- Spent 24 hours in Venice Beach in January 2018
- Venice Beach is only 6 miles from LAX
- Rented an AirBnb about a block from the beach
- Spent most of the day at the beach
- Ate at two great restaurants on Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice is a quirky place and I loved every bit of it. I spent 24 hours in the LA beach town and here is what I decided to do with my time:
The main tourist sites in Venice are Muscle Beach, the Venice Canals, and eating/shopping along Abbot Kinney Blvd.
My friends and I had ourselves a girls weekend so we decided to skip the main tourist attractions and spend a lazy day at the beach. We people-watched, sipped on Tecate, and soaked in the California vibes. In my book, it doesn’t get much better than a Sunday spent like that.
For dinner we booked a last minute reservation at Neighbor, a farm-to-table restaurant serving up tasty American fare on Abbot Kinney Blvd. We were seated at a table with a lounge feel which made for a more intimate vibe. A party of 20 in our section and the chill Sunday night vibes of the waitstaff resulted in subpar service, but the food made up for it. The creamy burrata, buckwheat noodles, charred chipotle brussel sprouts, pumpkin & lemon jumbo gnocchi, and thick country bread with sweet butter were a perfect assortment to share. The reviews hyped up the cocktails, so we ordered the Kimmy Gimlet & The Girl Next Door. While the flavors were good, they didn’t have a craft cocktail-esq presentation to them for the time it took them to get to our table and what they were charging. Despite my slight critiques, the restaurant seemed to be full of locals and I’d definitely go back. Also on my list would be Felix, the upscale trattoria next door.
In search of a place to keep our Sunday night going, we asked out waiter where to go and he pointed us to The Brig. The old-school sign gives you the impression that it’s going to be dive-y. It was by no means a true dive bar, but it had the relaxed feel we were looking for. We shared many laughs fueled by beer and vodka sodas.
Our East Coast body clocks woke us up earlier than usual after a night out, so we made the most of our morning. We walked along the canals and headed to The Butchers Daughter for breakfast. The vegetarian cafe has lots of vegan options and a full menu of juices. Even though there were so many appetizing healthy options, I couldn’t help but order “The Best Egg Sandwich” : egg, cheddar cheese, avocado, baby kale, and vegan harissa mayo put between a flakey croissant. YUM. Among the other things ordered were the açaí bowl, the surfers breakfast, a juice flight, a matcha late and an iced coffee - all of which were very much enjoyed by my friends.
We took a post-breakfast stroll along Abbot Kinney Blvd, did a little window shopping, and then dragged ourselves back to LAX. None of us were ready for the long weekend to end, but we are all excited to book a trip back.
We decided on an Airbnb about a block and a half from the beach. The studio apartment with a pull out couch fit our needs for the evening. As we left for dinner there was a group of friends having an outdoor watch party for the Grammys--Just another reason to want to move to California.
We rented a Jeep through Turo and really enjoyed riding around with the top down as we tried soaking up all the California sunshine we could get. Pickup and drop off from LAX was really easy with our Turo host. Other than the fact that the brake pads needed to be replaced, we felt like the car was clean and in good condition. LA traffic lives up to its notorious reputation so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get anywhere.
I tend to ask a lot of questions about the places I travel to because I am always curious about how things got to be the way they are in present day. My friends have started making a game out of my questions by making up their own facts. While their "facts" are fun, I end up turning to my phone to get answers. Here is a synopsis of what I found:
"Venice of America" was founded in 1905 by tabacco tycoon, Abbot Kinney (hence the name of the upscale boulevard). The man envisioned a resort town inspired by Venice, Italy. He developed the beachfront with hotels, man-made canals, and amusement piers. In the booming days of the resort town you'd even find gondolas moving along the canals. It was considered "The Coney Island of the West". There was quite a series of setbacks between ocean storms and fires that ruined the initial developments. Despite the setbacks, the people of LA still flocked to the beach. After Kinney's death and another series of fires, things took a turn. Eventually the amusement parks were dismantled and many of the canals were filled.
Later in 1930, oil was discovered off the Venice Peninsula. The oil boom brought money and jobs but also basically ruined the beaches. The depression and World War II also beat down on Venice.
In the 50s the Laurence Welk Show brought new interest to the beach town. But by the 60s the infrastructure was in terrible shape. In response, the city started strictly enforcing their codes but didn't make it easy or affordable to bring the existing buildings up to the standards. As a result, about 550 buildings were demolished. New groups of people flocked to Venice. "The Beats" came and went with their bohemian lifestyle and then the hippies took over. The stereotypical love & drugs activities took place along the Venice canals, in addition to riots on the beach.
The goal of the 70s was to maintain the Venice vibe and keep it affordable for the low income population. In the late 70s Venice became a tourist destination again with the rise in the popularity of skating. The coverage during the 1984 Olympics gave the vendors and street performers a world stage. The beach town started getting tourists from all over the world.
Today when you visit Venice you'll experience a little bit of each decade. There is still a pier that juts out into the Pacific. A small section of the canals remain and are lined with unique beach homes. The smell of pot often lingers along the boardwalk due to the legalization of marijuana in California. Bikes and skaters stay active along the bike path. And most importantly, locals and tourists enjoy the sandy beach.
The VisitVeniceCA.com site pointed me to this history site which is what I used for reference here. The long version is much more interesting-- I recommend giving it a read if you're curious like me :)
When I Go Back:
When I inevitably return to Venice Beach I plan to spend more time on Abbot Kinney Blvd when the shops are actually open, rent a bike and ride along the boardwalk, and try new restaurants!
Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments about your experience at Venice Beach! I'd love to hear from you!