Venice, California, is a popular district of the City of Los Angeles located between Santa Monica and Marina del Rey that offers visitors plenty of things to do year-round, especially along Venice Beach. Named for the canals found there, Venice is known as a haven for creative types and is famous for its bohemian boardwalk, diverse culture, and the eclectic shops and restaurants along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. However, while gentrification and revitalization projects in the early 2010s have gone a long way to reduce the historically high crime rate in the area, visitors should still take general safety precautions to avoid falling victim to theft while traveling through Venice.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk, also known as Ocean Front Walk, is one of the most popular attractions in Los Angeles, welcoming over 16 million visitors a year. Strolling along this famous three-mile stretch of pavement and taking in its many activities and attractions is also one of the top free things to do in the city. More than a mile of it is lined with funky shops, cafes, and vendor booths, as well as colorful street performers and artists. And you can either workout or just people-watch at the beachside outdoor gym, Muscle Beach, which used to be a hangout spot for Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, which also includes handball courts, a gymnastics playground, beach volleyball courts, and a paved skateboard park.
The boardwalk isn't the only reason people go to the shoreline in Venice; they also go to enjoy the Pacific Ocean and the afternoon sunshine on the sand. In fact, Venice Beach is the busiest facility operated by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, welcoming over 10 million visitors a year, on average. Sunbathe to the sound of a drum circle or watch a street performer while you relax and soak up some rays on this two-mile stretch of Southern California paradise. The beach is free to enjoy, but parking around this popular tourist spot is not easy, especially on weekends. You can look around for street parking, but many local streets require a special resident's permit, so be extra vigilant about street signs. Most lots in the area charge for parking and can charge $20 or more per hour.
If you're feeling adventurous, rent a bicycle or skates from Ride! Venice or the Venice Boardwalk Bike Rental services and take a ride down the bike path between the boardwalk and the beach. The Venice Beach Bike Path is popular for cyclists and skaters alike, as its over nine miles of paved road dedicated to people on wheels. From Venice, you can continue up the coast through Santa Monica to the northern shores of Los Angeles, or you can travel all the way to Redondo Beach in the south by taking a detour around Marina del Rey.
Stretching from Venice Boulevard in the northwest to Pacific Avenue in the southeast, Abbot Kinney Boulevard has an eclectic mix of independent boutiques, restaurants, and nightspots perfect for a night out on the town after a day of lounging on the beach. Additionally, each year the entire street is closed off for a weekend in September for the Abbott Kinney Festival.
This short stretch of shopping is one of Los Angeles' trendiest spots for less-traditional clothes and gifts, featuring both local brands like All Things Fabulous plus international staples like Adidias, Margaret O'Leary, and Rag & Bone. Although Abbott Kinney gets the most attention, the downtown area of Venice continues on Grand Boulevard and Main Street, where you'll find even more shops and trendy restaurants.
When Abbot Kinney created his Venice of America development in 1905, he had 16 miles of canals dug to drain the marshland for residential construction. The majority of the canals were paved over in the 1920s to create roads for the new horseless carriages, but a few blocks of canals remain south of Venice Boulevard about a block and a half inland from the beach. Although many of the homes around the canals were getting run down, they've mostly been restored, creating a cute area to walk or paddle around. The canals do get a bit dry in summer, so you may not be able to take a boat or surfboard down them then. However, you can walk along the concrete edges of these old waterways at any time of year.
A small lot at Pacific Avenue and 29th Street was converted into a Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to offer the fluttery creatures a hospitable stop on their journey between Mexico and Northern California. The best time to see these beautiful creatures is from mid-October through February, when the monarch butterflies migrate north from Mexico up to Santa Cruz and Pacific Grove, California. In February, you might even see large clusters of these insects grouped together in their annual mating ritual.
Snap a Picture of the Binoculars Building
The Binoculars Building on Main Street was designed by architect Frank Gehry and constructed between 1985 and 1991 for ad agency Chiat/Day. The building gets its name from the accompanying sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen on its street-facing facade, and this architectural landmark now houses some of Google's offices. Since it's a private office space, you can't explore inside this peculiar building, but it makes a great photo-op if you're walking around Venice.
One of the best ways to make the most out of your trip to Venice is to book a guided tour of the area with Venice Beach Walking Tours, which can include lunch at The Waterfront restaurant for an additional fee. Over five million people take this famous tour each year, which lasts about two to three hours and provides insight into the storied past of the district. Walk along the famous Ocean Front Walk, meet the locals, watch street performers, and learn all about film locations used by Hollywood throughout Venice's history.
Take in the Local Art Scene
Venice's diverse and eclectic population is home to a number of artists and creators, which has given rise to a number of art galleries and public art pieces in the district. One of the most famous, the Venice Public Arts Walls, is located on the Venice Pavilion building. Sporting graffiti art from the 1960s to the early 2000s, this public art space, which has been dubbed "the graffiti pit," is a great place to see a visual representation of the artistic history of Venice.