Venice Beach has always been one of my favorite spots to visit every time I come to Los Angeles. Tourists love this city because of its lively beach area and unique culture of eccentric characters and street performers.
Among the famous attractions in Venice Beach are the boardwalk, a bustling pedestrian walkway that stretches for more than two miles along the beach; and Muscle Beach, a popular outdoor gym for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts since the 1930s.
What is Venice Beach known for? How did it become a haven for oddballs? What should you do when you visit? Read on for info and suggestions about this unique destination!
What is Venice Beach Known For?
Let’s take a deep dive into the history of Venice and the current attractions and things to do in Venice Beach. Here’s a quick summary of the 8 things the city is most famous for.
In short, Venice Beach is known for:
-Lively beach and boardwalk area
-Unique street performers
-The Venice canals system, modeled after the canals in Venice, Italy
-Muscle Beach outdoor gym
-Boutique shops and restaurants
-Vibrant music/arts scene
-Oudoor activities such as biking, rollerblading, surfing, and beach volleyball
Things to Know About Venice Beach, California
Venice Beach is located in the western part of Los Angeles, California, along the shores of the Pacific Ocean, just south of Santa Monica.
The beach stretches for about two miles. The area is known for its warm, sunny weather and mild temperatures year-round.
Venice Beach is easily accessible by car, bike, or public transportation. The 10 and 405 freeways are nearby, and several bus lines run through the area.
Biking is also a popular way to get around, with bike lanes and rental options available. The neighborhood is flat and easily walkable.
Venice Beach, California, has a rich and diverse history that spans over a century. The area was originally founded in 1905 by real estate developer Abbot Kinney (remember that name) as a beachfront resort town modeled after Venice, Italy.
Kinney wanted to create a cultural hub that would attract artists, writers, and other creative individuals to the area.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Venice Beach became known as a hub for the bohemian and counterculture movements. The area was home to a vibrant arts scene, with many artists and writers calling Venice Beach home.
The famous Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac spent some time in Venice Beach, and his novel “On the Road” features a character who lives in the area.
In the ’50s and ’60s, Venice Beach became known for Muscle Beach, a popular spot for bodybuilders to show off their physiques. The area also became a popular destination for surfers, with many surf shops and surf schools opening up in the area.
Venice Beach Attractions and Activities
Venice Beach Boardwalk
If you’re looking for a quintessential Venice Beach experience, head straight for the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
This iconic stretch of pavement is a hub of activity, featuring shops, restaurants, street performers, vendors, and artists selling their wares. It’s a great place to people-watch and soak up the lively atmosphere.
You’ll find musicians, dancers, magicians, and more showcasing their talents for passersby – mostly along the boardwalk, but also on sidewalks in popular areas.
You might see clowns, dudes with exotic animals, celebrity impersonators, or any number of other interesting characters. Some of the performers have become local legends, drawing crowds with their impressive shows.
Venice Beach is also known for its skateboarding culture, and the boardwalk is a great place to see it in action.
You’ll often see skaters cruising down the boardwalk, performing tricks on the ramps and rails that are set up along the way.
The skate parks are busy all times of day. They look especially cool at sunset!
Shopping and Dining
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is home to a variety of shops and restaurants. You’ll find everything from souvenir shops to boutique clothing stores, as well as a range of dining options.
The other popular shopping area of Venice Beach is Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
Among the shops and restaurants I’d recommend: Economy Candy (candy store with rare and nostalgic candies); Gotta Have It (vintage and retro clothing and accessories); Kilokilo (thrift store clothing sold by weight); Gjelina (contemporary California cuisine); and the Butcher’s Daughter (healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes.)
One unique feature of the city is the Venice Canals. These canals were built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney and modeled after the famous waterways of Venice, Italy. Kinney wanted to create a “Venice of America” tourist attraction.
The canals were originally used for transportation, but by the 1920s, cars had become more popular and the canals fell into disrepair. In the ’50s, the city of Los Angeles proposed filling in the canals to create more roads, but fortunately, a group of residents fought to save them.
In the ’80s, the canals were restored. Today, the Venice Canals are home to beautiful homes and gardens. For folks interested in architecture, the Venice Canals are a must-see.
Walking along the canals is a peaceful and scenic experience. Visitors can also take a gondola ride through the canals.
Art and Culture
Venice Beach is known for its creative arts community, from street murals to music performances.
One of the most iconic features of Venice Beach is its street art. The area is home to numerous murals that showcase a range of styles and themes, from political commentary to abstract designs.
Some of the most famous murals in Venice Beach include: “Touch of Venice” by Rip Cronk, “Muscle Beach” by Jonas Never, and “Venice Kinesis” by Emily Winters.
Live Music Scene
Venice Beach has a lively music scene. You can find live performances at various venues throughout the area, including bars, restaurants, and outdoor stages.
Popular music events in Venice Beach include the Abbot Kinney Festival, Venice Beach Music Fest, and First Fridays on Abbot Kinney.
Film and Television
Venice Beach has been featured in numerous films and television shows over the years. Its unique atmosphere and iconic landmarks make it a popular location for filmmakers.
Some of the most famous productions that have been filmed in Venice Beach include Point Break, The Doors, and White Men Can’t Jump.
Venice Beach is a hub for outdoor activities. The beach volleyball courts on the beach are free to use, and you can often find pickup games happening throughout the day.
Beach volleyball is a big part of Venice culture, and you’ll find players of all skill levels enjoying the game.
Venice is a great spot for surfing, and there are plenty of surf shops in the area where you can rent a board and wetsuit.
The waves can be a bit unpredictable, so it’s best to check the surf report before heading out. If you’re new to surfing, there are plenty of instructors in the area who can give you a lesson.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk is a popular spot for biking and rollerblading. You can rent a bike or rollerblades from one of the many rental shops in the area, or bring your own.
Events and Festivals
Venice Beach is known for its vibrant and diverse community, which is reflected in the many events and festivals that take place throughout the year.
Venice Beach Music Fest: This annual event brings together musicians, artists, and performers from around the world for a day of live music, art exhibits, and food vendors.
Venice Art Crawl: This quarterly event showcases the work of local artists and galleries, with exhibitions and open studios throughout the neighborhood. Visitors can meet the artists, purchase artwork, and enjoy live music and food trucks.
Venice Beach Drum Circle: Every Sunday at sunset, drummers and dancers gather on the beach for a free-form jam session. Anyone can join in, and the atmosphere is lively and inclusive.
Abbot Kinney Festival: This annual street fair celebrates the eclectic spirit of the Abbot Kinney neighborhood, with live music, food vendors, and booths selling arts and crafts. The festival usually takes place in September and draws large crowds.
Venice Beach Freakshow: This quirky attraction features a collection of oddities and curiosities, from two-headed animals to sword swallowers. Update: This event no longer takes place.
Venice Beach, California is well-known for its iconic landmarks that have become symbols of the area. Venice Skate Park is one of the most famous skateparks in the world and is a must-visit destination for skateboarders.
The park is located right on the beach and features a variety of obstacles and ramps, including a large bowl and a snake run. It’s a great place to watch talented skaters perform tricks, or to try out your own skills.
Muscle Beach is perhaps the most iconic landmark in Venice Beach. It’s a popular spot for bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, and has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows.
The outdoor gym features a variety of equipment, including weightlifting machines, pull-up bars, and rings.
Community and Lifestyle
Venice Beach is known for its eclectic community that has a strong emphasis on artistic expression and individuality, as seen in the street art, colorful murals, and graffiti that can be found all over the area.
The community is made up of people from all walks of life, including artists, musicians, surfers, and fitness enthusiasts.
The lifestyle in Venice Beach is centered around health and wellness. The area is home to a number of health food stores, yoga studios, and fitness centers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Venice Beach
What are some popular attractions at Venice Beach, California?
Venice Beach is known for its iconic boardwalk, which offers a variety of attractions. Some of the most popular attractions include Muscle Beach, the Venice Skatepark, and the Venice Public Art Walls.
The boardwalk is also home to numerous street performers, vendors, and artists, making it a lively and entertaining destination.
What are some non-touristy things to do in Venice Beach?
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, Venice Beach has plenty of hidden gems to explore. The Venice Canals are a peaceful and picturesque area that offers a unique glimpse into the city’s history.
The Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a trendy and upscale shopping district with a variety of boutiques and restaurants.
Additionally, the nearby Ballona Creek Bike Path offers a scenic and relaxing bike ride away from the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk.
What is the vibe like at Venice Beach, California?
Venice Beach has a laid-back and eclectic vibe that attracts a diverse crowd. The boardwalk is a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles, with people from all walks of life coming together to enjoy the beach and its attractions.
This part of L.A. isn’t really known for its nightlife or its “sightseeing.” It’s known more for the vibe, the culture, and the character. If you go in with that expectation, you can have a good experience.
What are some nearby attractions to Venice Beach, Los Angeles?
Venice Beach is located within driving or Uber distance to all of Los Angeles, so there are plenty of nearby attractions to explore in all the LA neighborhoods.
The Santa Monica Pier is just a short drive away and offers a variety of amusement park rides and attractions.
The Getty Center is a world-renowned art museum with stunning architecture and breathtaking views of the city. Other good LA museums include the Griffith Observatory, Grammy Museum and Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios Hollywood are also popular destinations for visitors to Los Angeles, along with Marilyn Monroe’s grave.
For more, take a look at our guide to how to visit LA without a car, and a guide for road tripping from Los Angeles to Austin, Texas.
Do you have any suggestions for activities while visiting Venice Beach?