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Hotel Erwin is a meticulously styled boutique hotel with the heart of a surfer bungalow, steps from the ocean and offering amenities like vegan minibars and sunset views, making for a locals-only glimpse into Southern California beach culture.
In the last few years, Venice Beach has shrugged off its beach-bum reputation in favor of something a little more upscale; along with oiled-up bodybuilders, knockoff designer sunglasses and a plethora of, uh, tobacco pipes, the bohemian seaside neighborhood is now home to wine bars, bakeries and upscale boutiques. Hotel Erwin is the best of both worlds--opened in 1975, the skater-chic establishment boasts locals-only details like surfboards in the lobby, street art in the rooms and complimentary day passes to the nearby historic Gold’s Gym (yep, the one where Arnold used to train). These throwbacks to Venice’s grittier days are complemented by stellar service, 300-count sheets and a rooftop bar that offers the sort of spectacular sunset views that many of us have only seen on reruns of The O.C. Enjoy a leisurely day of thrift shopping along the nearby canals, bike along the boardwalk or grab your towel and head straight to the beach. If your suite—which includes a private balcony overlooking the boardwalk, natch—inspires you to stay in, have no fear: Hotel Erwin enlisted Whole Foods to curate their mini-bars with artisanal, seasonal snacks, so you’ll get the local experience without having to step outside.
Location: Eminently walkable Venice Beach is a balance of old-school skater charm and sleek modernity; adjacent to the offices of tech behemoths like Google and Buzzfeed, you’ll find juice shops, crystal healers and dive bars. Plus, the hotel’s Ocean Avenue address is the closest you can get to the ocean without getting sand in your shoes.
Venice Beach Boardwalk: Rent skates, grab a corndog or pick up souvenirs in this kitschy beachside marketplace that seems delightfully stuck in the early ‘90s.
Cafe Collage: This long-standing Windward Avenue cafe offers smoothie and lunch fare in addition to coffee and tea, but its standout attribute is its location. Tucked just off the boardwalk, the cafe is a haven from the crowds, while its many window seats still provide unparalleled people watching.
The Del Monte Speakeasy: Originally established in 1915, the former basement speakeasy has updated its cocktail menu, but its nightly events are a nod to the past: with jazz, vaudeville and crooners, the Del Monte makes for a romantic and original date night.
Abbot Kinney: Don’t pass up an opportunity to explore Abbot Kinney, a posh boulevard of designer shopping and buzzy new restaurants. If your stay falls on the first Friday of the month, Abbot Kinney turns into a mile-long block party complete with art, music and some of L.A.’s finest food trucks.
Venice Canals: Venice is naturally named for the famed aquatic Italian city, and visitors may be surprised to discover that the neighborhood has its own set of canals. On an afternoon stroll, you’ll take in rows of ducklings, lush foliage and well-appointed beach cottages.
Good for: The laid-back, sunny ambiance at Hotel Erwin make it an appealing choice for couples and friends—especially if the latter can fill out one of the hotel’s tricked-out suites, which include expansive living spaces and private balconies.
Amenities: Room service, free wifi, restaurant, bar, gym, concierge
Time Out tip: Wild-at-heart travelers will swoon over Hotel Erwin’s packages: the Go Topless package includes the convertible of your choice (and sunglasses, natch), while the Ink + Stay throws in a voucher for a nearby tattoo parlor, plus a bottle of tequila to numb the pain.