Ave. address with The Rose Venice is organic vegan standby Café Gratitude, where international-leaning mains, bowls, and sandwiches have earned a devoted following. Those craving authentic Southern Italian cuisine should beeline to Ospi for house-made pastas and wide selection of pizzas.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a foodie mecca all its own—for the ultimate casual dinner bites head to that thoroughfare’s namesake First Fridays event on the first Friday of every month for live music and a gathering of top-tier food trucks (at other times, just keep your eyes peeled—you can find these rolling purveyors of deliciousness throughout the city). Abbot Kinney has more than its fair share of notable brick-and-mortar eateries as well, including the vegan Butcher’s Daughter, the Italian Piccolo Ristorante, Mexican cuisine pop-up De Buena Planta (which shares an owner, and its vegan approach, with Butcher’s Daughter), and the globally influenced New American Gjelina.

Shopping in Venice

That same thoroughfare—Abbot Kinney Boulevard—contains a mile-long stretch of posh galleries and boho-chic boutiques selling furnishings and fashions. It’s a bonus if you can time your retail therapy to coincide with one of their First Fridays, but any day is perfect for stopping by Strange Invisible Perfumes to procure hydro-distilled eaux de toilette. Shop for comfy-cute loungewear at All Things Fabulous, browse custom stationery and writing utensils at Urbanic Paper Boutique, or stock up on ‘70s-inspired—and very Californian—fashions at the original Aviator Nation store.

Where to Stay in Venice

Cap off a day in one of L.A.’s most famous neighborhoods at the boutique Hotel Erwin, where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the area (and perhaps a blood-orange julep) at the High Rooftop Lounge. Also on the boardwalk is Venice V Hotel, which boasts of ocean views from every one of its rooms and offers bikes, surfboards, and skateboards to its guests. (Added bonus for fans of Old Hollywood: The sense of history runs deep here. The building, which dates to 1915, was once home to Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, and Clara Bow.) Or book a room at The Kinney, where you can spend your leisure hours spinning records in the lobby or playing ping pong in the shared open-air courtyard.

Things to Do Near Venice

While you’re in the area, there are loads of attractions within a few minutes that are well worth checking out. Adjacent to Venice on the south is Marina Del Rey, where you can partake in all manner of water leisure activities, from an alfresco meal watching the boats glide in and out to sailing, sport fishing, or kayaking. The marina is also one of L.A.’s whale-watching hot spots. A few miles up the coast is Santa Monica, home of exceptional shopping, dining, an amazing aquarium, and much more.

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