If you want to see the best of Venice Beach in a weekend, strap yourself in. You ain’t seen nothing like this before.
Its reputation. Huge. The muscles. Huge. The personalities. Huge.
But, in terms of size, it’s actually relatively small. Stretching just three miles along the Los Angeles coastline, Venice Beach packs in about as much fun as it could possibly fit.
Yes, it’s hella touristy. But you’ve just got to accept that.
In return, you’ll enjoy one of California’s most energy-boosting and eccentric attractions. And if you’ve only got a weekend in which to see it all, you should check out these seven activities.
1. People-watch on the Boardwalk
Let’s get it out the way first. You have to stroll the Boardwalk. Nay-sayers might object, saying it’s too tourist-heavy. And, yes, there are many, many tourists there.
But there are also gravity-defying acrobats, impossibly athletic break dancers, fantastic (and some not-so-fantastic) musicians, almost-unwatchable glass walkers, and future-predicting fortune tellers. And lots of eccentric bystanders.
It doesn’t cost anything to walk the mile-and-a-half paved route. But you might want to bring some loose change to reward the performers. Additionally, if you’re looking for something to bring home, there are plenty of shops vying for your tourist bucks. My advice would be to surprise Mom with a tacky-yet-fun souvenir or two.
2. Go thrift shopping
Venice Beach is a Mecca for the alt-fashionistas. Hit the boardwalk and you’ll see what I mean. You can’t move for glittering piercings, full-sleeve tats, and clothes that are so bad they’re good. Yup, the Boardwalk is really a catwalk.
But, if you’re anything like me, you might need to raid a few clothes stores first to not look completely out of place. Now, there are plenty of high-end boutiques in Venice. But bargains can be found in the local thrift stores. Expect to find vintage pieces, quirky cut-offs, and super stylish accessories at reasonable prices.
3. Watch the skaters
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a journeyed skater or can’t tell your kick-flips from your pop shove its. You must visit the iconic skate park at Venice Beach. There you’ll find an undulating concrete course filled with stylishly tattooed adrenaline junkies. Admittedly, that doesn’t sound too different from every other skate park.
But what separates Venice Skate Park’s offering is the stunning setting right on the sands. Join the throngs at sunset when the glorious rays cast a magical light over the action. What’s more, you’ll be part of history. Skateboarding was invented in California in the 1950s by bored surfers looking to get pumped while the waves were flat. It was, and still is, the true home of skateboarding.
4. Admire the bodybuilders
Muscle Beach Venice. The home of ripped bros and bulging biceps. During your trip to Venice, set some time aside to watch the bodybuilders do what they do best: lifting something heavy and then putting it back down again. Of course, I’m just messing around. Those Herculean guys and gals are seriously impressive athletes.
Will you feel guilty about your unused gym membership? Probably. But shove those feelings deep in the closest where your gym card lies. Because Muscle Beach is an icon of LA. At one point or another, it’s been the home gym of the world’s most famous bodybuilders, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. And you can work out where they once flexed. It’ll only set you back around $10.
5. Ride the waves with Californian surfers
Can you really come to California and not hit the waves? Answer: No. Luckily, Venice Beach is good for beginners and experienced riders alike. Breakwater, found at the center of the Boardwalk, is Venice’s most popular surf spot. Which means lots of people. Both a good and bad thing.
It’s good because you can seek lots of advice if you’re a newbie. But bad because you’ll probably get in someone’s way. A big no-no in the surfing world. If you want to feel comfortable and progress quickly, hire a surf instructor. You’ll be conquering the waves in no time. If you don’t fancy taking the plunge, an enjoyable morning can be spent watching the pros from the safety of the shore.
6. Relax on the canals
Venice Beach is bold, brash, and full of life. But at one point during your weekend, you’ll
want need to take it easy. And, for that, you should take a leisurely stroll along the Venice Canals. A far cry from the fire breathers and street performers of The Boardwalk, the canals were modeled on the waterways of Venice, Italy.
They’re obviously nowhere near as extensive but they do have a wonderfully European charm. Simply go with the plan to relax, admire the reflections, and ogle the (very) expensive houses that sit on the banks. And, once you’re done, you can dive straight back into the eccentricity that is Venice Beach – fully refreshed.
7. Eat on AK Boulevard
To keep up with the whirlwind that is Venice Beach, you’ll need sustenance. And when it’s time to eat, you should head straight for Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The mile-long street is lined with trendy boutiques, colorful murals, and edgy salons. It’s also a heaven for foodies.
There are many, many restaurants to choose from. But for healthy, hipster cuisine, head to The Butcher’s Daughter. The plant-based restaurant (or “vegetable slaughterhouse” as they call it) offers exquisite dishes without the guilt. And when you’ve got to walk past Muscle Beach every day that – for some reason – becomes important.
And there you have it: the mysterious and magical Venice Beach in a weekend. In part, maximizing your experience in Venice Beach is about wandering and seeing where your adventure takes you. So don’t be afraid of following your gut instincts and going with the flow.
But when you want more of a structure, enjoy these seven activities and you won’t go wrong. Oh, and remember to take your camera. There are lots and lots of incredible things to see in Venice. And you’ll need some physical evidence.