The 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—hence the name, Venice—and you'll discover an idyllic scene: arching pedestrian bridges, charming beach houses, bunches of ducklings and the occasional paddle boarding bulldog. 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).
People-watching is the raison d'être at Venice Beach, which effectively continues from the southern end of Santa Monica Beach without a break. Jump into the flow of the winding Venice Boardwalk, where you can skate or cycle, watch or play volleyball or basketball, and check out the pumped-up gym obsessives who work out at Muscle Beach.
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 weekends—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 such as McSweeney's.
When surfers—like Venice's legendary Z-Boys—were bored with flat waves they took to the sidewalks and thus birthed skateboarding in the process. While this recently constructed skate park, built in 2009, doesn't really factor into that history, it has quickly become one of 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. The posh neighborhood manages to keep things pretty casual, so feel free to bike over from the beach and peruse the storefronts.