Venice Beach is the bohemian beach town of Los Angeles. A trip to the city would not be complete if you do not spend at least a couple of hours in the neighborhood.
As a long time area resident, I am giving you my best recommendations on things to do in Venice Beach. Get ready to discover free-spirited boardwalk, a hip thoroughfare and tons of public art!
Things to Do in Venice Beach, California
Deciding what to see and do in Los Angeles is not an easy task. I know, I have lived in the city for more than 15 years and still have places on my bucket list.
With that in mind, I recommend taking some time to explore Venice Beach. I am providing a wide range of ideas. Pick a few to keep you occupied for a couple of hours or pick several to make up an entire day (this is the way to go, in my opinion).
Find Total Madness at the Venice Beach Boardwalk
The Boardwalk needs to make an appearance at the top of the list because, after all, this is the spot that has pushed Venice Beach to “famous” status.
And to be honest, I do not think there is another place in the world like The Boardwalk. In here, you will find all sort of unusual acts and alternative lifestyles. For example, get ready to see shows involving snakes, broken glass, industrial staplers, and electric saws. I am not going to get into details, but you can imagine how things go.
Then, there are people dancing, acting, singing, selling crafts, offering kisses for a dollar or calling the area home. On top of that, you have places selling trinkets, marijuana, glasses, pizza, hot dogs and much more. People transit the area on bicycles, skateboards, and Segways.
It can get hot, crowded and for some, uncomfortable. However, it is all part of how Venice Beach rolls. As a visitor, I suggest taking a look. If it is too much, you can move on to another area.
The Boardwalk extends about a mile and a half from the end of the Venice Boulevard to the end of Rose Avenue (parallel to the ocean). There are multiple entry points.
Ride a Bike
The Boardwalk (or Ocean Front Walk) is part of a 22-mile paved path extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance.
The section belonging to Venice Beach has a length of about 2 miles. With a bike, you can explore the neighborhood’s beachfront and visit other cities. You can bike to Santa Monica (to the north) or Marina del Rey (to the south). Exercise caution since the bike path can be covered with sand (making it slippery).
Several businesses rent bikes, skateboards, and skates. For example, you can rent from Ride! Venice, Jay’s Rentals and Beach Front Walk. Make sure the bike looks in good conditions before taking off.
Exercise at Muscle Beach
Muscle Beach, located next to The Boardwalk, acquired fame since it used to be the gym of bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno (the original Hulk). The place still operates as an outdoor fitness facility.
Visitors stop by to take a picture and/or watch athletes exercising. You may not have the intention to workout, but daily passes are available for $10 (weekly and annual passes are available too).
There is a museum dedicated to the gym’s history (across the facility) and, of course, a mural featuring Arnold (where you can have your picture taken).
Stroll the Pier
Venice Beach’s Pier does not get as much attention as other piers in Los Angeles County. However, it is a place to fish, stroll or watch the sunset.
It is located at the end of Washington Boulevard. Since it is located a bit away from the craziest part of The Boardwalk, it is a nice place to enjoy the sea, sand, and sun.
Get the Hip Vibe of Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the definition of cool in Los Angeles. This street has become one of the hippest places in the United States (many reputable publications say so).
Abbot Kinney extends from Washington Boulevard to Main Street for about a mile. The area of interest, the trendiest part, goes from Venice Boulevard to Westminster Avenue. Depending on where you park, expect to walk about a mile while exploring the street.
So, what makes Abbot Kinney special? Well, you are going to find many expertly curated stores selling stationery, books, clothes, shoes, furniture, antiques and so on. My favorite stores are Burro Flagship, Urbanic Paper Boutique, Bazar and Will Leather Goods.
On top of that, this thoroughfare has some of the most popular restaurants in Los Angeles. People rave about Gjelina, The Butcher’s Daughter, Wabi Venice, and The Tasting Kitchen. I love Kreation Organic Kafe.
I can go on and on describing Abbot Kinney Boulevard but it is up to you to discover what makes this place cool. Do not forget to take your picture in one of the many murals located on the street!
Find Peacefulness at the Venice Beach Canals
If you want to understand how Venice Beach got its name, you have to visit the canal district. This is one of the most underrated attractions in the area and visited by few. Nonetheless, it will make you feel like you have escaped the urban jungle.
In 1905, millionaire Abbot Kinney founded Venice of America, a beach resort and recreational enclave. He dug miles of canals to drain coastal marshes.
Today, only six of the original canals remain (the area used to be three to four times larger). There are four east-west canals (Carroll Canal, Linnie Canal, Howland Canal, and Sherman Canal) and two north-south canals (Eastern Canal and Grand Canal).
There is no right or wrong way to see the canals. Visitors tend to walk each of the east-west canals. If you have the time, I suggest doing that. Each canal is unique in the sense that the aesthetics of each property or lane is different. You are going to observe different architectural styles, different elements used to adorn the properties and different landscaping designs.
If you are short on time but want to get a feeling of the area, stroll along the Grand Canal (parallel to Pacific Avenue or the Ocean Front Walk). Expect to spend 1 to 1.5 hours in the canals.
Canal Access: You will find pathways at Venice and Dell or close to Venice and Pacific.
Photograph the Venice Beach Sign
On the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Windward Avenue, you are going to find the famous “Venice” sign.
What we have today is a replica of the one installed in 1905 by Abbot Kinney. It is not the most elaborated sign but, for one reason or another, it is super popular. That is the reason why the Venice Chamber of Commerce holds the trademark for the sign.
Please be careful when trying to snap a picture. Instagram is full of photos of people in the middle of the street with the sign in the background. This is a very busy intersection. Use caution and do not interfere with traffic.
Go Mural Hunting
Venice Beach is a street art lover’s paradise. The area has a large number of high-quality works. Plus, the scene is constantly evolving. New works seem to pop up at any given day.
Most people who talk about murals in Venice Beach refer to what you will find in Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Don’t get me wrong, the ones in there are great. However, locals like me know that there is way much more to see.
I have written an in-depth article about where to find murals in Venice Beach. It gives you specific addresses and street crossings. Find it here if you want to see the real deal.
Now, if you are short in time and want to go back home with some cool pictures, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is your best option (there is a mural at almost every corner).
Get a Dose of Color at the Mosaic Tile House
Located at 1116 Palms Boulevard, the house and studio of artists Cheri Pan and Gonzalo Duran are completely covered in tiles. Tours are offered every Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The $20 entrance fee is a bit hefty, but the place gets rave reviews by those who visit.
Make New Friends at the Drum Circle
Every Saturday and Sunday hundreds of people gather at the end of Brooks Avenue to play drums, congas, and other percussion instruments. This is a good opportunity to listen to music, watch some dance moves and meet people from all over the world.
Music starts around 12:00 p.m. and continues till the sun sets.
Watch Some Stunts at the Venice Skate Park
The Venice Skate Park, located in front of the ocean, is an excellent place to people watch and witness some serious skateboard moves. The cool thing is that there are small kids doing incredible stunts. You are going to be amazed at the talent of the people skating here.
See Artists at Work at the Venice Public Art Walls
The Venice Public Art Walls is an area where you can see art for free or see an artist at work (during weekends). Artists are granted permits online or in person (on-site).
The walls are located off the boardwalk between the skate park and the basketball courts.
Visit an Art Gallery
By know, you may have noticed Venice Beach is an artistic place. Well, the artistic streak extends to galleries.
If this is your kind of thing (or you want to experience something different), head to L.A. Louver, a gallery specializing in contemporary art. They are located in Venice Boulevard, step away from the Boardwalk.
Other options include Dunkees (Windward Avenue), Universal Art Gallery and Sherman Gallery (last two are located on Lincoln Boulevard).
Watch the Sunset from the High Rooftop Lounge
Located at the Hotel Erwin, the High Rooftop Lounge is the only rooftop bar in Venice Beach. Moreover, it has won many awards including “Best Ambience” and “Best Scenic View.”
As a consequence, this is a killer place to end the day while watching the sunset, hearing live music and eating great food.
You do not have to be a guest to visit the lounge but keep in mind there may be a cover charge if you visit during weekends in the summer. You can stop by for brunch and lunch too.
See the Unique Binocular Building
One of the most peculiar works of arts in Venice is “Binoculars” by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. This giant object adorns the entrance to a building designed by Frank Gehry and currently occupied by Google.
Make sure to stop by to witness this inimitable spot. The exact address is 340 Main Street.
Make Sense of the Ballerina Clown
At the corner of Rose Avenue and Main Street, you are going to find one of Venice’s landmarks, Ballerina Clown, a figure created by Jonathan Borofsky. The figure was designed to move its right leg perpetually (like a ballerina). Movement stopped in 1989 (due to noise complaints) and came back for its 25thanniversary in 2014.
Nowadays, the statue is in a bit of disrepair (and there is no movement) but it continues to be one of Venice’s mainstays. Some people love it and others are creeped out by it. What is your take?
Take Surfing Classes
Southern California is famous for its surfing culture. I would totally understand if you are interested in experiencing some of that culture.
The following businesses offer surf classes:
- Kapow Surf Club
- Venice Beach Surf School
- Aloha Brothers Surf Lessons
If you already know how to surf, several places located at The Boardwalk rent boards, wetsuits, and other equipment.
Tip: Check websites such as Groupon and Travelzoo to get a discount on your surfing class.
Attend First Friday Abbot Kinney
Every first Friday of the month, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has a street party featuring over 30 food trucks, music, and specials (in stores). The event starts at 5:00 p.m. and it is advisable to arrive early to secure parking. The other option is to use a ride-sharing service to arrive at the event.
This is a good opportunity to get a taste of the festive atmosphere of Venice Beach
Where to Eat
As previously mentioned, Venice has some of the most highly regarded restaurants in Los Angeles. So, food lovers, get prepared to eat some delicious food!
I am giving eating recommendations by area.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
- Gjelina (New American cuisine)
- The Butcher’s Daughter (plant-based eatery, café and juice bar)
- Kreation Organic Kafe (kebabs, salads, sandwiches, and juices)
- Greenleaf Gourmet Food (salads, bowls, and sandwiches prepared with fresh ingredients)
- Abbot’s Pizza Company
- La Tostaderia (seafood-centric Mexican dishes)
- Salt & Straw (super awesome ice cream)
Since this is the most popular attraction in Venice Beach, there are several establishments serving mediocre to awful food. To stay away from it, I recommend skipping the places selling cheap pizza, burgers, gyros, hot dogs and similar fare.
You would be better off choosing a place half a block or an entire block away from the actual Boardwalk. For example, I can recommend the following:
- Osteria Venice West (Italian dishes)
- El Huarique (Peruvian)
- Berlins (German Doner)
- James’ Beach (American)
The Venice Ale House and Poke-Poke are the exceptions (located right at The Boardwalk but good). There are plenty of good restaurants at the end of Washington Boulevard.
- Superba Food + Bread
- Baby Blues BBQ
- Wurstkuche (sausages)
- The Great Western Steak & Hoagie Co.
- Rose Café (Rose Avenue)
- Café Gratitude (Rose Avenue)
- Barrique (Main Street)
- Gjusta (Sunset Avenue)
How to Reach Venice Beach
Getting to Venice Beach is easy peasy!
The Los Angeles International Airport is located 6 miles away. You can use public transportation, a shuttle or a ride-sharing service to reach the area.
Another option is to take the train to Santa Monica and then, the bus to Venice. This is an affordable option if you do not count with a car.
And, talking about cars, not having one is not a problem. Venice’s most exciting areas are walkable.
Venice Beach Parking
For the beach and The Boardwalk, there are public parking lots at the end of Washington, Venice, and Rose. There are private lots too but the flat rate they charge is risible.
For Abbot Kinney, there are several public lots at Irving Tabor. There is free street parking on Venice Boulevard. You can park there and walk to Abbot Kinney or the beach.
For the Venice Canals, use the beachfront lot at the end of Venice Boulevard or one of the lots on Venice Boulevard (between Ocean and Pacific Avenues).
I hope you have found this article useful. Feel free to reach out if you need more details or have specific questions?
Other Beach Communities
If you are interested in exploring more unique beach towns, I recommend stopping by one of the beach cities of Los Angeles County. Below, I am placing links to my in-depth guides to these cities.
Redondo Beach Pier: What to Do, See and Eat
Hermosa Beach: Things to Do, See and Eat
Terrific Things to Do in Torrance
More of Los Angeles
If you want to discover more of Los Angeles, I got you covered too! The city has been my home for more than 15 years. So, I am giving you the real deal!
Get inspiration by reading my Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
Find out how to spend one fun-filled day in Los Angeles
A Day in Los Angeles: 4 Downtown Itineraries
More of Southern California
What are your favorite things to do in Venice Beach?
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