VENICE BEACH, a seaside town where beach bum meets high-end hipster.
How to Spend a day in Venice Beach...
First Stop: Hit up TOMS to use the bathroom before you head to the beach. Yes, TOMS like the shoes. Only this is the flagship store, and it’s in Venice, so not only has it got shoes, it’s got a café, outdoor seating with Wi-Fi, a mini-Astroturf dog park in back and easily accessible (and much cleaner than the ones on the beach) bathrooms. Pretend (or actually do) peruse the shoe selection, while your friend uses the toilet.
Second Stop: The Boardwalk. Arguably the most important place to check out in Venice. It’s a 2.5-mile stretch of beach and a veritable circus of people and things. Between the Venice Beach Pier and the Santa Monica Pier there are artists, vendors, fortune-tellers, street performers, weed doctors, tourists, locals, surfers, skaters, shops with all manner of Venice Beach trinkets, muscle beach with its basketball courts, paddle tennis and outdoor workout equipment, there are restaurants, ice-cream shops, a skate park, bonafide loons… if you like people watching, Venice Boardwalk is your Shangri-La.
Walk along the pedestrian path with all the shops or join the cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboards (like us), etc. on the bike path. There are plenty of places to rent bikes.
Third Stop: The Erwin Hotel. Take a break from the sand at the rooftop lounge of the Erwin Hotel. Technically, it doesn’t open till 3:00 during the week. No matter if you’d like to go a little earlier, though. Walk into the lobby like you’re meant to be there, head for the elevator, press the button to the lounge and enjoy the wicker couches and incredible view before the bar opens.
Fourth Stop: Tour the Mosaic Tile House for $12. Round about 20 years ago, an artist, named Cheri, and her fellow artist (and husband) Gonzalo, bought a home/studio space on a quiet neighborhood street in Venice. What they didn’t know when they bought their home is that they would turn it into an art piece itself. Over the course of two decades, Cheri and Gonzalo have turned their entire home – outside, inside, ground, walls, ceiling – into a mosaic wonderland. Gonzalo does all the ironwork, and Cheri does the tiles. Send Cheri an email, and set up a private tour. She’s exceptionally warm and welcoming, and you’ll feel like you’ve known her for years. (Note: the tile house isn’t a walkable distance from the beach, but it’s not a far drive).
Fifth Stop: Grab grub at Gjelina. Gjelina is new-American cuisine, and it’s delicious. Yelp thinks so, too . Okay, we actually went to GTA, Gjelina Take Away, instead of the fancier restaurant dining room. There’s no indoor seating at GTA, but there are cement stumps (more charming than it sounds) and a couple benches outside. The outdoor seats are perfect for some more people watching. GTA does salads, sandwiches, pizza (all gourmet-style, obviously). The vegetable trio is an always favorite.
Sixth Stop: Stroll Abbot Kinney Blvd. GTA and TOMS are both on Abbot Kinney, which is the most famous street in Venice. It’s got food, bars, clothing stores, furniture stores, vintage shops, etc. This is where you’ll find the more hipster population of Venice. But these are the high-end hips. Nearly all the stores are designer/boutique. Keep an eye out for dudes and their socks. The sock game on Abbot Kinney is on point.
Seventh Stop: Have a drink at The Brig or some ice-cream from N’ice Cream. The Brig is cool for a bar leaning toward, but not quite full-on, dive. If you’re not 21, or you’re abstaining or one person in your duo forgets their ID’s (we won’t say which of us did that) get some homemade gelato and sorbet from N’ice Cream.
Eighth Stop: Head back to the beach for the sunset, and dig your toes into the sand. Bring a blanket or a sweater, because the beach gets chilly at night.
- The Swings! Just before the Santa Monica Pier, there are swings. They are amazing swings. They are the Titans of swings. They put playground swings to shame. It takes a little work to get going, but once you do, you feel like you’re flying. If you’re not afraid to go high, you can see the entire park and scan the ocean in front of you. You can get going high enough that people will stop to take your picture.
- The Skate Park! Okay, so maybe it’s because we just started skateboarding ourselves, but regardless, it’s damn cool to watch people pull crazy tricks against the backdrop of a setting sun.
- Another place to explore is the Venice Canals. In 1905, developer Abbot Kinney built Venice, Italy- inspired canals as part of his Venice in American project. The gondoliers that used to navigate the waters aren’t there today, but the stroll along the canals is very pleasant….we didn’t make it out ourselves this trip.
- Parking. Free street parking is relatively easy to find. You might have to park on a neighborhood street a little further from the beach, but it will be an agreeable walk past bungalow houses. If you go on a Monday, be wary of street sweeping.
- Some links if you want to learn about the history of Venice: