USA Travel: Best Places to Eat, Drink, and See in California’s Signature Venice Beach

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In addition to the golden sand, Venice Beach boasts a variety of restaurants and shops. Photo/Getty Images

Whether you’re looking for wellness, sun worship or just want to sip cocktails with a view of the sea, it’s all happening at Los Angeles’ Venice Beach, writes Ashlyn Oswalt.

With its Hollywood glam and sun-baked hills, Los Angeles is a city that needs no introduction. But in the sprawling metropolis, each pocket has its own nuanced quirks that make each neighborhood unique. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of funky sand and high-end California charm, head your cab straight to Venice Beach.

Venice Beach, a neighborhood where bohemian spirit can coexist with Muscle Beach or where skateparks can be built next to trendy cafes, is a dichotomy of old and new, rich and downtrodden, bums and high-rises. Its proximity to shore attracts all species and leaves plenty of room for all.

Here’s how to spend 48 hours in a signature seaside paradise.

Bodybuilders are a regular sight at the Muscle Beach gym in Venice Beach.  Photo/Getty Images
Bodybuilders are a regular sight at the Muscle Beach gym in Venice Beach. Photo/Getty Images

Day first

Morning — Get your bearings

You’ll want coffee and a hearty, healthy breakfast to start your stay. Once checked in, head straight to the heart of Venice Beach and grab a coveted table at Great White. With a menu of blue smoothie bowls and breakfast burritos served on trend, tanned staff in all white, there’s no mistaking that you’re in California.

Once you’ve had your fill, beat the jet lag by exploring the Venice Canals, a few blocks inland. Inspired by the famous canals of Venice, Italy, this man-made version was created in 1905 and features small but beautiful canals next to gorgeous Los Angeles real estate. A leisurely walk along the sidewalks and bridges will be a sure way to find solace in a busy morning.

noon – on the beach
You’ve probably worked up an appetite and are dying to see the beach, so head back downtown to grab some supplies and an iced coffee from Erewhon Market. Specializing in local, organic and alternative foods, you will find a wide range of fresh vegetables, prepared snacks, cheeses and wines. Take your pick and head to the beach and people watch.

The always-bustling Venice Beach boardwalk is a great place for people-watching.  Photo/Getty Images
The always-bustling Venice Beach boardwalk is a great place for people-watching. Photo/Getty Images

The sea is beautiful, but the view inland is much more interesting. Pick a spot near the infamous Muscle Beach and watch bodybuilders sweat under the California sun and pump iron. Jump in for a swim and watch roller skaters with boom boxes, tiny dogs in strollers and questionably tiny bikinis.

If you feel like your picnic wasn’t enough, head to Venice Teriyaki on Westminster Ave, on the beach, for a pupusa. It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall counter that serves teriyaki and burritos, but the pupusas are what you’re looking for. This traditional Salvadoran and Honduran snack is made from a thick cornmeal pie filled with cheese, jalapenos, and meat if you like.

Evening – a sophisticated night on the town
After freshening up after a day at the beach, head down to Abbot Kinney, Venice Beach’s most famous street. It is full of luxury shops and markets; perfect for a walk before dinner.

Reservations are almost always necessary when dining on Abbot Kinney, so call ahead or reserve online. Your first stop is De Buena Planta, a “pop-up” with a breezy outdoor setting and cocktails. The small but mighty menu rotates, with hearty tacos, guacamole and churros. Save room for their variety of margaritas.

Next, head across the street to Only the Wild Ones for natural wine and cocktails. The airy brick building features soft lighting, cane furniture and disco balls, proving that bohemian world can clash with opulence. Sip Slovenian Pinot Blanc and Lebanese Caladoc and wear local cheeses.

Morning – get up and have dinner
Start the next morning with a big breakfast and maybe a Bloody Mary. Head to the Firehouse. Aside from being a former fire station and painted bright red, it’s an unassuming place with a giant plastic menu filled to the brim with classic American diner fare. From stacked pancakes to barbacoa breakfast burritos, there’s something for everyone, including super friendly staff.

The 22-mile Venice Beach Bike Path winds around the Santa Monica Pier and theme park.  Photo/Getty Images
The 22-mile Venice Beach Bike Path winds around the Santa Monica Pier and theme park. Photo/Getty Images

Noon — Some light activity
Your Venice Beach experience isn’t complete without actually exploring the beach by bike or roller skates. A 35 km cycle path stretches along the coast and skirts between the promenade and the ocean. It’s a busy thoroughfare filled with tourists and locals that passes the Santa Monica Pier and continues south to Palos Verdes. Pack a picnic and enjoy another lazy afternoon on the beach or stop by the waterfront restaurants and bars.

Evening — Experience the nightlife
You’d be lazy to hit the busy Venice Beach promenade. With daylight on your side, hit the little shops – they’re touristy and full of tchotchkes (trinkets), but there are a few hidden historical gems among the streets.

Finally, settle in for an evening of bars and dining along the boardwalk, starting at Fíkovník for Latin-inspired farm-to-table fare with an impressive wine list. Next, walk down towards Belles Beach House, a 1970s-style Hawaiian restaurant with a tiki bar, rattan furniture and a relaxed atmosphere. You might want to finish with a drink at one of the many bars and see where the neighborhood takes you next.

For more ideas, visit visitveniceca.com

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