Why You Should Be In Venice Beach, California Right Now 

Before a trip to Los Angeles once, I asked a friend, “How will I know when I’m out of Santa Monica and in Venice Beach?” You’ll know,” she said. And she was right. There’s no place in the world quite like Venice Beach. It’s hosted everyone from surf bums passing through to Arnold Schwarzenegger at world-famous Muscle Beach. For that reason — among others (how about the beauty!), many people do more than just visit. They make Venice their home.

Venice Beach is on the west side of the greater Venice neighborhood, comprised of about 40,000 people. Venice is among Santa Monica (to the north), Marina Del Rey (to the south),  and Culver City (to the east). And of course the Pacific Ocean to the west. Parallel to the ocean-side businesses is the Boardwalk. Even closer to the beach is the bike path. Then you’re in the sand.

Distances in Los Angeles can be deceptive if you’re unfamiliar with the city. What looks like four or five miles on a map is probably closer to ten. For example, from Hollywood to the beach looks pretty bikeable, just a short trip of a few miles. In fact, it’s almost thirteen miles from downtown Hollywood to Venice Beach! No wonder everyone says, “You have to have a car in LA…” (Others claim it’s possible to live in LA without a car by walking, bicycling, carpooling, and using public transportation.) But it’s possible to get around without a car if you’re just visiting.

Public transportation takes a little longer than driving but is a great way to see the city and save a little money. The Los Angeles Metro website can help you plan your trip. A quick search there shows that on a weekday afternoon it will take about 75 minutes to travel from the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue (Hollywood) to the intersection of Main Street and Grand Boulevard (Venice Beach) and cost only $1.75. That’s a distance of almost 15 miles.

HOT SPOTS

Where else can you wake up, walk across a couple canals to the beach, go surfing, rollerblade up the boardwalk, grab a bite on a restaurant patio, buy art from a vendor, visit the skate park, see someone lift 300 pounds numerous times, stumble across a film or music video crew, and then watch the sunset from a pier or hotel rooftop bar? Did I mention that the weather’s almost always beautiful? Just another day in Venice Beach.

Homes in Venice Beach have a median selling price of $1.4 million, up from a low of just over $800,000 in 2012. Prices have risen in large part due to Silicon Valley companies — and salaries — moving to the neighborhood (you might hear it called “Silicon Beach”). The median rent comes in at just over $4,000 per month.

Okay, now the Hot Spots:

The beach — It extends north from Venice for miles, connecting with Santa Monica State Beach. In the opposite direction, it ends about one mile south of the Venice Fishing Pier, at the Marina del Rey entrance. On the beach, people play volleyball, jog, practice yoga, relax from swimming — this is the real thing when it comes to beaches. To travel up and down the beach quickly, hop on the bike path. Bike rental shops are easy to find along the Boardwalk. You’ll be in the company of walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, and other bicyclists.

Venice Fishing Pier —The Pier is at West Washington Boulevard. Venice Beach can get overwhelming. Head to the Pier for a relatively quiet break. It’s especially good to go at evening to see the sunset and get some distance from the neighborhood — same at sunrise. If you’re new, it can help you get your bearings, too. Catch one of the many people fishing on the Pier in the morning and ask about their catch. Most are happy to talk. They’ll be fishing for mackerel, flounder, snapper and other varieties of fish. You can visit Venice Fishing Pier for more information about fishing on the Pier.

Muscle Beach Venice — The original Muscle Beach (initially only a city recreation center) opened in Santa Monica in 1934 as a Works Projects Administration project. It closed in 1959 due to maintenance problems, then re-opened in 1989. In 1951, Muscle Beach Venice, aka “The Pen,” opened in Venice between the Boardwalk and the bike path. Now it’s known commonly as “Muscle Beach.” It’s been home to many bodybuilding stars, with probably the best known being Arnold. Any day of the week you’ll see men and women moving a lot of iron!

Windward Plaza Park — Just north of Muscle Beach, Windward is also between the bike  path and the Boardwalk. It’s home to Venice Spring Fling and the Venice Beach Music Fest.

Skate Park — This 16,000 square foot space is a hugely popular skate (and skate watcher) destination. It has rails, stairs, a big bowl, and more for the beginner and advanced skater.

Venice Beach Boardwalk — Okay, where to begin? With the breakdancers? Or the artists selling paintings they created on-the-spot? Or the decades-old businesses? The surf, tee shirt, tattoo, restaurant, and everything between shops? For most visitors, this one-and-one-half-mile stretch is the first stop in the neighborhood. It’s the main pedestrian arterial of Venice Beach, giving you access to Muscle Beach, Windward, tennis courts, and other beach-side activities in addition to the commercial strip.

Danny’s! — Danny’s! is a local restaurant that serves a “mix of California cuisine and comfort food.” As with a lot of people in Venice, one of the owners is also an artist. Daniel Samakow is a long-time Venice restauranteur and painter (also co-creator of James’ Beach and Canal Club restaurants in Venice). In addition to the buskers and art vendors outside, a lot of people inside are making art, too.

As with many neighborhoods in Southern California, Venice Beach is truly unique. Don’t be surprised if you see a celebrity in the crowd or in the house next door — everyone loves getting to the beach just for a day or for a lifetime.

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