Venice Beach VacationVenice Beach – Beyond Buns and Blades
We’re all familiar with the Hollywood side of Los Angeles. Between TMZ’s diligent coverage, a bevy of train-wreck starlets, and the ever-present “industry” talk, it’s difficult to miss. Of course, it can be completely alluring. (Here’s to you, Olivia Wilde.) But sometimes, you want a different kind of experience. And for that, there’s Venice.
Formally an outpost for the Beat Generation, Z-boys, and Speedo-clad musclemen on rollerblades (the latter still remains), Venice has, over the years, acquired a bourgeois bohemian vibe – or “bobo,” as the French call it. Recycling may be chic, but the Range Rover reigns supreme. This is the land of the haute hippie, but they’re not exactly making their own Kombucha. And, buns and blades may be spotted anywhere, at any time.
Good For: Groups of friends, couples, adventurous families – and anyone who wants to experience off-duty L.A.
- Sitting on milk crates and eating artisan pizza and salads at Gjelina.
- Updating your wardrobe with avant-garde fashion from the tiny boutiques on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
- Posing like a muscleman in front of Gold’s Gym.
- Getting into the bohemian bourgeois vibe, wearing Ray-Bans and sipping a glass of rosé.
- Surfing the Pacific Ocean and biking the Boardwalk.
What to Know: The beachfront neighborhood of Venice is in the Westside of Los Angeles, easily accessible by car from the rest of the city – and from the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Southwest and United airlines are currently offering good seasonal deals to Los Angeles from several hubs, including New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. Bring your outdoor gear: Venice Beach offers year-round beachside activities, from biking to surfing.
Suggested Stay: 1 to 3 days
The small city of Venice Beach, where musclemen and gangs once ruled the streets, is going through a revival. These days, lawyers, actors, landscape architects, famous chefs, and other professional types are laying down roots in Venice to raise families or to enjoy the easy life just steps from the beach. This somewhat isolated confluence of education and sophistication has sparked a renaissance of sorts. Don’t think granola, but rather garganelli, lamb bolognese, black garlic, ricotta salata, and mint, which are seasonal staples at one of Venice’s newest restaurants, Superba Snack Bar. À la New York City, Superba doesn’t take reservations. The culture is instead to linger with your wine or stop by one of the local joints and wait for a call from the hostess.
The core of Venice is Abbott Kinney Boulevard, a long drag with restaurants, bars, and shops, very few of which are chains or well-known brands. The mix of independent design shops, clothing boutiques, galleries, and spas is almost unprecedented anywhere else in the U.S. While ankle-length bohemian dresses and feather earrings may not be your style, there’s much more at unique shops like Principessa, Satine, Alexis Bittar, Nightcap, and Undrest. Some of the best food in Southern California also originates on this boulevard. Gjelina, which can be unassuming at first, serves California-style fare, including a diverse menu of well-prepared vegetables, pizzas, small plates, and meats. Do as the locals, and hit an early morning Pilates session at Breedlove Pilates, followed by a casual-yet-elegant breakfast at GTA, the restaurant’s takeaway outpost next door. For less of a scene but equally delicious locavore cuisine, head to Axe (pronounced “Aché”), where they take social responsibility seriously. Over the past seven years, the restaurant has forgone profits on Valentine’s Day and other select evenings throughout the year in order to support environmental and organic food foundations. As for accommodation in Venice: Rent a beach bungalow using VRBO, Vacation Rentals, or Home Away. Another option is to stay in Santa Monica or Marina del Rey; we recommend Shutters on the Beach and the Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey.
On the Boardwalk
Explore the Venice Beach Boardwalk, which is marked by the original Muscle Beach Gym, filled with Schwarzenegger doppelgängers. Day passes are available at Gold’s Gym, where you can pump iron alongside the former Hulk. Or, rent bikes and ride along the palm tree-lined shoreline. Surfing is also a viable option year-round as long as you bring your wet suit.
California without fresh juice is like cake without icing. Detox at Moon Juice on Rose Avenue, which pours organic juices with names like Goodness Greens, Golden Milk, and California Sun. For those who prefer more sustenance, go for organic almond milk and vanilla chai pudding. If you’re in the mood for a more intoxicating pit stop, settle in at Venice Beach Wines or Oscar’s Cerveteca.
Venice Beach originally takes its name from a system of Venice-style canals that weave into the Pacific Ocean. On weekends, festivals brighten up the canals and friendly locals often spend lazy afternoons on their boats. More than a hundred years after developer Abbot Kinney built the canals, Venice Beach has taken on a vibrant persona of its own, matching its Italian namesake in popularity.
To top off your Venice tour, surf over to Zinque for a happy hour bottle of wine before claiming your table at the Tasting Kitchen. Then sit back, enjoy the gourmet organic fare, and appreciate the room full of startlingly attractive people. This is still L.A., after all.