Looking for some epic things to do in Venice Beach, California? From fun and unique things to do in Venice Beach, California to shopping and eating on Abbot Kinney there are so many options when it comes to planning a trip to this eclectic oceanside town. Here is the guide on what to do, where to eat, and what experiences you cannot miss.
What is Venice Beach known for?
Muscles flexing on the beach, insanely good looking people skating by on Venice Beach Boardwalk, and some of the most interesting people and art I saw during my visit in Los Angeles. When I saw at Menotti’s Coffee Shop sipping my coffee the morning after I arrived, I saw some wild things to which my friend replied “What do you expect, that’s Venice Beach.” I absolutely loved it and found so many things to do in Venice Beach, California. I stayed three days in Venice Beach.
Venice Beach is a big playground by the sea. A long stretch of an eclectic oceanfront boardwalk passes by street vendors, shops, Muscle Beach, basketball courts, and Venice Skatepark. There are also a great choice of restaurants and chic shops on the trendy Abbot Kinney Street. Things get weird here, but it is probably the most entertaining part of Los Angeles in my opinion where anything goes.
Read on to find a guide of some of the best things to do in Venice Beach- LA’s bohemian and eclectic neighborhood. From restaurants, shops, and the best people watching it is going to be a trip you will never forget!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase or booking, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Travels of Sarah Fay is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to amazon.com and affiliated sites at no cost to you.
History of Venice Beach
Abbot Kinney was a millionaire in the late 19th century and a visionary. He wanted to create a slice of Europe and his favorite city Venice in the USA. He spent his fortune building canals, piers, small bridges, and built his dream of gondolas meandering the canals of Venice Beach California. Today you can still visit the Historic Venice Canals District. Venice today and then have much in common, he wanted his Venice to be a center of culture, learning, and healthy living. Venice is still a creative mecca, although not entirely polished, the eclectic, and unique streets and canals of Venice are a center of culture, entertainment, and a focus on health and the outdoors.
Getting There and How To Get Around
The best thing about getting around Venice Beach is you can see a lot within a short bike ride, walking, or a quick Lyft and Uber if you stay in the Santa Monica and Venice Beach area. However, if you want to go to Downtown LA or West Hollywood be prepared for a 30ish minute car ride and that is without traffic.
I would say when you are in Venice Beach to really explore the area by bike and walking around. This is the perfect way to see the unique art murals, boutiquesI saw so many awesome art murals, boutiques, and found great coffee shops and restaurants this way.
I did not use public transit as I heard it is a pain in the butt and you are better off using Lyft and Uber at non rush hour times. If you happen to have a camper van or camper van rental you could always find a place to park in the Venice Beach area overnight.
Fun Things To Do In Venice Beach, California
There are so many Venice Beach activities to get up to, but these are some of the best things to do in Venice Beach.
Get A Photo With The Iconic Venice Sign
Arriving late at night the first thing I saw in Venice Beach was the iconic Venice sign lit up. I know it is touristy, but I had to get a photo there. Well there is a long history of the Venice sign, the original was erected in 1905 by Abbot Kinney who was trying to attract people to his ocean side resort along with other attractions and a miniature railroad.
All of these years later the sign still attracts many visitors and it is a right of passage to get that iconic Venice sign picture. Just be careful to not get hit by a car because the intersection is BUSY!
Have A Photoshoot With Flytographer
When I was in Los Angeles i was there to not only see the city, but to visit a friend. I ended up using Flytographer to have a professional shoot with a local photographer. Flytographer is global photography marketplace. It helps you connect with local photographers for an easy shoot ranging from 30 minutes to 4 hours or more.
I chose Venice Beach to get the quality Venice shot with Flytographer. It was my first photoshoot on a holiday with a professional photographer and it felt so LA to do, but I was there for it!
Venice Beach Canals
The historic Venice Beach Canal makes you feel like you have found a little piece of Europe in Southern California. People must have thought Abbot Kinney was losing his mind, but he had a vision that has lived way beyond his years.
Now Venice Beach Canals are a luxurious labyrinth of unique architecture, quaint wooden bridges, and a calm peaceful network of walkways. I had met up with a fellow traveler, that took me on a little walking tour of the area. This is one of the best free things to do in Los Angeles and Venice Beach. If you want to learn more about the canals, there are walking and historical tours of the historic Venice Beach Canals.
Maybe it is the great weather, but I felt like everyone was living a very active lifestyle. Muscle Beach is the epitome of that. While the famous outdoor Venice beach gym wasn’t open on the beach, it is definitely a spot you should visit when it reopens.
The “Home of Body Building” opened in 1963 and since then has become a household name. Body builders such as Schwarzenegger called Venice Beach home.So whether you want to pump some iron, or watch a bodybuilding competition. If you are feeling like getting fit on vacation, head to the famous original Gold’s Gym . When I went they had an outdoor area to work out which was pretty cool.
Venice Beach Skatepark
My favorite place to watch the sunset was the Venice Skatepark. It was entertaining to see the skateboarders doing tricks with the sun bouncing off of them. Another fun thing to do in Venice Beach that is FREE. This is the best skateboarding and most iconic in California. With sand bordering the park and the ocean view. There is always something happening when I was there, someone was DJing outside.
I could literally spend an hour watching these guys shred, pulling off cool tricks, and remembering that one time I went to a Vans skatepark thinking I could be a skater girl like Avril Lavigne.
Venice Beach aka Dogtown was the birthplace of America’s skateboard culture. Maybe you have seen the documentaries Dogtown and Z-Boy’s that made the area legendary for counter culture. Dogtown nostalgia can be found throughout the streets of Venice Beach. But by far it is the 3.5 million dollar skatepark that draws in the skateboarders and visitors alike.
Stroll Along Venice Beach Boardwalk
The best thing to do in Venice Beach is to take a walk or run down the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk. It is a prime spot for people watching and you will see the eclectic Venice Beach come to life. Have A Beach Day In Venice Beach
When you come to Venice Beach, take some time to enjoy the beach and ocean. There are plenty of surf shops and surf schools that will take you on your first wave. (If you can brave the cold waters of the Southern California Coast). The level of activity along the boardwalk may astound you from street performers and artists selling their work, to people holding up signs asking for hugs. It was a site to be seen. I saw people biking dressed up as fur babies blasting music down the boardwalk. I mean you really see it all in Venice Beach.
Rent A Bike And Head To Santa Monica
A great way to see a city and get some exercise is cycling! I love renting a bike wherever I am to get around. Find a good bike rental at Venice Beach and head to Santa Monica, it will only cost about $20 USD. Once you are in Santa Monica there is so much to do from the famous Santa Monica Pier, to shopping Third Street Promenade. The pier has a whole lot of action including street performers, an amusement park, and is the perfect place to watch the sunset in Santa Monica.
Santa Monica and Venice Beach are situated along a 22 mile bike trail Marvin Braude. The trail goes from Will Rogers State Beach to Manhattan Beach, but if you just want to do the 3 mile stretch from Venice Beach to Santa Monica that is a beautiful ride for all ability levels and ages. There are small group bicycle tours as well as Segway tours too if you don’t feel like going alone.
Enjoy A Rooftop In Venice Beach
Head to the High Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Erwin for killer views of the Pacific Ocean and boardwalk below. They have a heavenly brunch and a small bar bites menu. If you want something a little less high brow, head to The Venice Whaler. This rooftop bar is only on the second floor, but it has been around since 1944 and locals love it. Famous bands such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and more came here to hang in a chilled and laid back atmosphere. There is great music, entertainment, and they have the best fish tacos.
Where to Eat In Venice Beach?
The Rose Venice – Is a popular restaurant in Los Angeles and how lucky it is located in Venice Beach! One of the most recognizable restaurants and cafes, The Rose is iconic and has been serving locals and travelers since 1979. The Rose Venice is an experience day or night. There is a bakery, cafe, garden outdoor eating area, and beautiful interior decor that makes this place perfect for the gram.
Menotti’s Is one of the best coffee shops in Los Angeles and is a must when visiting Venice Beach. There is also a location in Culver City, but I was a frequent visitor to the Menotti’s in Venice Beach because it was right across the street from where I was staying!
Teddy’s Red Tacos Venice Beach- Teddy’s Red Tacos started as a taco truck (one of the best in Los Angeles) and then opened their coveted taco joint in Venice Beach. If you are in the area you have to try their Al Pastor with cheese it was amazing and brought me back to Mexico in one bite.
Egg Slut – Probably the best egg sandwich and creative breakfast for on the go. I took my sandwich to the beach to have a nice relaxing morning for breakfast with a view.
Where to stay in Venice Beach?
There are not a ton of hotels right in Venice Beach, many are located in Santa Monica. However, I wanted to stay in the thick of the eclectic Venice Beach and I found the perfect place to experience it. I stayed at Samesun Venice Beach. It was literally located on the street leading to the Venice Boardwalk and where the Venice Sign was, so I was where all the Venice Beach activities are.
I loved it! There were restaurants, cafes, thrift shops, the beach, and the Venice Boardwalk at my doorstep and I had a view of the ocean from my private room. Notice I emphasized private, because this is technically a hostel! I wanted to share with my friend what a hostel in the USA was like, and how it could be a great alternative in certain instances to a hotel. The location was perfect, the price was reasonable, and the vibes were on point. I loved being able to wake up early in the morning and feel like I could see Venice wake up and have the boardwalk largely to myself.
The room had a chair, refrigerator, and you could get an ensuite with a bathroom or use the shared bathroom. Also, the bed was comfortable and there was parking overnight on the street right in front of Samesun.
Venice on the Beach is right on the beach and boardwalk. Look outside and you can see volleyball players playing, people running by, and have a great oceanside room. They offer expansive suites and if you are going to stay longer than a few days it is perfect for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience in Venice Beach.
While not located directly in Venice Beach Marina Del Ray offers a range of hotels that are great options for finding a place to stay near Venice Beach. The Hilton Garden Inn Marina Del Ray offers a pool, spacious room, and it is super close to places such as The Venice Whaler for your nightlife fix and there is a great waterfront area to check out.
Hotel Erwin is also one of the places to stay if you want to be in the center of all the action. Also, as I mentioned before they have the sick High Rooftop lounge with the best views. A chic boutique hotel with views of the Pacific, it is hard to go wrong here.
Where to Shop In Venice Beach?
Go Thrifting At Some of The Best Thrift Shops in LA
There are many thrift shops in Los Angeles, but some of the best thrift shops are in Venice Beach. From Animal House and Gotta Have It with amazing threads, to antique shops like The Mart Collective you can find a unique souvenir to go home with.
Shop and Eat Your Way Down Abbot Kinney
There are many trendy shops, pop up shops, and delicious restaurants that line Abbot Kinney Street. While there are many amazing stores, I would suggest Burro to get a souvenir with a California aesthetic that could really add a special touch to your home. Want to eat vegan? Head to the aesthetically pleasing The Butcher’s Daughter, they also have a Venice Food Truck as well. I also loved the outdoor and indoor space Greenleaf Chopshop. I found there were a lot of vegan options in this trendy street.
Is Venice Beach Dangerous?
While there are many eccentric, weird, and it is hard to not ignore the dire homelessness problem. During the day things are fine, I just take the same precautions I would anywhere and try to not walk alone at night, take an Uber if I am alone, and be aware of my surroundings.
I felt safe otherwise I would just be careful because there is definitely more poverty in the neighborhood after recent events in the world. There was a fire at one of the encampments of homeless people that caused some destruction along the boardwalk, but otherwise I felt safe. Especially in the ritzy areas of Abbot Kinney Street, the Venice Canals, and Santa Monica.
What to Pack For Venice Beach?
- Walking Shoes I love Keen for walking shoes and traveling shoes.
- Flip Flops
- Battery Pack /Portable Charger
- Denim Jacket or Pullover
- Beach Tote
- Workout clothes I love Wantable Active for giving me the best active wear from different brands, Fabletics, and Alo Yoga.