16 Things To Do in Venice Beach: Incredible Ideas for Outdoor Fun
Venice Beach is one of the most established and cultural areas in Los Angeles offering fun and fitness under the sun.
The Venice Beach area in California is one of the more established and popular beachfront areas of Los Angeles. Just south of the Santa Monica Beach and Boardwalk, Venice Beach was developed in 1905 by a millionaire by the name of Abbot Kinney, where he and his partner Francis Ryan had bought the two mile area of land as far back as 1891 in order to create a beach resort town.
The area was originally known as "Venice of America", or the "Coney Island of the Pacific". The beach resort vibe has remained over the course of the following century, and has been a part of the very definition of Southern California pop and even counter culture.
Examples of the beach's impact on pop culture have included scenes ranging from various cult favorite movies such as the original Breakin', White Men Can't Jump, and Speed being filmed there. This makes the beach a popular living area for such notable Hollywood stars as Julia Roberts, Nicholas Cage, and Robert Downey Jr. - Venice Beach has also served as a desirable hotspot to numerous avenues for amusements, recreation, and plenty of hidden gems for those that explore the area.
Because of this, Venice Beach remains a place of progressive social change and popular visiting spot for both L. A. residents as well as visitors to the West Coast. In addition to its beautiful sands and roaring ocean of the beach that make the area the perfect place to work out and show off physical prowess, the area is also a culture-centric mecca for the artistic, encouraging artists, beat poets and bohemians alike, adding to the already excellent shopping and dining opportunities that are found nowhere else. From thrift store finds on Pacific Avenue to high end art pieces, tasty snacks to full dining experiences, Venice Beach truly has it all no matter how diverse the individual's tastes.
The area is given its title for a reason, after all. Venice Beach is direct access to California's beautiful Pacific Ocean, where the coastline stretches for 75 miles worth of sand, sun, surf, and summertime. There are a number of activities to do in this area, ranging from creating intricate and beautiful sandcastles and sculptures, work on your tan, have a picnic, or catch some waves. Venice Breakwater is one of the more notable surfing spots (which was created by Kinney as a means to protect the amusement pier). This particular spot is notable for the waves breaking on both sides. The beach is also a great place to go fishing, and it is not uncommon to see rows of active (and casual) fishermen casting their line to see what tasty treasures they can pull from the ocean. For those that just love to explore the water, swimming and body boarding are always fun, and eagle eyed adventurers may see a few playful dolphins swimming very close to the shoreline.
For those that are wanting to experience other aspects of the beach away from the ocean, there is still plenty to do, as the rhythmic ring of the weekend drum circles are a common spectator (or participant) activity between Brooks Avenue and Ocean Front Walk. Part destination and part spontaneous journey, these drum circles have been known to known to draw in people from all over the world, allowing them an opportunity to play their favorite drums or any variety of percussion instrument from noon to when the sun goes down.
Enjoy A Sunset On Venice Beach
Speaking of the sun going down, there is no better recommendation for a suggested activity than watching a West Coast sunset at Venice Beach. This is a perfect (and free) activity sure to please anyone that is on a date, a family outings, doing early evening exercises such as a jog or run, or even to meditate into that perfect state of mind before planning for the rest of the evening. While any time of the year is a great time to watch a sunset, the locals say that the best views are during the winter, offering deeper colors and a sunset that drops over the Pacific Ocean. During the holidays, the effect is only enhanced by the cheerful and colorful lights that illuminate the season.
The best places to watch a sunset are either from a rooftop view (such as a hotel), or watching nature's amazing transition directly from the beach. Compliment the moment with a glass of wine, and you'll create a moment that will stay with you forever.
Explore the Venice Boardwalk
For those feeling a little more funky than the standard tourist experience and want to blend in with the locals, visitors can check out the many colorful people that inhabit the Venice Boardwalk. Street performers are a regular fixture of this world famous area, where juggling, poetry readings, fortune tellings, street sketches and paintings, or guitar playing and singing are part of a normal day here. The Venice Ocean Front Walk (or “the boardwalk” as it's known by locals) is Southern California’s number one visitor attraction, as well as one of the best places in Los Angeles to take in some truly quality people watching.
The locals make the experience a sight to see, but Venice Beach is a beacon for people from all over the world that adds a dash of color to your travel experience as to who you can meet. As far as people watching goes, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is one of the best areas around. There are also a number of great little shops to find great deals in (and sometimes haggle, if you know how to charm the locals).
Venice Beach Dining
Venice Beach is also home to a number of great restaurants ranging from casual cuisine (such as well established burger and fish taco locales) to truly spectacular seafood dining. If you need help where to go for some of the best dining, among many of the notable recommendations are:
Figtree's Café & Grill
A great café with organic selections of veggies, seafood, and white-meat dishes that are perfect for any health conscious diner. Food options include breakfasts, sandwiches and turkey burgers, and salads and pastas, in addition to a few tasty alcoholic cocktails to wash your healthy dining down.
The Sidewalk Café
Whether it's the incomparable "front row" view of all the action going on at the Boardwalk, or the numerous varieties of breakfasts, appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, soups and salads, pastas, pizzas, or other specialities, there's no better place for all-American nosh. And if beachgoers are looking for a good beer or other imbibements, this is a great place to dine.
Venice Ale House
With an ocean view and 30-plus craft beers on tap, this is a great dining choice any time of day. Just a little off of the boardwalk, there is plenty of fresh seafood catches of the day, in addition to burgers and sandwiches that are sure to be crowd pleasers sure to fill up any discerning stomach.
The Wee Chippy
Founded in 2013 and named "#1 Venice Beach Food" by the L. A. Weekly, this award winning fish 'n' chips greets the visitor to this locale. Proudly promoting hand cut fries and Atlantic Cod, hungry diners can get a sampling of various flavors and seasonings such as Applewood Smoked, California Rosemary, Fire Roasted Garlic, Fresh and Tangy Lime, Sweet Toasted Onion, and Wild Jalapeno. Diners can dip to their heart's content with organic ketchups or the Wee Chippy's Italian Black Truffle Mayo.
El Huarique Peruvian Cuisine
Serving up traditional dishes, the El Huarique Peruvian Cuisine restaurant serves up delectable bites such as Chicharron de Pollo, Papa a la Huancaina, Asian influenced Saltados, Chaufas, and fresh seafood. Online ordering that is available for pickup is available as well.
Poke - Poke
Poke (pronounced "Poke-Eh") is a true Hawaiian speciality. Located directly across the way from Muscle Beach, this ahi tuna delicacy is served in generous portions and is seasoned with various spices, onions and fresh vegetables. Delivery is also available for visitors and residents in the area.
Watch The Beach or Get A Tattoo At Hotel Erwin
Located just a short walk away from the sand on Pacific Avenue, the popular Hotel Erwin is known for its unique design and bright colors that embody the very spirit of Venice Beach. brightly colored, eclectic design that captures the creative spirit of Venice.
The hotel features a number of amenities such as Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails, an onsite dining spot that is perfect for breakfast and dinner, with tasty treats made from seasonal farmer’s market ingredients. The hotel’s also features the High Lounge, which is the only rooftop bar and lounge in Venice Beach. The lounge offers a relaxed atmosphere that is perfect to wind down the day and take in the spectacular views of both Venice Beach and the Pacific Ocean.
For the more daring, visitors to the hotel can book the "Ink and Stay" package, which is a room special that includes a $100 voucher for a tattoo from the hotel’s popular in-house Black Rose Tattoo in Venice Beach. The package also include a bottle of Lubriderm lotion and an ice-pack for healing your new canvas, as well as a bonus bottle of tequila to help numb the the pain (Note that a reservation for this package needs to be made seven days in advance).
Fishing On Venice Beach
For those that want to test their skills against some of the Pacific Ocean's finest marine life, or just want a leisurely day of swapping "fish stories" with friends, the Venice Beach Fishing Pier is a 700-foot pier is great for fishing for beginner and professional fishermen alike, or just provides a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery. The pier is open at all times and there is no fee to pay in order to access the pier. As there is no fishing license required, anyone can fish from the pier, and rods and reels can be rented for those that didn't come prepared. Even if the fish aren't biting and nothing is caught, one can still enjoy a a fantastic consolation dinner and discuss "the one that got away" at Sharky's on the Pier, the only beach front restaurant in the Venice area.
Work Out At the Venice Beach Recreation Center
Venice Beach offers up a variety of Southern California sport activities at the Venice Beach Recreation Center. The Center is located between Ocean Front Walk and the bike path, Horizon Ave. to the north, and North Venice Blvd. to the south. The area offers up various sports activities ranging from basketball (which is perfect for streetballing), beach volleyball, gymnastics, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, tennis, volleyball, and children's activities as well.
There's also the Venice Beach Skatepark located near Windward and Ocean Front Walk. the 16,000-square-foot paved park and facility features a number of skateboarding activities (such as skate dancing), which includes a concrete bowl that is designed to capture the "old-school" feel of the empty Venice and Southern California swimming pools.
Muscle Beach Venice is known as the weightlifting area of this fitness area (which is easily spotted by the iconic giant barbell on the roof), and is located at the south end of the Fitness Center at 1800 Ocean Front Walk. This is a true piece of athletic history and one of the most famous areas of the entire Center due to its numerous fitness studios and gyms (such as the famous Gold's Gym) in the area.
Muscle Beach Venice is the the area where mega stars such as bodybuilder, actor, and former governor of California Arnold Schwartzenegger and the Incredible Hulk's Lou Ferrigno gained their prominence by "pumping iron" in the 1970's. Whether you wish to "pump it up" yourself, or just simply watch from the sidelines as a spectator, this is a one of a kind sports venue that no one should miss.
Go For A Ride On the Venice Beach Bike Path
Between the boardwalk and the sand lies a concrete path that is perfect for biking. The over 20 mile long path is long enough that it goes all the way to Santa Monica, or bikers can take a nice tour through the Marina del Rey area, as well as biking south over to the Palos Verde Peninsula.
The area is also great for activities such as roller skating or rollerblading. The smooth pavement and casual, scenic atmosphere make it an ideal choice to cruise along the smooth pavement, and looks even better as the sun is going down. There are also several opportunities to stop either for a snack break, or just enjoy all of the benefits that the beach has to offer.
Stroll Along the Venice Canals
When Abbot Kinney built the Venice Beach area in 1905, the Venice Canals were part of his “Venice of America” vision. Importing gondolas and gondoliers from Venice, Italy, Kinney created an intricate system of canals that featured gondola rides to recreate that regional Venice feel. While many of the canal routes had fallen upon hard times in the late 1920's, the City of Los Angeles restored many of the original canals in 1993. The canals was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The canals can be found along the areas of Ocean Ave., Pacific, South Venice Blvd., and Washington Blvd., providing a tranquil getaway just steps away from the fast paced lifestyle of Venice Beach and into the heart of a long standing residential neighborhood.
Check Out the Sea Life Up Close and Personal
The Venice Beach Oceanarium is known as a “Museum Without Walls.” A 501 (c)(3) non–profit organization, the goal of the Oceanarium is to impart a better understanding of the ocean and the marine life within it. This venue plays hosts to a variety of weekly exhibits on the Pier that allows visitors to view sea creatures up close, and holds other local based events such as after school programs to the beach, boat trips, and "grunion runs" - a unique mating ritual where male and female grunion fish wash up on the beaches during high tide to create the next generation of grunion offspring.
Have A Shopping Experience On Abbot Kinney Blvd
Known as “The Coolest Block in America” from GQ Magazine, Abbot Kinney Blvd. is a notable and famous neighborhood that is full of independent shops, coffee spots, and other quirky SoCal boutiques. From award winning art galleries such as C.A.V.E. Gallery and G2 Gallery to spiritual seminars and author lectures held at the Mystic Journey Bookstore, Abbot Kinney Blvd. has something for everyone.
Abbot Kinney also has a great event on the first Friday of every month appropriately titled "First Friday". This event focuses on tech, fashion, art, music, and more, giving Los Angeles residents a chance to mingle and socialize, and local business stay open later to give visitors a chance to check out all of the great deals. And for a few more local fun options in the area, food trucks are usually on hand to offer up even more eclectic bites.
Buy Fresh Produce At the Venice Farmers Market
Founded in 1987, the Venice Farmers Market has been a staple for those that wish to shop and eat local. The Farmer's Market operates every Friday from 7:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. on Venice Boulevard at Venice Way, offering a wide variety of produce, bakery items, and even flowers to give to that special someone.
Go On A Cinematic Walking Tour Vintage Venice Reel to Real Tours
Love the history of the movies and the beauty of historical locations around the beach? Then this is the tour just for you. This unique walking tour gives you a sense of Venice Beach's long and storied history through its involvement with cinema over the last century. Alongside a guide, guests can watch classic movie clips via an iPad that highlights the numerous films that were filmed in this historic area The tour has been been very popular during its inception, and was voted as Los Angeles Magazine’s “Best Walking Tour” of 2012 and 2013.
Attend the Venice Beach Freakshow
While some may consider Venice Beach a "freakshow" in itself, there is, in fact, an actual freakshow on Venice Beach that highlights the odd and unusual.
The place is so unique that it has become the subject of the AMC reality television series appropriately titled "Freakshow" Located on the On the Venice Beach boardwalk and led by the show's barker Todd Ray, visitors can see strange and iconic attractions such as preserved specimens, a pair of two-headed turtles, a snake lady, and the shortest man in the world. The venue is small and features a five dollar admission with shows every ten minutes, but allows guests to tip and take photo ops with the performers. For someone that is not looking for an average day at the beach, this is a one of a kind experience.
Visit The Mosaic Tile House
For those that like unique experiences, one would be hard pressed to find something more unusual house located at 1116 Palms Blvd. - The Mosaic Tile House is a labor of love that was the brainchild of a local Venice Beach couple, and has continued to grow over the last two decades. The couple have actively transformed both the inside and outside of a 1940’s house into a true work of kaleidoscopic art by covering every surface with ceramic tiles, glass, mirror shards, and other one of a kind found objects that have resulted into a visual art project like no other. This colorful house is free to visit, but an appointment is required in order to visit.
Experience Nature At the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary
One of the great mysteries of Venice Beach, the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary is the result of an unknown benefactor who added blended urban renewal and nature into one unassuming gift to the area. Nature lovers and surfers at heart are sure to appreciate this small historical area just by Pacific Avenue and 29th Street. This little area was a former abandoned lot, and has since been converted into a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to offer thousands of the fluttery creatures a friendly area for them to rest, feed on milkweed plants, and breed as they continue onward with their 3,000 mile journey between Mexico and Northern California.
While celebrity sightings and a fast pace of living are the standard in Los Angeles experiences, Venice Beach moves at it own distinct and leisurely pace. This laid-back environment offers a chance for locals and tourists alike an opportunity to experience togetherness, arts, culture, personal expression, and sportsmanship. Venice Beach offers it all for you to explore to your heart's content, and all can be experienced in one day.
No matter what aspect of Venice Beach that you choose to explore, from beautiful sunsets, fresh and delicious dining options, fantastic shopping, or just simply marching to the beat of your own personal drum with the artistic elite, there are more than a few established and unique places that will appeal to any type of spirited interest that you have and make you feel like you have found a new sense of belonging and community in the true spirit that only a California resort community can create.
This article was written by: