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Venice Canals.
Photograph: Michael Juliano Venice Canals.

The 7 best things to do in Venice Beach

Get to know L.A.’s eclectic beachfront neighborhood with these things to do in Venice Beach, both on and off the boardwalk

By Michael Juliano

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.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Venice Beach

As places in L.A. begin to reopen, we’ve noted below what’s still closed. Things can change quickly, so we suggest checking in with individual locations first.

Best things to do in Venice

Venice Canals
Photograph: Roberto Nickson

1. Stroll along the Venice Canals

Things to do 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).

Venice Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/G.S. Lemafa

2. People watch on Venice Beach and the Boardwalk

Attractions Beaches Venice

If there’s one thing the Venice Boardwalk is good for, it’s people watching. This pedestrian walkway (and its parallel bike path) 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 skate park and there are a couple of worthwhile eateries, like the Waterfront and the nearby Great White. Plus, the beach here is particularly soft and wide, with great views of the mountains.

Muscle Beach Venice
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia/

3. Gawk at bodybuilders at Muscle Beach

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Venice

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.

Mosaic Tile House
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/vikramjam

4. Step inside the Mosaic Tile House (TEMPORARILY CLOSED)

Attractions Venice

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.

Small World Books
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kelly

5. Flip through some pages at Small World Books

Shopping Bookstores Venice

Surrounded by bad beach food and throngs of people, this little shop has been an oasis of literary calm for five 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.

Venice Skate Park
Photograph: Unsplash

6. Watch the bustling scene at the Venice Skate Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Venice

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.

Plant Food + Wine
Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

7. Dine and shop along posh Abbot Kinney

Things to do Walks and tours

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.

Looking for things to do in Venice’s northern neighbor?

Palisades Park in Santa Monica

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With the beach on one side and mountains on another, Santa Monica feels like a salt-air sanctuary carved into the L.A. coastline. Fill that time between morning rush hour and happy hour with a trip to Santa Monica's most essential attractions.


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