WHERE is Venice?
Venice, CA, also known as Venice Beach is a 3.1 square mile beachfront neighborhood directly south of Santa Monica due west of Culver City. Driving from LAX, it is a simple ride north on Lincoln Blvd and west (as in left) on Venice Boulevard. Once there, you want to ask around to find two particular areas in Venice that represent the “then” and “now”. It goes without saying that you must visit the Venice Beach boardwalk (really a beach sidewalk–no, really a steroidal carnival!) and after your fill of beach tourism and street performers, head to the chic and trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the eponymous street named after the founder, developer and visionary of Venice, CA.
WHAT characterizes Venice?
Venice is known for its canals, funky artist colonies, contemporary restaurants, the eclectic shops and galleries on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, boutique hotels, and of course, its beaches. And as if those attractions aren’t enough, Venice is home to the legendary “boardwalk” that is Southern California’s number one visitor attraction — a two-and-a-half mile pedestrian-only promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, artists, and vendors. Stretching about one and a half miles along the sands by the ocean, the boardwalk is a large part of what makes Venice unique. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken-glass walking to mimes, musicians, jugglers and jesters. You can have your fortune read, get a temporary tattoo or have your name written on a grain of rice. As off-the-wall (literally) as that sounds, the boardwalk is also a market of arts, crafts, souvenirs, food and drink. Recreationally, Venice boasts Venice Breakwater–a favorite local surf spot next to the famous outdoor basketball courts that served as inspiration for the 1992 film “White Men Can’t Jump,” alongside the $2-million Venice Beach Skatepark that opened in 2009, resonating the 1970’s Z-boys who revolutionized skateboarding. And most famously (or infamously) is Muscle Beach, the outdoor weightlifting area known for showcasing oiled tans and hard bodies.
In 1905, developer Abbot Kinney originally designed Venice to be America’s own version of Venice, Italy. The canals originally covered the entire area between Abbot Kinney, Pacific Ave., and Venice Blvd and featured token gondola rides. Between the forces of nature over the years and the changing needs of modern times, most of the canals have been closed, though several remain, while artists have covered the walls with murals amidst the streets. The color of Venice is alive and well in the canal district!
A California real estate agent explained that just as the city of Venice is anything but “cookie cutter”, the neighborhoods offer a diverse range of living options from “stately Craftsman homes built just after the turn of the century and little 1920’s California bungalows to avant-garde contemporary homes and loft-style residential studios.” I simply love its affordability as an owner or a renter, though as I write that, its prices are going up!
To me, and according to GQ Magazine, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the “coolest” street in America, and this hip five-block zone grows cooler by day. The vibrant scene of eclectic shops, creative galleries, contemporary restaurants, cafes, and bars all reflect the diversity of this 100-year-old artistic Venice neighborhood. Every First Friday of the month shops stay open late featuring special events, live music, and refreshments.
WHO is in Venice?
Like all of Southern California’s beachfront neighborhoods, Venice attracts the outdoor enthusiast and fitness conscious. Though less bizarre than its hyped stereotype, it would be true that from the athletes to the daredevils in Venice, CA, the humans who gravitate to Venice are by and large more offbeat, funky and daring than those directly north in Santa Monica! I think of my Venice friends as descendants of the “Beat” generation from the 50’s and 60’s. Not all have the same mindset, but all connect to the notion of not conforming to a particular aspect of the “establishment.” Many of my Venice friends have creative elements to their careers or hobbies. One is an architect whose entire raison d’etre is to build with sustainable materials, his own house being the first complete model of his dream. The energetic vibration in Venice is artistic – the perfect neighborhood for writers, painters, sculptors, film directors, and performers.
DINE AT THE TOP:
DINE IN THE MID:
Primitivo Wine Bistro
Superba Snack Bar
DINE ON A BUDGET:
3 Square Café and Bakery
DRINK RESPONSIBLY AT:
Hal’s Bar and Grill
High Rooftop Lounge
SHOP TIL YOU DROP:
(Divided by shopping areas not individual stores)
Abbot Kinney Boulevard (trendy indie boutiques)
The Boardwalk (vendors and shops)
Lincoln Boulevard (most commercial)
Rose Ave. (anchored by Whole Foods then extending to beach)
LIVE (and thrive) HERE:
• Condos average $1,000,000
• Single Family Residences average $1,800,00
• A one-bedroom apartment averages $1800/month
Venice has always been known as a gathering spot for the creative, artistic and offbeat; though art shows, little theater and lively nightspots appeal to mainstream Angelenos and tourists as well. When I moved to Los Angeles and settled in West Hollywood, the areas to which I’d drive after a long day’s work kept narrowing, and I swore off the beach-y nightlife. Now, Venice has become a magnet I can’t resist. Like GQ said, it’s the “coolest!”
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