For a short time in my life I lived within walking distance of Venice Beach, California and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. While some people see Venice as a dirty place where bums and drifters go to congregate and tourists come to spectate, I see Venice as a place where a person can throw away societal norms and tap into the appeal of a unique counterculture. Yes, there are street performers and vagrants lurking for your every dollar which can become annoying, but the incredible array of amazing artists and vendors that work extremely hard to make you smile are awesome! I appreciate that, and you should too. This randomness is just the tip of the weird iceberg.
Want to play basketball? Check! Want to hit the beach or bike the boardwalk? Check! Want to see a freakshow? Check! Want to skateboard or watch skateboarders? Check! Want to have your fortune read? Check! Want to get a medical marijuana card? Check! Want to sit idly by and people watch ALL DAY LONG? Yep, Venice has you covered. It’s like a free 24/7 ADD person’s circus and you’re invited! I don’t know of any other place in the world where you can experience all of this madness within a 2 mile radius. In no particular order, here are my favorite things to do in Venice Beach. For reference, keep in mind most of these activities are located near or along the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
1. Peruse local art vendors and enjoy the existing art/graffiti!
There are hundreds of local artists selling everything from knick knacks and t-shirts, to elaborate pieces of art that will leave you in awe. Art is such an underrated and underappreciated aspect of society that I feel it is necessary to contribute back to the thriving community of Venice by purchasing works from local artists. Do your part to support the local community!
2. Hit the boardwalk to bike/skate/run or lay on the beach!
Some of my funnest moments include biking along the infamous beach boardwalk with friends or simply grabbing a towel and soaking up the sun while listening to the sound of the ocean. In general, I’d say Venice Beach is much less populated than other beaches due to the fact that there are so many other activities to partake in. That is, unless you happen to run into a drum circle. Then all bets are off!
3. PEOPLE WATCH!
If you enjoy hanging out and people watching, Venice will be your mecca! For instance, the infamous Muscle Beach of Venice is home to a plethora of overly tanned athletes (meatheads) that are staples of the Venice community. They enjoy working out in public so that everyone can catch a glimpse of their steroid induced bodies. Then there is the guy above who has been rolling around playing guitar in that getup since the days of White Men Can’t Jump.(that whole movie is based in Venice-check it out). And then there are the hula hoopers, people who dress in costume for no apparent reason other than they can, and my personal favorite: the dancing rollerskaters!
4. Get your game on! Play basketball, pickle ball, volleyball, or skate at the skatepark.
There are a myriad of activities that will get your blood pumping in the recreation area, but let’s be honest, you have to be a little more brave to play a sport when you know hundreds of tourists might be watching. Nonetheless, there are some important basketball games held at this world famous court, including many tournaments and a number of NBA players and celebs who have graced the courts presence. The skate park is iconic in its own right as it was featured in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2! I heard Justin Bieber skated there a few months ago, but I think that’s more of a deterrent unless you are a belieber or want to heckle his skate skills.
5. Catch a street performer (and trust me, don’t fret if you miss one-there are PLENTY!)
Some of the street performers can end up being really annoying when you visit Venice regularly, but you have to marvel at their dedication and hustle! These people probably end up making more in a day than you, depending on how good they are. I enjoy good musical acts and once I saw a 6 year old rap like Biggie. It was astounding! Just be prepared to have your dollar bills ready if you want to see a show. It’s the polite thing to do!
6. See the freakshow
No joke. There is an actual Freakshow in Venice and they even have a television show on AMC based on it, although I am not certain it is still filming. They have a bearded lady, a sword swallower, a few little people, a severely tattooed and pierced man, and the tallest man in the world. Inside, you get a glimpse into a few other oddities like the two headed lizard. Technically, I’ve never been in there, but I watched the show so I feel like my duties are done.
7. Take a stroll along the serene Venice canals
Before you even enter the Venice boardwalk, or after you’ve had your fun there, you have to take a little walk through the quiet and picturesque Venice canals. Built in 1905, these man-made canals were sought to recrete the appearance of Venice, Italy, and they resemble them quite well. It’s a world removed from the chaos of the boardwalk, and it’s only a few minute walk away!