Ah, Venice Beach, California. Laidback and bustling all at the same time. This unique Los Angeles County beach town has sand, surf, and a lot of local color. No doubt, many consider Venice Beach to be the nerve center for Los Angeles’ quirky, out-there personality. If you’re visiting LA for the first time, put it on your ‘must-do’ list because you won’t want to miss it. And once you’re there, indulge in our Favorite 5 things to do.
1- Stay in the Heart of Venice
To stay at the center of Venice Beach culture, book a room at Hotel Erwin, a retro-meets-surf-style boutique hotel with plenty of ocean-view rooms, a rooftop lounge, and a lobby decorated with surfboards. Or stay at the historic Venice Beach Suites & Hotel, with its exposed-brick walls, a cool antique elevator named “Betsy,” and a rooftop deck with 360-degree views.
2 – People Watch at Muscle Beach
Venice is most famous, perhaps, for Muscle Beach, a stretch of sand accented with an outdoor gym that’s a magnet for serious body-builders, cheerful exhibitionists, and plenty of gawkers. You can get a day pass for the gym at Muscle Beach for just $10 if you want to get a hands-on experience. The surrounding area of beach also has play areas for kids, a skate park, a boxing ring, and of course, a “regular” beach, where you can relax in the sand and watch everyone else work up a sweat.
3 – Eat Like a Local
Venice has attracted plenty of top-shelf places to eat, drink, or just nosh. Grab a table at a restaurant/bar known as James’ Beach—located a mere half block from the sand—known for its Angus burgers, movie-star mahi-mahi tacos (they were featured in the 2009 film I Love You, Man), and colorful people-watching.
Gourmands also flock to two restaurants launched by chef Travis Lett, which both start with a silent G: Gjusta is an acclaimed bakery and deli known for its decadent sandwiches while Gjelina draws consistent crowds for its inventive vegetable dishes, pizzas, and surprises like rabbit stroganoff. Nearby Zinqué, meanwhile, takes its inspiration from the French for its charcuterie plates, quiches, and chocolate croissants.
Another bucket-list stop for foodies is Tito’s Tacos, an old-school taqueria located at the eastern edge of Venice. Founded in 1959 and still sporting an old sign out front, Tito’s regularly makes national best-of lists for its unapologetically traditional tacos and burritos. The tacos are topped with shredded iceberg and grated cheddar, and the beef burritos are filled with chili con carne.
4 – Shop for Quirky Treasures
Between meals and workouts, rent a bike and pedal along Venice’s long, beachside bike path (Hotel Erwin guests can just borrow a bike). Or, wander Abbot Kinney Boulevard, named for the eccentric real estate investor who built Venice in the early 20th century to reflect his favorite Italian city. (see #5) Visit Venice Beach on the first Friday of the month for food trucks and live music but any day of the week offers a mix of art galleries, clothing boutiques, and intriguing gift shops, like the low-key elegance at Cuyana, the British-made activewear at Sweaty Betty, and the scents at Strange Invisible Perfumes. Abbot Kinney also features some transplants that make for excellent snacks, from Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee to Portland’s Salt & Straw Ice Cream and Blue Star Donuts.
5 – Explore the Venice Canals
Tucked between the boardwalk and Abbot Kinney lies California’s stunning version of Italy’s Venice canals, which offset the beach scene with a completely different look and feel. In this 3-block stretch, visitors will find photo opportunities at every turn with an eclectic mix of modern properties and charming beach houses, plenty of greenery and blooming gardens, arching pedestrian bridges, and non-motorized vessels lazily cruising the waterway alongside ducklings. Visitors can rent a small boat or paddleboard to join the locals on the waterway (enter via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard) or locate a tour company for a walking tour or gondola ride.
Partial content courtesy of Visit California