Look past the T-shirt shops and street performers and you’ll find enough things to do in Venice that are downright pleasant and—dare we say—borderline charming. Many visitors make a beeline for the grungy Venice Boardwalk, admittedly an iconic L.A. attraction. But there’s so much more to see beyond the boardwalk, from idyllic canals to quiet patches of sand that rank among L.A.’s best beaches. Whether you’re visiting from out of state or just across town, make sure to add these things to do in Venice to your itinerary.
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Best things to do in Venice
The Venice Canals offer a completely different side of the famed beachfront neighborhood. Take a stroll through these three canal-lined blocks of Dell Avenue—hence the name, Venice—and you’ll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarder. Though you won’t find boat rentals anywhere along the canals, you can bring your own non-motorized vessel to tour the neighborhood at water level (enter via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard).
If there’s one thing the Venice Boardwalk is good for, it’s people watching. This pedestrian walkway effectively continues from the southern end of Santa Monica Beach without a break. Unlike its posh neighbor to the north, though, Venice is far more stocked with T-shirt stands, pot shops and questionable street performers, alongside the pumped-up gym obsessives who work out at Muscle Beach. It’s not entirely without its charms: It’s always fun to watch the wheeled action at the skatepark and there are a couple of worthwhile eateries, like the Waterfront and the nearby Gran Blanco. Plus, the beach here is particularly soft and wide, with great views of the mountains.
When the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica disappeared in the ’60s, this competing spot in Venice arose to fill the void. Since then, it’s morphed into a voyeuristic gym for chiseled bodybuilders, where curious onlookers can watch from outside the fence of the postmodern, dumbell-shaped building or from the stands at the competition stage.
When artists Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran first moved into their Venice home, it was nothing more than a simple, rather drab house. But over the couse of a decade, the couple transformed their live-work space into a spectacular collage of colorful tiles, stone and clay wares. You can explore the space on Saturdays from 1 to 4pm—you’ll just need to make a reservation first.
Surrounded by bad beach food and throngs of people, this little shop has been an oasis of literary calm for four decades. Their local author selection is right up front, so check out the local talent before perusing the aisles, where you’ll find a number of hard-to-find independent imprints, along with the more usual suspects.
When surfers were bored with flat waves—like Venice’s legendary Z-Boys—they took to the sidewalks and thus birthed skateboarding in the process. While this more recently constructed skate park, built in 2009, doesn’t really factor into that history, it has quickly become easily the most iconic skateboarding spots—chalk that up to its photogenic palm trees and location only steps from the shore. Watch from the fences and you’re sure to see a bustling scene, oftentimes with a skate video shoot in the process.
While Venice’s claim to fame may be its beach culture, the ’hood’s most stylish block, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, has some of the city’s best boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars (Felix and Gjelina, most notably). The posh neighborhood manages to keep things pretty casual, so feel free to bike over from the beach and peruse the storefronts.