Perhaps one of the best things about Los Angeles is that you’ll find a totally different vibe and culture when you travel to each area of this massive city. One of our favorite areas to explore? The laidback, eclectic, and artistic Venice Beach.
Venice Beach was originally its own city. Designed by developer Abbot Kinney to be the “Venice of America,” Venice Beach operated independently until 1926 when it was annexed into Los Angeles. The land Kinney built upon was marshland, but he saw an opportunity to create a waterside wonderland that could rival one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.
Today, Venice Beach is the second most-visited tourist attraction in Southern California, just behind Disneyland. And it’s easy to see why. This unique area of Los Angeles is filled with history, art, and restaurants. It’s a colorful, vibrant place to visit. No matter who you come to Venice Beach with, you’ll find something for everyone!
From lifting weights with some of the greatest bodybuilders of all time to canoeing through Venice’s famous canals, there’s so much to see and do in Venice Beach. So, where should you start?
We’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Venice Beach for you. With these unique Venice Beach bucket list recommendations, you’re bound to have an amazing time exploring this seaside paradise!
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15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Venice Beach, CA
1. Go Sightseeing at the Venice Ocean Front Walk
Venice is perhaps best known for its iconic boardwalk, the Venice Ocean Front Walk. The Ocean Front Walk stretches two miles and houses street vendors, performers, unique treats, and so much more. You’ll find amazing works of art throughout the boardwalk, from spectacular sculptures to majestic murals. So keep your eyes peeled for these stunning pieces hidden among the crowd here.
If you enjoy shopping, you’ll love the bohemian shops that dot this stretch of Venice Beach. But the Ocean Front Walk is also a great place to go to do some people-watching. Whether it’s street performers showing off their skills, activists petitioning for important causes, or just other unique visitors like yourself, there’s plenty to see in the crowd at Ocean Front Walk.
If you’re someone who would rather take in nature than artificial structures, hop over to the Venice Beach Bike Path, also known as the Strand, which runs adjacent to the boardwalk. While you can’t ride a bike on the boardwalk, you can rent a bike or skates there to take them on the bike path. As a part of the Marvin Braude Coastal Bike Trail, you’ll see the beauty of the beaches of Venice when you ride along it.
2. Explore the Picture-Perfect Beach
After you’re done exploring the boardwalk, head down to the water on Venice City Beach, stretching from the Venice Pier to the border between Venice Beach and Santa Monica. With 238 acres of beach to explore, you and your family can walk along the water and take in the scenic beauty of this destination.
If you’re a surfer, you’ll find that Venice Beach is an ideal spot. If you didn’t bring your board, you can rent one at the Ocean Front Walk. There are also volleyball nets for you to play a game with your travel companions, or you can just float along the water.
California’s ocean water is often on the chillier side, so if you plan on spending a lot of time in the water, consider renting or packing a wetsuit. If you’re looking for a good fishing spot, you should head to the Venice Pier, where no license is needed.
3. Skate at the Venice Beach Skatepark
Along the Ocean Front Walk, you’ll find the Venice Beach Skatepark, one of the most iconic Venice Beach attractions. Venice Beach has a long history of skating culture. In fact, Venice Beach is considered the birthplace of modern skateboarding.
Originally developed in the 1940s and 1950s, skateboarding really took off in the ‘70s when a draught left Venice Beach filled with empty pools. Skateboarders would sneak into these pools and use them as their own playground.
Today, the Venice Beach Skatepark pays homage to the city’s history. In the early 2000s, a group of Venice locals got together to plan this skatepark, which eventually opened in 2009. The course is considered highly challenging, with a snake run, ramps, and two empty pools.
If the park is a little too challenging for your skill level, it’s free to simply watch the masters at work. You’re bound to see some incredible tricks!
4. Work Out at Muscle Beach Venice
One of the most well-known sections of the Ocean Front Walk is Muscle Beach Venice, so named for its many different ways to work out. From gymnastics equipment on the sand to weightlifting equipment that would challenge even the best bodybuilder, Muscle Beach Venice is a haven for the fitness-minded and one of the most unique things to see in Venice Beach.
Muscle Beach was actually started in Santa Monica, near the famous Santa Monica Pier, back in the 1930s. It was credited as being the birthplace of the United States’ physical fitness boom. Eighteen years after the original was created, Muscle Beach Venice was born.
Muscle Beach Venice is considered the home of bodybuilding. This outdoor gym has been home to many of the biggest names in bodybuilding, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. If you’d like to work out at the same place as these Hollywood athletes, you can grab a day pass to train here.
5. Go Shopping on Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard, named for Venice’s founder, is one of the best things to do in Venice if you love art, fashion, and food. This street, which runs over one mile, is a true bohemian paradise, and you’re bound to find shopping and dining to suit every need and every palate. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Venice Beach, you’ll find them in spades on Abbot Kinney Boulevard!
Start your day off at The Butcher’s Daughter, one of the best brunch spots in the area. This restaurant boasts a constantly-changing menu, but everything is guaranteed 100 percent vegetarian. From smoothies to pizza, even the meat lovers in your life will find something they adore here.
For a truly unique souvenir, head to Beauvilla Glass Designs for etched, carved, and stained glass. Or visit Hamilton Press for hand-printed lithographs. For a slightly less expensive souvenir, stop by the vibrantly designed Cabana Goodr, which you can’t miss, thanks to the gigantic pink and green sunglasses on top.
If you’re looking to end your visit here with a sweet treat, stop by Blue Star Donuts, a Portland favorite that’s made its way to Venice. Or head to Salt & Straw for ice cream that’s truly one-of-a-kind.
One of the best times to visit Abbot Kinney Boulevard is during First Friday, one of Los Angeles’s greatest food truck events. Dine on delicious treats as you walk down this iconic boulevard!
6. Float Through the Venice Canals
Venice Beach was greatly inspired by its namesake, Venice, Italy. Today, these two areas of the world have very distinct cultures. Venice Beach has its own personality. However, one way in which these two places are the same is through their famous canals, and floating along the canals is a must on your Venice Beach bucket list.
When Abbot Kinney decided to build the “Venice of America” in Los Angeles, he knew that the new city had to include the original Venice’s famous canals. Today, the canals are made up of six waterways: Grand, Carroll, Linnie, Sherman, Eastern, and Howland.
These waterways form a grid and three residential islands, which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the canals being about 1.5 miles in length, there’s a lot to see here.
You could choose to walk along the sidewalks to see the canals. The sidewalks fell into disrepair in the 1940s, but they were thankfully rebuilt in the ‘90s. However, just like you might want to in Venice, Italy, you can get out on the water of these canals. You can schedule a private tour or rent a canoe for you and a partner to explore the waterways on your own.
7. Take a Surfing Lesson
Venice Beach is a surfer’s paradise. And if you’ve ever thought about getting on a surfboard yourself, taking a surfing lesson is one of the most fun things to do in Venice Beach. While you can rent a surfboard at the Ocean Front Walk, you’ll likely want to have the guidance of an instructor your first time out on the water.
With surfing being such a prominent part of the culture in Venice Beach, it’s no surprise that you have a litany of surfing schools, classes, and instructors to choose from. While you may need to wait until the summer to learn to surf in some areas of the United States, most of these surfing lessons are offered throughout the year in Venice Beach.
Many of these surfing schools will allow you to rent all the gear you’ll need, from the surfboard to the wetsuit, preventing you from needing to buy equipment for your first lesson. You can choose from private lessons, with just you and the instructor, or book a group lesson to get your whole family out on the water!
8. Paint on the Venice Art Walls
Venice Beach is known for its eclectic art scene. People come from all over to see the magnificent murals that paint the walls of these city streets. And if you’re visiting Venice Beach as an artist yourself, getting in on the fun is one of the coolest Venice Beach activities.
The Venice Art Walls are located right on the Ocean Front Walk, nestled into the heart of the city. Curated by the STP Foundation, the Venice Art Walls are canvases that are free for any artist of any kind to use.
During weekends, artists can bring their own paint and experience a day of art and expression under the California sun. Whether you’re a seasoned street artist or just starting out, all are welcome.
Spots at the Venice Art Walls are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be sure to arrive early. Because painting on these walls is technically vandalism by law, you need a permit to be an artist here. You can apply for one online, but permits are also offered on-site at the Venice Art Walls.
Painting at the Venice Art Walls is one of the coolest things to do in Venice. If you’d rather relax and watch someone else work on their masterpiece, you’re free to sit back and enjoy the show.
9. Take a Street Art Tour
Outside of the Venice Art Walls, there’s plenty more unique art to find on these streets. Murals decorate many of the buildings and streets here, but there are a few places where you’ll find a large number of paintings.
One such street is Lincoln Boulevard, where you’ll find pieces like Resurrection of an Angel and Silent Star Spoke Louder Than Words. You’ll find even more work near Rose Avenue, including the famous Ballerina Clown statue on the corner of Rose and Main Street. And if you continue on to Main Street, you’ll stumble across one of the strangest buildings in Venice, one with a giant pair of binoculars adorning the entrance.
You can take your own self-guided walking tour to do some street art sightseeing. Or you can book a walking tour with someone who will give you more history of how these iconic works came to be. Either way, seeing the street art is one of the must-do things in Venice Beach for anyone who loves unique art.
10. See a Show at the Electric Lodge
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Venice Beach, the Electric Lodge is truly an innovative cultural playground for creatives. This non-profit cultural arts center is dedicated to performing shows and holding classes with regard to environmentalism. The Electric Lodge strives to have a zero carbon footprint.
From multi-disciplinary theater to live music to modern dance, there’s always a unique show happening at this one-of-a-kind venue. But the Electric Lodge invites artists of all kinds to host classes for you to get in on the artistry of the center. Through its Artist Exchange program, as well as the High Voltage and Max 10 programs, they invite local creatives to share their incredible space.
Many of the classes and workshops held at the Electric Lodge combine art with athletics, asking visitors to learn to move their bodies in beautiful ways through tae kwon do, dance, and more. Be sure to check the calendar and sign up in advance to reserve a spot at one of these classes during your Venice Beach vacation.
11. Step Inside the Mosaic Tile House
Venice Beach is known for its art, which manifests in many different forms. From murals to sculptures, the city streets are home to many unique works. But there is also one-of-a-kind architecture to be seen here. One of the coolest things to do in Venice Beach is to visit the iconic Mosaic Tile House.
Located on Palms Boulevard, the Mosaic Tile House is a 1940s house that has been transformed into a giant piece of art by local artists Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran. This house has been covered inside and out in beautiful mosaic tiles bursting with color.
If you’re a photographer, an art lover, or just love the idea of walking through a masterpiece, the Mosaic Tile House is one of the must-do things in Venice Beach. This popular spot is only open on Saturdays and requires an online reservation, so be sure to schedule your walk-through in advance.
12. Take a Food Tour
In addition to Venice Beach being known for its art, it’s also known for its food scene. With Secret Food Tours, you’ll get a look at some of the best of California’s cuisine while you explore the heart of Venice Beach. You’ll get a true surfer’s breakfast, dine on a plant-based dish you wouldn’t believe, and eat ice cream from one of the best mom-and-pop shops in the area.
For a very active food tour, you can schedule a Bike and Food Tour, where you’ll hop aboard a bike and take in the sights around Venice Beach and Santa Monica. You’ll get fresh-pressed juice, a picnic, and finish off the day with Salt & Straw ice cream.
Or you can stay close to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for a four-course meal through the many restaurants on the famous street. There are so many food tours in the area, so you have your choice of what works best for you and your fellow travelers.
13. See Sea Creatures at the Venice Oceanarium
The Venice Oceanarium is a “Museum Without Walls.” This non-profit is dedicated to teaching about ocean preservation and exploration to adults and kids alike. They run several programs throughout the year that offer hands-on fun and education.
Every Sunday, you’ll find the Pop-Up on the Pier exhibit at the Venice Pier. You’ll gather data with water testing kits, observe seawater samples under microscopes, and make sea life come to life with artwork and poetry. They also host Shoreline Discovery Walks to explore the sea beyond and beneath the pier.
As a part of a tradition that was developed in 1995, the Oceanarium hosts a weekend-long marathon reading of Moby Dick. This free event is always in November and marks the start of the California gray whale migration. Stop by for a few chapters, or set up shop on the beach for the whole weekend.
14. Take in the Sights from the High Rooftop Lounge
Looking for one of the best views in Venice Beach? You’ll find it at the Hotel Erwin, located right off the boardwalk. Here you’ll discover the High Rooftop Lounge, which offers a picturesque view of Venice Beach. Considered one of the best rooftop bars in Los Angeles, there isn’t a better way to spend an evening in Venice Beach than at the High Rooftop Lounge.
Discover delicious bites, decadent desserts, and specialty cocktails at this picture-perfect lounge. From frozen drinks to hot mules, you’ll find anything you could imagine to suit your palate.
Take a break from all that Venice Beach sightseeing, sit back, and watch the sunset, or join Hotel Erwin for its boozy weekend brunch.
15. Learn about Language in Beyond Baroque
Beginning as a literary magazine, Beyond Baroque has become a unique literary arts center dedicated to preserving, educating, and distributing the written word. In addition to selling experimental fiction and poetry, Beyond Baroque offers workshops, open mics, readings from well-known and up-and-coming artists, and film screenings.
You’ll also find galleries filled with collaborative works of art, fiction, poetry, and even augmented reality. As a location that focuses on serving its community, Beyond Baroque also has a community garden, where a quarterly garden party is held.
The seasonal harvest is served to the community while local artists perform. Visiting this literary and community center is one of the most unique things to do in Venice and a can’t-miss stop for book lovers.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Venice Beach. What’s your favorite thing to do in Venice Beach?
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