Venice , also sometimes referred to as Venice Beach, is a district of Los Angeles in Southern California. Its colorful Boardwalk is a great scene: free, fun, and funky, making the "short list" of things to do in Los Angeles.
Venice was the creation and dream of one man, Abbott Kinney. Kinney was an investor who built a sort of recreation of Venice, Italy including a massive system of canals and a huge entertainment complex that opened in 1905 and became very popular.
The overly ambitious canals were mostly filled and made into streets in 1929. A few of the canals survive and are lined with funky, expensive, and architecturally diverse urban homes. A stroll along a couple of the remaining streets is a lesson in architectural ecclecticism.
Kinney's huge Pacific Ocean Park entertainment complex survived until the mid-1960s, eventually succumbing to competition from Disneyland and others. The spirit of his seaside entertainment complex however, still pulses in Venice's captivating Boardwalk.
In the 1950s and '60s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation. There was an explosion of poetry and art. Major participants included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, and Philomene Long. Jim Morrison of The Doors also lived in Venice and wrote much of his poetry and song lyrics here.
In the late '60s, Venice became a center for radical activism, including a Black Panther chapter, a Free Venice (from Los Angeles) movement and many other activities opposing various urban renewal plans. Venice, today, is a community in the throes of gentrification but maintains a strong identity and progressive political posture.
More than one hundred years after Kinney's debut, Venice remains unique and well worth the visit.
Driving from Los Angeles International Airport , take Lincoln Boulevard (CA-1) north and turn left on Venice Boulevard.
Taking a pulic bus from LAX to Venice is quite simple; take a free shuttle to the LAX Transit Center then board a #3 Santa Monica Blue Bus, north; ask for an interangency transfer. Get off at Washington Blvd. and at the NW corner of Lincoln and Washington take the Culver City Bus #1, west. Get off at Pacific and Windward; you are now in the heart of Venice Beach and Ocean Front Walk.
Venice itself is pretty much small enough to walk in, especially along the beach. You can hit more inland areas of Venice by car, bike, or on Metro bus lines.
- Canals. Venice's canals (complete with ducks) are home to some of LA's most eclectic residential architecture. See tiny bohemian cottages next to million-dollar ultra-modern houses. If the drapes are open, peek in the windows - that's how close you are to the homes. The canal streets are between Washington Blvd. and Venice Blvd; park on Dell to access.
- Abbot Kinney, . The Abbot Kinney district (the area along Abbot Kinney Boulevard) runs for about 1.5 miles between Main St. and Washington Blvd. The area is a hotspot for artists and hipsters and includes numerous shops, restaurants and bars including several excellent art galleries, about a half-dozen interesting clothing boutiques and over a dozen cafes and eateries. Named for the developer who originally created the "Venice of America", the area holds an annual festival featuring music and art.
- Ocean Front Walk (Venice Boarkwalk Assc.), (between Washington Bvld. & Navy), ☎ 310/392-4687 ext.6. Venice's Ocean Front Walk runs between Washington Blvd. to Navy. Along the walk you will find an assortment of retailers, from tourist souvenier shops, bike rental outlets, arts and crafts booths, restaraunts and "snack shacks" for dishes from around the world to hot dogs and corn dogs, ice cream, coffees and smoothies. You'll find henna tattoo artists, chair massages praticioners, fortune tellers and more. Of course, sit at one of the ocean-side restaurants to watch the parade of people go by.
- Venice Beach. One of the LA area's more popular beaches, including the infamous Muscle Beach which the city has set up as an outdoor weightlifting gym for the local hulks. People watching along Venice Beach is something to put on your "things to do before you die" list. Think of the scene as a Bohemian-Mardis Gras-Beach Blanket Bingo-Circus. If that doesn't make any sense, well neither does Venice and that's the charm. Every summer day and every weekend, join the parade of humanity strolling amongst amazing and bizarre street performers, obscenely bulging body builders (at Muscle Beach), eclectic shops and street vendors, panhandlers, and beautiful, scantily clad, people desperately seeking attention. Go ahead and stare at it all. That's the point. Walking is fine but if you like to bike there is a great path along the beach. There are many places to rent bikes. You cannot however ride them on the pedestrian street
Yearly Events There are always exciting things happening at Venice Beach.
During the Winter months, start the Holidays with the Venice Canal Holiday Boat Parade, usually the second Sunday of the month of December. Watch the small, non-motorized boats punt or row down the canals in their finest -- and funnest -- holiday decore, brilliantly lit and costumed as only Venice can. Then on January first, join the Venice Penguin Swim Club for their Annual "Chilly" Swim at noon off the beach north of Venice Blvd. and south of Windward Ave.
In Spring, celebrate the home and garden, during the month of May, with the Venice Garden & Home Tour (usually the first weekend in May.) This self-guided tour of local Venice homes and gardens also benefits a local Venice charity. Also in mid-May there is the Venice Annual Art Walk in the Abbot Kinney area, again benefitting a local charity.
Summer celebrates the outdoors with Venice Beach Carnevale -- usually the first weekend in June. Outdoor musical and dance performances plus lively costumed participants highlight the soul of Venice. Food, fire-spinners, belly dancers, live theatre and prizes for the best dressed. Also during the Summmer months are various bodybuilding and figure contest, including the Venice Championships (Memorial Day Weekend and early September ) and Mr. & Ms. Muscle Beach (July 4th).
Fall celebrates the arts with the Venice Music Festival (mid-September) and the Abbot Kinney Blvd. Festival that honors arts and crafts, live music, family fun and food (end of September.)
- Venice Pier, (End of Washington). Venice Pier offers parking, fishing and access to the beach below. Just before the Pier on Washington Blvd., there are numerous restaruants for fine dining or a quick bite, and great places for an evening of drinking. Plus, there are numerous shops for all your beach needs -- from swim suits and sunglasses, to sunscreen and sweatshirts.
Abbott Kinney Blvd. reflects the neighborhood's funky feel with eclectic shops, artist galleries, one-of-a-kind clothing and more. There are also many local artisans and craftmen at Venice Beach along the Ocean Front Walk. Items range from tourist items, handmade jewlery, spoon art and bottle art (which is really cool) to bongs made out of beer cans.
- Jin Patisserie, 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., ☎ +1-310-399-8801 ([email protected]), . Tues-Sun 10:30AM-7:00PM. Abbot Kinney's exquisite tea garden and pastry shop resides right next to Aragon Ct. Jin offers an exceptional selection of teas and signature truffles, as well as a delectable food menu. The quaint spot is an ideal location for baby showers, bridal showers, and Mother's Day celebrations.
- La Cabaña, 738 Rose Ave., ☎ +1-310-392-7973. Open 11 AM to 3 AM daily. This easy-to-find Mexican restaurant is just west of Lincoln Blvd. Great food in large quantities. Burritos start at $4, with most other entrees priced between $6 and $12 and margaritas available for about $6 more.
- C&O Trattoria, 31 Washington Blvd., ☎ +1-310-823-9491, . M-Th: Lunch served 11:30AM-3:30PM, Dinner served 3:30PM-10:00PM; F: Lunch served 11:30AM-3:30PM, Dinner served 3:30PM-11:00PM; Sat: Breakfast served 8:00AM-1:45PM, Lunch served 12:00PM-3:30PM, Dinner served 3:30PM-11:00PM; Sun: Breakfast served 8:00AM-1:45PM, Lunch served 12:00PM-3:30PM, Dinner served 3:30PM-10:00PM. Located right next to the beach and a short walk from the Venice Pier, C&O Trattoria is a popular spot for casual dining as well as large birthday parties. This Northern Italian seafood restaurant features an indoor seating area and a patio, with menu items available in either "individual" or "gargantuan" portions (for family-style meals). The wait staff is friendly, and every night during dinner hours, activity temporarily pauses for a restaurant-wide singalong of Dean Martin's "That's Amore," during which servers roam around and toast with the diners. The atmosphere is comfortable and fun, and their garlic balls are famous. Prices range from $5-10 for "individual" sized dinner antipasti to $15-20 for "gargantuan" sized entrees.
- The Firehouse, 213 Rose Avenue, ☎ +1 310-396-6810, . Built in a retired firehouse, this restaurant/bar offers all manner of breakfasts, sandwiches, and other meals from a "healthy" and "less healthy" set of menu selections. Weight lifters from Venice Beach gorge themselves on egg whites, chicken breasts, broccoli and tofu, while the rest of the population has a variety of sandwiches and breakfast items to choose from. The ambiance is fun, the food is decent, and prices are reasonable. $7-$15.
- Hama Sushi, 213 Windward Ave, ☎ +1-310-396-8783, . Serves lunch on weekends from 11:30 until 2:30, and dinner daily after 5:30. The sushi is reasonably good and not outrageously priced, but the love-it-or-hate-it feature of this restaurant is the numerous screens scattered around the eating area showing everything from sports to 1950's surfer flicks. For some this provides a unique atmosphere, while those with attention deficit issues may not be able to focus on just one thing for days afterward.
- Piccolo Ristorante, 5 Dudley Ave. High end, authentic, Italian food in a street alley of the beach in Venice this is one of the hidden gems of Westside eating, the area itself is a little rough around the edges though so be careful at night. $18-$35 entrées.
- Primitivo Wine Bistro, 1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd., ☎ +1-310-396-5353. Primitivo is a Mediterranean tapas restaurant with a large wine selection. Dark scenery and a large outdoor seating area in back. Moderately pricey, but the food is delicious. Try the bacon wrapped dates.
- Joe's, 1023 Abbot Kinney Blvd., ☎ +1-310-399-5811. Joe's offers gourmet California/French cuisine in an elegant setting. Quiet, not overly crowded, and laid back, the chefs will probably stop by to say hello during your meal, and waiters will be more than happy to allow you to sample the wines before ordering. There are fixed-price dinners for $50 to $70 per person, or entrees can be purchased for $20 to $35. An extensive wine list offers bottles from the $30 to $500 range.
- Wabi-Sabi, 1637 Abbot Kinney Blvd., ☎ +1-310-314-2229. As its hip Abbot Kinney location demands, Wabi-Sabi doesn't easily fit one mold, offering good (but pricey!) sushi as well as Asian-fusion cuisine. The menu includes everything from sushi to beef dishes to pumpkin dishes. The wait can be long on weekends.
- Beechwood, 822 Washington Blvd. (corner of Washington and Abbot Kinney), ☎ +1-310-448-8884 (fax: +1-310-448-8889), . Both a bar and an upscale restaurant, Beechwood provides an elegant environment for hanging out and grabbing a few drinks. The crowd is varied, ranging in age from late-20's on up. Drinks are good although somewhat pricey, with several excellent microbrews on tap. There is both an indoor and outdoor lounge area, with heavy bass pumped through the speakers although not so much as to drown out conversation.
- The Otheroom, 1201 Abbot Kinney Blvd, ☎ (310) 396-6230. 5PM - 2AM. Wine and beer bar with a large selection of beers on tap and by the bottle. The bar manages to be both casual and hip, with the crowd tending towards well-to-do 20 and 30 somethings. Dark, but not too dark with a good selection of modern alternative music in the background (at times a tad too loud). Lots of seating area, but the spots by the windows are prized. Bar has menu's for local delivery options and pretty waitresses. Earlier on warm evenings, the windows are opened giving a very open, breezy feel to the place.
- Townhouse, 52 Winward Avenue (located in the Venice Circle), ☎ (310)392-4040. A dive bar through and through. Though under new ownership, much of the old tradition, decor, and dankness remains. This is a good thing. This is the oldest continuously running bar west of the Mississippi (it was a speakeasy during prohibition) and though never really a scene, it is nice place to stop off for a drink on a low-key night.
- Baja Cantina, 311 Washington Blvd. (end of Washington, east of the Pier), ☎ 310-821-2252. Tropical mexican food with a great assortment of margaritas and other tropical drinks. Late night menu and drinks.
- Cabo Cantina, 30 Washington Blvd. ((end of Washington, east of the Pier)), ☎ 310-305-4010. Small but fun place; great assortment of tropical drinks, bar appetizers and during the summer months check by often to see their drink and meal specials. Indoor and outdoor seating.
- Elvino, 1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd., ☎ 310-396-9705, . Enjoy bread and olive oil along with a flight of three wines during the weekend hours of 5-9pm on Friday, 1-9pm on Saturday and 1-8pm on Sunday. Otherwise, browse through some great boutique wines. Cheers!
- Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Avenue (@ Windward and Pacific Ave), ☎ +1-310-452-1111 or +1-800-421-8151 (fax: +1-310-452-5479), . Newly launched full service boutique hotel about 200 feet from the ocean in the heart of Venice Beach. Rooftop lounge called High with incredible panoramic views of the ocean and City of LA. Hotel has spacious guest rooms and 2 room suites, ideal for families. Many rooms have beautiful ocean views. Hotel has gated indoor parking.
- Venice Beach Hotel & Hostel, 1515 Pacific Ave. (corner of Windward Ave.), ☎ +1-310-452-3052 ([email protected], fax: +1-310-821-3469), . Private and shared rooms, housekeeping apartments, all with free internet.
- The Inn at Venice Beach, 327 Washington Blvd., ☎ +1-800-828-0688 (fax: +1-310-827-0289), . Located one block from the Venice Beach Boardwalk, adjacent to the world's largest man-made yacht marina. Has direct online reservations and special packages.
- Venice Beach Suites and Hotel, 1305 Ocean Front Walk, ☎ +1-310-396-4559 or +1-888-877-7602 (fax: +1-310-396-3989), . Venice Beach Suites & Hotel offers fully furnished vacation/corporate suites in the heart of Venice Beach.
- 15 Rose Ave Hostel & Vacation Rentals, 15 Rose Avenue (Located on the corner of Rose and Speedway), ☎ +1-310-399-1850 ([email protected], fax: +1-310-564-1977), . checkin: 3:00PM; checkout: 11:00AM. Built by Abbott Kinney in 1908 as a guesthouse, The 15 Rose Ave. Hotel offers a variety of room options. Bachelor rooms with or without private baths are ideal for those travelers on a budget, while the vacation rentals offer the traveling family or business person stays ranging from cozy to the luxurious. The building has been lovingly restored to it's historic splendor with high ceilings and Victorian moldings, and is situated right in the heart of Venice Beach just a few steps from the ocean, shopping, and restaurants. Parking, and free wireless internet available. starting at $50 per night.
- Venice Breeze Suites, 2 Breeze Avenue (Located on the boardwalk, facing the beach), ☎ 310 566 2222 ([email protected]), . Ocean front fully furnished vacation suites on Venice Boardwalk. Beautiful brick building has been recently remodeled retaining classic Venice Beach charm but with chic design and a variety of amenities. Full kitchens, bathrooms with rain showers, walnut floors, free wifi, cable TV, parking and spectacular roof deck with BBQ and panoramic views across Los Angeles. Nightly, weekly, monthly rates available.
- The Cadillac Hotel, 8 Dudley Avenue (on Ocean Front Walk btwn Speedway Ave.), ☎ 310-399-8876 ([email protected]), . checkin: 3pm; checkout: Noon. The only hotel in Venice Beach located on the boardwalk on Ocean Front Walk and offering views of the Santa Monica Bay. All rooms have been recently renovated. $99-219. (33.994061,-118.479643)
- Venice Beach Cotel, 25 Windwward Avenue (located on Windward btwn Pacific Avenue and Speedway), ([email protected]), . checkin: 2pm; checkout: 11am. An affordable hostel with hotel standards. $25-90. (33.987293,-118.472923)
- Santa Monica. A neighboring beach city that is slightly more touristy than Venice and features a fun and famous pier.
- Culver City. A neighboring city and the home of Sony Studios that in recent years has been undergoing a rebirth and now has an increasing number of food, shopping and entertainment options.
- Marina del Rey. The "marina of the king" is home to a vast number of restaurants and hotels, and while not as touristy as some of the neighboring beach cities is nonetheless a fun spot to spend an evening.
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