Welcome to Venice Beach. In 1905, a seaside resort town Rather, where La La-land is concerned, our dream digs are often located in a certain surf-inspired Bohemia. A fashion capital brimming with Hollywood starlets, design boutiques, and the most street art you’ve seen since your semester abroad in Berlin. Venice Beach.
It’s a carnival-like atmosphere that enchants the senses. The view out your window, the palm trees and power lines, are punctuated by circus tents and a Ferris wheel’s silhouette. There’re palm readers, rollerbladers, and fire eaters (which sounds like a Harry Potter character). A mural of Jim Morrison stares at you from the apartment building opposite. Half-naked men do pull-ups at Muscle Beach. Dream catchers are being sold by a vendor on the corner. Ladies, get ready to fall in love with a bit of a bad boy.
A Brief History
In 1891, when the wealthy tobacco mogul, Abbot Kinney, and his partner, Francis Ryan, bought this area 14 miles west of Los Angeles, the idea was to create a tourist destination filled with amusement parks, canals, hotels, and other structures based on Venice, Italy. Venice Beach opened on July 4th, 1905, and over the years, the area became more and more tourist-oriented, opening more amusement parks and attracting more visitors every weekend.
In the ’60s and ’70s, the city became a center for the Beat generation, and the artists and hippies that moved to town gave it a young, artistic feel that stuck. To cope with a growing population, the city built an 18-mile bike path extending from Torrance to Santa Monica. The city is also famous for an outdoor gym called Muscle Beach (where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out before and during his fame), street basketball, and street performers, which are ever-present.
The city’s main attraction is the Ocean Front Walk, aka the “Boardwalk,” and it’s the best people-watching ever. The stretch begins just west of the Rose Avenue parking lot, with the heart of the activity farther south near Windward Avenue. Here, you can find prophets, jugglers, magicians, mimes, comics, acrobats, fortune tellers… the list goes on. There’re also specialty shops, souvenir stores, funky restaurants and uniquely designed homes on the periphery, plus courts for basketball, handball, shuffleboard and paddle tennis. A half mile south of the Boardwalk, you’ll find the Venice Pier, where fishermen gather because the fishing is very, very good.
Three words: Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This boho-chic thoroughfare has been called “Coolest block in America” by GQ and there are few places on earth with a more concentrated selection of forward-thinking design and home decor stores. Grab one of the best bloodies ever at Hal’s and hit the pavement. You’ll find everything from “pop culture home accessories” stores, to outposts slinging the most stylish of beach cruisers; to the famous Surfing Cowboys, which boasts a seriously impressive collection of mod furniture and vintage surf finds. Head to Bazar for antiques. For mid-shopping sustenance, hit up 3 Square Café + Bakery for brunch.
Venice Beach is one of the hottest neighborhoods in L.A. Many celebrities and Silicon Valley tech titans are flocking there, the latter for which, the area has acquired a new nickname: “Silicon Beach.” If Venice Beach is anything, it’s vibrant, and it continues its tradition of progressive social change involving prominent community members. Famous residents include Julia Roberts, Anna Paquin, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kate Beckinsale. Even with an influx of high-profile actors, actresses, models, etc., the laid-back, community-minded vibe hasn’t changed..
From its murals (they’re everywhere), its art deco buildings, and its indie, artsy residents, this city is an eclectic cultural hub, and that’s what draws people in. Add the fact that it houses some of the best restaurants, bars, and shopping in the country and it makes sense that listing prices are climbing. So if we were going to pick one L.A. neighborhood to hang our hats in? Venice Beach would be way, way up there.