Those iconic Los Angeles photos of palm-tree lined pathways backed by a glittering, sun-kissed Pacific Ocean are not a Hollywood camera trick—that’s Venice Beach. Experience the mish-mash of boutique shops, celebrity residences, Italian inspired canals, and bohemian beach attitude found Venice Beach vacations. With hot tips like booking Venice Beach vacation rentals, you can spot celebrities in Venice Beach without spending money like one. Let our Venice Beach Travel Guide help you navigate the variety of activities so you can have a blast like a SoCal native in this vibrant beach side town.
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Venice Beach and the Boardwalk
The biggest draw of Venice Beach vacations is, of course, Venice Beach and its Ocean Front Walk, or the Boardwalk. The beach is a three mile stretch of sand where you can stroll barefoot, sunbathe, fly kites, build sand castles, read, or simply watch the sparkling waves. The “Boardwalk” is actually a long paved path bordered by colorful shops and restaurants on one side and the blue ocean on the other. This three mile promenade with sea breezes and postcard-worthy views is a great place to roller skate or in-line skate, jog, bike ride, or walk your dog. The Venice Beach basketball courts are known for fast-paced and high-talent games. If you like sports, stop by the courts that groomed several NBA players, and you might see a future MVP.
The best thing to do on a Venice Beach vacation is check out the funky mix of people. Street performers are unique here and you can enjoy the stylings of robots, snake charmers, break dancers, stilt walkers, and even a man who plays guitar on roller skates, as they show off their talents. Artists, musicians, vendors, protesters, fortune tellers, pit-bulls, gawking tourists, and just plain weirdoes also line the walkways, which makes for free entertainment better than most movies. Meander the path and watch a man walk barefoot across broken glass, have your palm read, join a drum circle, or get a belly-dancing lesson. Come in the afternoon on weekends year-round and every day in summer to experience this classic Venice Beach spectacle.
Check Out Muscled Bods
Visit famous Muscle Beach, formerly the hangout of Arnold Schwarzenegger and many other body builders. An outdoor gym with gymnastics area, handball and beach volleyball courts, and of course, weight benches, where well-muscled (and often oiled) bodies who like to display the fruits of their labor can be seen pumping iron and working up a sweat. It’s more fun to watch, but if you want to be part of the exhibition, you can pay for day use of the facilities.
Venice Art Walls
Venice Beach has concrete walls covered in street paintings, but this isn’t your typical punk kid handiwork. Once known as the Graffiti Pit, where community encouraged creativity, this illegal painting was common. Later, this space was reclaimed as the Venice Public Art Walls. Now artists who have permits can legally display their original and often stunningly intricate designs. A bonus is to watch the artists create their masterpieces, and on weekends you can catch them in action. So check out these art walls on your next Venice Beach vacation.
Italian Inspired Canals
Marshlands were drained to make way for Abbot Kinney’s Venice-in-America development in 1905 and turned into miles of canals. Today, only a few blocks of channels remain, but a stroll along these waterways is a relaxing break from the hustle of the Boardwalk. While on your Venice Beach vacation, check out the elegant homes that line the canals, many of which were recently restored and with beautifully landscaped yards. Park on residential streets away from the beach, and walk to the canal neighborhood between Venice and Washington Boulevards.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Assorted one-of-a-kind boutiques, raved-about restaurants, and hip bars line the shopping area that has been touted as one of the trendier LA areas to find eclectic clothing and gifts. Firefly is a favorite for its scented three-room interior and trinket selection, and E Cookie boasts jewelry and feminine clothing full of silks and flowers. For a sensory treat, visit Strange Invisible Perfumes, where you can try on decadent scents in an upscale parlor with the help of perfume experts. You're sure to find a favorite souvenir, whether jewelry or a trinket, to remember your Venice Beach vacation.
For a slice, Abbott’s Pizza Company offers some of the most popular pizza in all of LA, and Hama Sushi has, well, sushi, but good rolls that are worth calling in for a reservation. For dessert, check out Jin Patisserie’s mouthwatering cakes and chocolates, and then head to Beechwood restaurant for cocktails, micro brew beer on tap, and outdoor seating.
As with many tourist spots, shops here contain kitschy souvenirs and tourist T-shirts that are fun to browse. Incense is a popular ware sold on the Boardwalk, but individuals sell everything from earrings to live turtles. The selection changes daily depending on who shows up.
You’ll definitely need fuel while cruising the strip. The restaurants here can be overpriced and not very good, but if you want to dine beach side, Figtree Cafe and Piccolo Italian Restaurant are good bets. By far the best choice on the Boardwalk is Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom. A Venice Beach tradition, these delicious dogs are popular by no mistake, and you’ll want to eat here early on your Venice Beach vacation, so you can score another of these finger-licking-good sausages before you leave.
Summers are the busiest time of year for Venice Beach, but more people just means more entertainment! Beachfront property can be subjected to fog on summer mornings, but if you plan to swim in the chilly Pacific during your Venice Beach vacation, you’ll need the summer sun. Events take place all year and include favorites such as the Garden Tour and the Venice Artwalk. In December, the canals light up with festive decorations for the Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade and, in September, Abbott Kinney Blvd is closed for the yearly Abbott Kinney Festival, a free one-day event with artisan booths, live music, food, beer gardens, and a family courtyard.
Each October the Los Angeles Triathlon begins in Venice Beach so traffic is blocked and spectators line the streets. Anyone can join in and cheer, but if you’re not interested in viewing the event, it’s best to avoid Venice Beach that weekend.
Southern California weather is temperate all year, though that does not always mean warm, and even in the hottest part of summer, you’ll probably want a light jacket for evenings. Many of the necessities will be provided by your Venice Beach vacation rental, but double check before you pack. Above all, bring an ability to laugh at the strange and unusual because Venice Beach vacations are chock full of people, things, and sounds you’ve never experienced before. Give yourself the freedom to do as you please without being judged—everyone else has—and you’ll have a ball.
The Los Angeles Fire Department has its lifeguard headquarters is Venice Beach, so you can swim in the ocean knowing you’re protected. Spa services, bike and skate rentals, even tarot card readings, any items you need, and lots of things you would never have thought to look for, are available in Venice Beach.
Part of what makes Venice Beach vacations so fun is the unpredictable nature of the Boardwalk’s street performers and the interesting people. But that spontaneous and free-spirited atmosphere—and the presence of medical marijuana clubs—may not be suitable for young children.
If you enjoyed a street performance enough to take a picture, it’s polite to donate a bit of cash. Remember, too, that not much happens on Ocean Front Walk after dark and it’s not the safest place to be wandering, especially alone. Watch the sunset from the beach and then head inland for the happening nightlife on Abbot Kinney.
Avoid paying for parking. If your Venice Beach vacation rental isn’t close enough that you can walk to the promenade, there is free street parking available. You’ll also get to check out more of the often elaborate and interesting architecture on the less busy streets of town.
Venice Beach is located between Santa Monica and Marina Del Ray about thirty minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles International Airport is a fifteen minute drive or cab ride away, and is a major hub for many airlines which means frequent flights and, often, special deals.
With so many celebrity residences and expensive hotels lining the Boardwalk, Venice Beach accommodations can seem like an expensive prospect. But with Venice Beach vacation rentals, you can stay right in the heart of the action for less dough than you’d spend at a hotel. Plus, with fabulous available bonuses like sea view balconies, gourmet kitchens, multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, fitness equipment, and surround sound entertainment systems, Venice Beach vacation rentals allow you to live like a celebrity at a fraction of the cost.
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