5 Things We Love About Venice Beach
Chainsaw jugglers, fortune tellers, drum circles, shopping, surfing, oh my. No, we are not in OZ. But it sort of feels like it. If you want to check out a more quirky side of Los Angeles with LA Insider Tours on either our All of L.A. in A Day or Build Your Own Tour ,then Venice Beach is the place to go! Founded in 1905 as a seaside resort town by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney, Venice Beach is one of the more unique communities in Los Angeles. And when we say “unique”, we mean interesting, strange, fun, lively, hyper, crazy, artistic, peculiar (all of which Venice happily embraces). Originally called the “Venice of America”, Kinney had a vision of bringing Italy to California and dug several miles of canals for his residential area, built a “pleasure pier” that boasted Venetian architecture and visitors could ride gondolas to tour the town. The beautiful beach was also a popular attraction for people where you could rent a cottage or housekeeping tent. And, of course, the amusement pier was a huge draw, some even saying that it was the finest amusement park on the West Coast (they did have a Flying Circus Ariel Ride after all!). When Venice merged with Los Angeles in 1926, a lot changed including filling in the canals and closing down the amusement parks. But the unique spark of Venice never went away and today it is still a popular place to visit. Some of our favorite spots in Venice Beach include The Boardwalk, The Venice Beach Recreation Center, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the Venice Canals and, of course, the beach.
When you look at the Venice Boardwalk you will never know exactly what you will find. Its part carnival, part shopping experience and part colorful imagination come to life. Just the bizarre nature of the Boardwalk makes it a place that you won’t soon forget. While the East side of the walk is filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and houses, condos and apartments, the other side is a site to behold with fortune tellers, performance artists , conspiracy theorists and, of course, the man who paints himself from head to toe in gold and does a perfect imitation of a robot. It is fun to people watch while sitting at one of the many eateries along the boardwalk or you can always duck inside one of the tattoo parlors to get a more permanent reminder that this place is real and not just a psychedelic dream you had once.
The Venice Beach Recreation Center
You know the outdoor basketball court from 1992’s White Men Can’t Jump? Or have you heard of the Gold’s Gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped iron along with many other body builders in the 1970’s? Have you seen movies where the recreation area boasts a giant barbell? Well, look no further than The Venice Beach Recreation Center. This Sports Landmark boasts outdoor basketball courts where many famous basketball players got their start. You can also find Muscle Beach Venice where various body builders work out and you can stop and watch them show off their strength. Additionally, there is the 16,000 square foot Venice Beach Skate Park that opened in 2009 that is open to the public – so bring your safety gear if you want to give it a shot. Even if you don’t want to participate in the activities, you can sit back and enjoy the scene – no tickets required.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Named the “Coolest Block in America” by GQ, Abbot Kinney (named after the founder of Venice) has an eclectic collection of boutiques, salons, galleries, restaurants and bars along its road. Abbot Kinney used to be named West Washington Boulevard and was filled with rundown cottages and old buildings. But in the 1980’s it was renamed and resurrected as a part of a community project by activists and owners who wanted to see it thrive. And it did… in a big way. Now a hugely popular destination, it is a must see on any visit to Venice.
The Venice Beach Canals
Built as a part of the “Venice of America” Plan, the Venice Beach Canals are famous for their man made canals running along a residential district. On the National Register of Historic Places since 1982, you can walk along its beautiful pathways and see some historic homes that have been renovated and some beautiful new construction as well. While you can no longer take a gondola ride along the canal, it is still a beautiful gem in Venice. Truly a little part of Italy in California.
You can’t talk about Venice Beach without mentioning, of course, The Beach! It has 75 miles of coastline and, some say, the best surfing. The incredible Breakwater Beach is a local favorite. In fact, it is the only place on the beach where the waves break on both sides of an artificial barrier originally built to protect the amusement pier. Surfing lessons are offered, but if that is not what interests you, you can always check out the drum circle on Saturday’s and Sunday’s. Conducted on the sand, people from all around the world come to play their drums, shakers, congas and more, so if you feel like getting in a little dancing or chanting, this is the place to go on the weekends.
Come check out this off beat, lively part of Los Angeles with LA Insider Tours. You will never forget it.