California Coastal Spotlight: Venice Beach

California Coastal Spotlight: Venice Beach

By Alejandra Saragoza | Photos by Brin Hanson November 25, 2019

Venice, California, has long been one of the most popular destinations in Los Angeles, providing endless summer vibes, picture-perfect weather, and a vibrant mix of activities and attractions that draw droves of visitors and locals alike. 

As its moniker implies, Venice was named for the system of canals built by developer Abbot Kinney, who envisioned creating a “Venice of America” beachfront resort town and cultural mecca. (He even imported gondolas and gondoliers from Venice, Italy.) Though Kinney didn’t quite turn his initial vision into reality, he did succeed in making Venice an internationally recognized destination after its founding in 1905. 

And it’s easy to see why. From the world-famous boardwalk and the pristine swaths of sand to the Italian-inspired, man-made canals and the eclectic restaurants and shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice offers something for everyone. The diverse, boho-spirited destination is also a haven for creative types, attracting artists, poets, musicians, and street performers with its carefree environs.

Whether you’re looking for some fun in the sun, a special shopping experience, a unique place to skateboard, or a sophisticated evening of art and music, Venice has it all. Here’s a glimpse into this hoppin’ L.A. neighborhood.

Spanning across the bustling, colorful intersection of Windward Avenue and Pacific Avenue, the iconic Venice sign welcomes visitors to the buzzy beach town. 
Numerous local shops and eateries line the three-mile-long Venice Ocean Front Walk, also known as the Venice Beach Boardwalk. 
The famous concrete boardwalk attracts over 16 million visitors a year, including quirky locals, tourists from around the globe, skaters, and street performers—making it a prime people-watching spot. 
The outdoor basketball courts at the Venice Beach Recreation Center are renowned for drawing some of the best street players in the country, as depicted in the 1992 film White Men Can't Jump. Situated along the Venice Ocean Front Walk, the center also features several children's play areas, handball courts, tennis courts, and volleyball courts. 
Many NBA players developed their skills and were recruited while playing a game of hoops at the Venice Beach Recreation Center, giving the local hot spot its legendary reputation. 
Located at the south end of the recreation center, Venice Muscle Beach rose to prominence when the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica disappeared in the 1960s. Since then, it has morphed into a voyeuristic outdoor gym for chisled bodybuilders where curious onlookers can watch the workouts (and admire the people doing them) from afar.
The $2-million Venice Skate Park opened in 2009 along the sandy shores of Venice Beach and is now one of the most iconic skateboarding spots in California, drawing hordes of street skaters and spectators alike. 
Aside from its signature sunken bowls, the 16,000-square-foot facility also features a variety of skateboarding elements for street skaters of all levels. 
Funky shops, small markets, and vendor booths—not to mention street art—can be found throughout Venice's myriad sidewalks, creating a feast for the senses. 
The murals and graffiti art throughout Venice add to the area's vivacious energy. Numerous famed muralists have decorated Venice's concrete walls with playful portraits of celebrities, unique interpretations of the local scene, and colorful depictions of the town's history.  
Punctuated by soaring palm trees, Abbot Kinney Boulvevard is the premier shopping destination in Venice, boasting a vibrant collection of boutiques, thrift stores, beauty salons, galleries, restaurants, and nightspots. 
Abbot Kinney is now widely considered to be the most stylish, hipster-cool block in Venice, so it's hard to believe it was formerly a rundown strip of abandoned industrial buildings and old cottages. 
One of the many charming eateries located along Abbot Kinney, Cha Cha is an Instagram-worthy hot spot dedicated to all things matcha and is particularly known for its signature matcha lattes and canned matcha iced teas.
A former home–turned–design store, Tumbleweed & Dandelion is another Abbot Kinney destination offering handcrafted furniture, apparel, home decor, and interior-design services. 
Visitors don't just come to Venice for the boardwalk; more than 10 million people flock to Venice Beach each year to experience its sun-kissed sands, crashing surf, and chill vibes. 
Explore the eccentric environs of Venice with Fido, who can sink his paws into the soft sands and frolic in the sapphire waves of the Pacific Ocean. 
Settle in on the sands of Venice Beach and soak up the warm rays while listening to the pulsating sounds of the Venice Beach Drum Circle in the distance.
As the sun starts to sink into the horizon, take a moment to breathe in the salt-kissed air and savor the breathtaking hues of golden hour in Venice. 

Extend your trip by checking out the nearby attractions of Santa Monica, visiting the top Los Angeles art museums, trying the best gluten-free restaurants in L.A., or exploring the interesting towns surrounding the L.A. area.

What are your favorite things to do in Venice? Let us know in the comments below!

WRITTEN BY
Alejandra Saragoza

WRITTEN BY Alejandra Saragoza

Alejandra is the managing editor of California.com. She's a California native based in the Bay Area and enjoys writing about all things food and travel related. Her work can also be seen in Diablo, T…

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