Venice Beach

An aerial view of venice beach California

You may have visited the beaches in LA and taken a photo for Instagram only to be faced with a long list of possible locations with which to tag your posts: Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica State Beach, Venice Beach, Venice Beach Boardwalk – the list goes on and on. You can explore Venice beach to learn more about the locations, sightseeing places, and things to do in Venice, CA.

The Neighborhood of Venice, CA

Venice is a neighborhood that is part of the City of Los Angeles bound by Marina del Rey to the South, the LA neighborhood of Mar Vista to the East, and the City of Santa Monica to the north. If visiting Venice from Santa Monica or the 10 Freeway, you enter Venice once you cross Dewey Street or Marine Court if traveling west of Main Street. When walking along Ocean Front Walk or biking the Marvin Braude Bike Trail from Santa Monica, you are officially out of Santa Monica and in Venice when you pass South Beach Park. The first landmark identifying the change in municipalities is when the bike and walking paths split around the Rose Avenue parking lot. Venice is about 1.5 miles from the Santa Monica Pier, or about 30 minutes walking along the Ocean Front Walk. If biking, you can get from the Santa Monica Pier to the Venice Fishing Pier in about 15 minutes.

Although Venice is just 3 square miles, the beach-side community boasts many recognizable and celebrated sights including Muscle Beach, a concrete skate park, and their historical canals for which the neighborhood was named. Venice is probably best known for its funky, artistic shops, artists’ community, and as the birthplace of skateboarding.

The destinations below are must-see places for any visitor to Venice Beach. These are arranged in order if walking/biking from the Santa Monica Pier and back.

Venice Beach Boardwalk

Starting around Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk (right by the Rose Avenue Parking lot) the beachfront condos give way to an eclectic mix of shops, bars, and restaurants. Although often referred to as a “boardwalk”, this section of Ocean Front Walk is a wide, walkable concrete pathway separating the sand and businesses. Along this 1.5 mile section of the beach you can visit fun, funky shops selling t-shirts, surf boards, skate shoes, and anything you will need for a day under the California sun. Mixed in with the shopping you will find bars and restaurants selling everything from burgers and hot dogs, to healthy fruit smoothies and kombucha.

The Venice boardwalk is also home to many street vendors selling artisanal crafts, handmade trinkets, and unique art works. You will also find talented street performers from all over the world who sing, dance, and juggle for tips. As a general rule, you should tip a couple of dollars to any vendor who you photograph or video, just like the vendors on 3rd Street Promenade or the Santa Monica Pier.

If you happen to be visiting on a weekend, drop into the Venice Beach Drum Circle which takes place around sunset every Saturday and Sunday. The Drum Circle forms on the beach where Brooks Avenue dead ends into Ocean Front Walk. Though it is not an official event, percussionists show up like clockwork every weekend sometimes as early as noon, sometimes drumming well into the evening. This is a free, community event, so feel free to bring your bongos and join in, or kick off your flip-flops and dance in the sand.

 

Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower

At the end of Brooks Avenue is another celebration of freedom and Pride: an LA County Lifeguard Tower painted in the vibrant colors of the rainbow representing the Pride movement for the LBGTQ+ community. Commissioned and painted in 2017 by the non-profit advocacy group Venice Pride, the colorful tower is a popular place for photos and an opportunity to reflect on the diverse community that has lived in the beach-side enclave for decades.

Venice Beach Park

Shortly after you pass the acres of sand, the bike and walking path split again – this time around a large park. The park is ringed by many tall palms, has wide grassy areas great for sitting and relaxing, a children’s playground, Windward Plaza, tennis and basketball courts, as well as several of Venice’s best-known things to see.

 

Venice Skate Park

Although no specific neighborhood or board shop can officially be declared the birthplace of skateboarding, West side communities including Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach and Venice are all part of the sport’s birth and evolution in the 40s and 50s. To celebrate skateboarding history and popularity on the West side, the City of Los Angeles opened the Venice Skate Park in 2009. The 3.5 million dollar, 16,000 square foot skate park features a street park with steps, rails, and platforms, a snake run, and two bowls the Z-boys would be proud of.

The park is located in the Northwest corner of Venice Beach Park and is open daily from 9 AM to sunset. The park is free to use, but all skaters must wear a helmet and pads. If you don’t have your board with you, you can rent one from Jay’s Rentals in Venice – ask about their lessons. Venice is also home to some great board shops that can set you up.

 

Venice Art Walls

Located just south of the skate park you can find some concrete walls covered in colorful graffiti. This isn’t rampant vandalism, but an area offered to local street artists to use as a public canvas to showcase their work. This project was founded in 1997, and in 2016 the art walls gained a much-needed facelift to improve the surfaces for the artists.

The walls are managed by the Setting The Pace Foundation (STP), a non-profit arts and education foundation dedicated to fostering public art and murals as well as provide programs for youth and adults for artistic development, graffiti abatement, gang intervention, and community engagement projects. Staff is available on weekends so if you are interested in painting on the walls, contact the curators on their website. Artists need to bring their own paint and supplies, but all applicants are guaranteed a spot to paint.

 

Muscle Beach

In the heart of the Venice Boardwalk between 18th and 19th Place on Ocean Front Walk you will find the iconic Muscle Beach fitness park. The Original Muscle Beach formed organically in the sand south of the Santa Monica Pier in the 1930s and 1940s. Through development and ordinance changes around the pleasure piers in Santa Monica, fitness enthusiasts eventually migrated south to Venice Beach. Officially named “Muscle Beach Venice” in 1987 by the City of Los Angeles as a nod to the Original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, Muscle Beach Venice is more focused on the weightlifting and body building aspects of physical fitness compared to Santa Monica’s fitness parks that features Olympic rings and slackline courses.

Indeed, you will find bulging muscles and incredible feats of weight lifting at Muscle Beach in Venice. Strong lift legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno have worked out at Muscle Beach. You can see a mural of Arnold on the opposite of the red “Muscle Beach” building opposite of the weightlifting park.

This “spartan pen” was built in 1952 and later modernized in 1990 and features a huge concrete barbell on the roof and bleachers for spectators to observe this open playground. A separate gated area is also provided that encloses weightlifting equipment as visitors are invited to watch the athletes that frequent Muscle Beach Venice work on their physical form and fitness.

Venice Pier

Continuing south from the Park, the bike and beach paths merge again and more open, sandy beach stretch out from Ocean Front Walk to the lapping waves of the Pacific. When you arrive at Washington Boulevard you will see the Venice Fishing Pier. Much smaller than its neighbor to the north in Santa Monica, the Venice Pier is intended for sports fishing and strolling; the Venice Pier does not have amusements or restaurants on the Pier, but there are plenty of shops and places to get a treat along Ocean Front Walk and the Venice Boardwalk. Fishing from the Pier does not require a license, and several shops in the area carry poles and bait.

If you continue south along the beach and bike paths, you will reach Marina del Rey. If you turn left and head into the interior of the Venice neighborhood, you can see more famous sites that make Venice unique in Los Angeles.

Venice Canals

Originally constructed by Venice founder Abbot Kinney in 1905, the Venice Canal Historic District is a small residential neighborhood served by an insular canal system. Visitors can stroll through the neighborhood to admire the unique homes and curious water ways. Please be mindful that this is a residential neighborhood, so please be respectful of private property lines.

To find the canals, walk or bike from the Pier along Washington Boulevard then make a left onto Dell Avenue. This will turn you North back towards Santa Monica. Dell is a one-way street that goes through the Canal district over a series of small, arched bridges. On the opposite of the canals, continue north to Venice boulevard; turn right to head toward the Abbot Kinney shopping district or continue two more blocks (Dell turns into Riviera Avenue) to Grand Boulevard; turn left there and go about 2 more blocks to visit the Venice Sign.

 

Venice Sign

In 2007, the Venice Sign Restoration Project recreated and installed the contemporary version of a sign originally placed in 1905 as part of the resort towns construction. Some of the buildings in this area are original to the Abbot Kinney’s resort and offer a glimpse into the area’s past. Hanging across Windward Avenue, the Venice Sign designates the heart of the Venice neighborhood. Windward and Pacific Avenues are a great area to stroll around, shop, grab a drink, and just explore the area. For more contemporary shopping and dining in the area, head back east along Windward to Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Abbot Kinney

This stretch of shops and restaurants between Venice Boulevard and Main Street offers boutique clothiers, restaurants and bars and is one of the most popular and growing entertainment districts in Los Angeles. Once a sleepy, artists enclave, Abbot Kinney has become the place where Silicon Beach moguls and tech hopefuls come to mingle and unwind after a long day of creating apps for tomorrow. Restaurateurs have flocked to the tight storefronts along this 8-block stretch of road and you can discover all manner of dishes from haute cuisine to Michelin-starred hamburgers.

If you walked or biked through Venice, continue back north along Main Street back into the Santa Monica City limits to enjoy another district of shops and restaurants along Main Street Santa Monica.

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