20 Things To Do In Venice Beach

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There’s a good reason why many visitors to Los Angeles head straight to Venice Beach. Although it is one of the most iconic spots in the city, and it can get a little crowded, the area is full of some of the city’s coolest things to see and do. Venice is L.A.’s arty neighbourhood, filled with colourful murals, street musicians, book lovers and laid-back Californians enjoying the beach. After you’ve taken the time to explore the main boardwalk, there’s so much more to discover, from the pretty Venice canals to local shops and cafes, plus the beautiful beach itself, where you can enjoy all sorts of water sports.

Venice Beach is one of Los Angeles’ busiest areas, and the beach stretches right down the coast, connecting to Santa Monica. If you’re visiting, bear in mind that weekends are crowded and it can be difficult to find parking, so it’s wise to park a bit further away and walk – which just means more exploring. Here are the best things to do in Venice Beach.

Venice Beach, California

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20 Things To Do In Venice Beach

1- Stroll Along The Venice Boardwalk

things to do in venice beach palm trees and art installation
Another thing to do in Venice Beach is to take a stroll along the boardwalk. Here’s the entrance to the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

When you visit Venice Beach, the first place you’re likely to go is the boardwalk, which runs naturally behind the beach itself.

Walking here is the best way to immerse yourself in L.A. life and familiarise yourself with the area.

The boardwalk hits all your senses, and you’ll spot the most amazing people, shops and eateries all the way along, from musicians to rollerbladers, fortune tellers, hot dog stands and souvenir shops.

The boardwalk is long, and stopping along the way for food, drink, gifts and not to mention photographs will take even longer.

It is also where you’ll find many iconic Venice photos online, such as the hanging ‘Venice’ sign and huge murals, in addition to many other attractions listed below that you’ll come across on the way. You may also like this electric bicycle tour.

2- Watch The Pros Do Flips And Turns At Venice Skatepark

cool things to do in venice beach a skater performs for the crowd
Checking out the skaters in Skatepark is one of the cool things to do in Venice Beach.

Between the beach and boardwalk, you’ll find Venice Skatepark, which is one of the world’s most famous skateparks.

You’ll see amateur and professional skateboarders hanging out and doing tricks on the challenging course.

Since it’s so popular, it is also usually surrounded by visitors.

Scattered palm trees and the beach are just a few feet away, making it the ideal place to stop for a drink and watch the skateboarders do amazing flips and turns.

If you’re into skating, you can try your hand here, or there’s also a nearby skate shop that can show you the ropes if you’re a beginner.

3- See The Spectacle At Muscle Beach

things to do in venice beach ca vast sand with palm trees and buildings in the background
Feeling the sand between your toes is one of the things to do in Venice Beach.

Another thing L.A. is famous for is bodybuilders, and Muscle Beach is where all of the greats have trained, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vic Tanny and even The Rock.

There are regular competitions here, and anyone can get in kit and use the weights and equipment, however, most people don’t dare.

This is because the outdoor gym, in the baking L.A. sun, is filled with some of the strongest, toughest athletes every day, so most tourists watch in awe!

Nearby is a museum about the history of Muscle Beach, and there are plenty of guided tours too. Check out this tour.

4- Go Celeb Spotting Along Abbott Kinney Boulevard

Although the boardwalk has shops and cafes, Abbott Kinney Boulevard is the main shopping street in Venice, filled with quirky cafes, art galleries and local boutiques.

The street is definitely not the cheapest place to shop, but neither is L.A., and even if you’re just window shopping, you might see a celebrity or two anyone who’s anyone comes here.

The boulevard is a mile long, so you won’t get bored quickly, and at different times of the year, it hosts various events, such as summer and winter festivals with live music and street food. This tour guide will show you where local celebs eat and shop.

5- Stroll Along Venice Pier

things to do in venice beach today people standing on the pier looking at the sunset
Enjoying the sunset from Venice Pier is one of the things to do in Venice Beach.

A much quieter and arguably more beautiful alternative to the bustling Santa Monica Pier, Venice Pier is picturesque and perfect for a sunset stroll.

The pier stretches almost 400m out into the ocean, with excellent views over Venice and beyond from the end.

Along the way, there’s a coffee shop and some small stalls, but it’s mainly a relaxing place to sit with a coffee.

Throughout the year, this sometimes changes when it hosts events such as the Venice Beach Festival and Abbott Kinney Festival, where it will get significantly livelier.

6- Explore The Venice Canals

It’s no coincidence that Venice shares its name with the famous Italian city, which also has miles of stunning canals.

In 1905, canals were brought into L.A. to merge the two cultures, and the area is now the Venice Canals Historic District.

To escape the heat or the crowds, taking a stroll along the water is a welcome respite surrounded by gardens, palm trees and small boats drifting down them, although sadly, there are no longer any gondolas.

This is also where many of Venice’s most expensive houses are, so do a little dreaming on the way or hire a paddleboard and admire them from the water. This tour shows you through the canals.

7- See A Show At Pacific Resident Theatre

For a more authentic experience, head to Pacific Resident Theatre, which is an intimate venue founded more than thirty years ago with shows by local performers; it’s a much-loved and long-standing venue that sees few tourists.

Los Angeles is where budding actors go to break into Hollywood, and the Pacific Resident has an abundance of talented young stars who run a regular calendar of classic and indie plays ranging from comedies to musicals.

A visit to the theatre is a perfect evening activity after you’re done exploring the beach, so check the schedule online and book some tickets.

8- Enjoy The Art Walk

Venice is possibly home to more artists than anywhere else in L.A., and many of the famous photos of the area feature its incredible artwork, which has been spray painted on walls or drawn sky-high on buildings.

The first thing to check out is the Venice Public Art Walls, which are covered in cool graffiti and open for free daily.

Most people do a self-guided walking tour to see the remainder of Venice’s artworks, which starts right between the boardwalk and the Navy/Rose Avenue car park.

While it’s self-guided, there are helpful signs along the way, and you’ll see many beautiful murals, street art and old buildings. Or you can join a guided tour.

9- Visit L.A. Louver

At the core of Venice’s art scene are plentiful galleries to explore.

One of the biggest, at a whopping 8000 sq/ft, is the L.A. Louver, a contemporary art gallery showcasing the work of classic, modern and emerging artists from California.

They have a constantly rotating exhibition schedule and lots of art by a set list of local and international favourites.

Not only is it a cool space to get out of the sun, but the paintings, drawings and sculptures are just as impressive as the street art outside, and the shop sells various quirky items based on famous artists.

10- Marvel At The Mosaic Tile House

The Mosaic Tile House is one of the most unusual things you’ll find in Venice.

It was created by couple Cheri Pann and Gonzalo, who began decorating their house with tiny, brightly coloured mosaics in a range of patterns and never really stopped!

Join a guided tour of the house led by Cheri herself, who also makes the tiles, before her husband breaks them up and uses them to decorate the building.

The house is one of the unique artistic attractions in the city, but it’s only open from 12 pm and 3 pm on Saturdays.

11- Go Surfing

fun things to do in venice beach a surfer riding a wave
Surfing is one of the things to do in Venice Beach.

Venice Beach may be filled with attractions but it’s still a beach, and the West Coast is famous for its unbeatable waves.

Hundreds of locals visit Venice Beach with their surfboards in town, and anyone can rent a board and get in the water.

If you’ve never surfed before, there are many schools, some of which offer group lessons, and others do classes ranging from beginner to expert in many different languages.

If you’d prefer not to surf, you can always watch the natives catching a wave or try your hand at other water sports, such as SUP, kayaking or jet skiing.

12- Hire A Bike Or Join A Cycling Tour

Venice Beach and the surrounding area is pretty big, so the best way to see as much as possible, particularly if you’re short on time, is to jump on a bike.

You can cycle along the length of the boardwalk if you rent your own bike, or a more succinct way of seeing things is via a bike tour.

There are many options, from art and movie tours to simply seeing the best of the area.

Set aside two to three hours to cover all of the most famous attractions, and if you keep heading south on the beach, you’ll eventually reach a far quieter stretch of sand where you can set up camp and recover with a cold drink.

If you have family members who aren’t keen on bikes, how about a rickshaw tour instead?

13- Attend A Reading At Beyond Baroque

Another thing that Venice has a lot of is bookshops, and the art of writing is just as popular as music and painting.

The Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Centre is a museum all about writing and literature, offering workshops, lectures, readings and classes each week.

The centre has its own huge bookshop with one of the largest collections of poetry, plus an in-depth archive.

Visiting the centre is a fascinating way to get insight into L.A. life, so check out what might be on before you go, particularly if there is a reading or performance, as previous stars such as Patti Smith and Viggo Mortensen have performed here.

14- Pick Up A Good Read At Small World Books

You might walk past this old-style bookshop without noticing it, but Small World Books is every Venice local’s favourite haunt for picking up a good read.

Located right on the boardwalk, the shop stocks modern, popular books, limited edition, and rarer titles, so you’ll almost certainly find something of interest.

Although you may not spend long here, the store is a Venice institution with friendly staff and a cosy atmosphere.

If you have a long flight home or are looking for a beach read, this is where you’ll find it.

15- Venice Whaler

It may surprise you that despite California being famous for wine, it has one of the fastest-growing craft brewery scenes and many of the best ones are located around Venice Beach.

The Venice Whaler is a famous hangout spot frequented by The Beatles and The Beach Boys and serves an array of refreshing beers.

On the menu are brews such as Elysian Space Dust IPA and Kona Big Wave ale, alongside which they serve delicious fish tacos, oysters and lobster sliders.

They have regular happy hours, too and receive a good mix of locals and tourists, making it a lively spot for a sundowner.

16- Santa Monica Pier

free things to do in venice beach ca night pier
Visiting Santa Monica Pier is one of the things to do near Venice Beach.

It may technically be in the next neighbourhood, but it’s hard to miss Santa Monica Pier, which can be reached if you walk along Venice Beach and don’t stop.

Santa Monica Fishing Pier is famous around the world, not just for its epic views and colourful fairground rides but simply for the range of fun things to see and do.

Take a stroll along the pier, stop for some sweets or candyfloss at a stall, buy a classic souvenir, or ride on the huge multicoloured Ferris wheel.

Maria Sol is a Mexican restaurant right on the end, serving tasty Mexican food and outdoor seating with views down the coast, and don’t miss the small notice board and signposts for Route 66 – the pier is the final stop on the route and many a road-tripper has left their mark here.

17- Penmar Golf Course

a golf course with palm trees
Playing golf is one of the top things to do in Venice Beach.

Just a short hop from Venice Beach is Penmar Golf Course, which is one of the best 9-hole courses in California.

If you’re keen on golf, it’s a must-visit, but it’s also a fun half-day activity without the crowds of Venice.

The fully functioning course is fun even if you’re not a serious golfer, and you can rent clubs, try your hand on the putting green or take a lesson.

The course features its own restaurant, which is extremely scenic and does all-day breakfasts and light bites, along with occasional live music nights.

18- Venice Farmer’s Market

One interesting way to see a neighbourhood’s real side is to visit its local markets.

Venice Farmer’s Market happens once a week on Saturday mornings, and it’s where locals shop for fresh produce, artisan gifts and enjoy a chat over a cup of local coffee.

With over 100 stalls selling everything from flowers to soaps, spices and freshly baked bread, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

While you’re here, pick up some handmade souvenirs, grab a bite to eat or listen to live music – there’s always something exciting happening.

19- The Rose Venice

There’s almost too much choice when it comes to restaurants in L.A., but if you ask people where to go in Venice, they’ll often say The Rose.

The beach restaurant opened in the 1980s and has been serving delicious seasonal dishes made with ingredients from local producers ever since.

Since being revamped, The Rose is much bigger, featuring its indoor and outdoor restaurant, grocery store, beer garden, bakery, coffee shop and cocktail bar.

Since it’s so close to Venice Beach and has been around forever, it gets booked up very quickly, so reservations are a must.

20- High Rooftop Lounge

things to do in venice beach at night Two iced cocktail glasses in rooftop bar
Sipping a chilled cocktail is one of the things to do in Venice Beach.

Due to its coastal location, Los Angeles gets some of the most incredible sunsets in the world.

Although you can watch these from the beach (check out this sunset mocktail tour) or pier, the locals prefer to admire the sky with a drink in hand.

High Rooftop Lounge is located at Hotel Erwin and is the only rooftop bar in Venice, meaning it has the best views in the area and is super popular.

Get there early as you can snack on small plates and cocktails during the day, meaning you’ll already have a spot when the D.J. starts playing, so you can dance the evening away while admiring the endless views over L.A. and Venice Beach.

For more California ideas, see:

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.