If you’re visiting Los Angeles on holiday, chances are you’re trying to see all the neighborhoods in one go and Venice is just a small (yet amazing) part of this expansive city. As my former home, I know first-hand that there’s so much to experience in this quirky beach town, but luckily the best parts can all be explored in a day—granted you’re equipped with some caffeine and good walking shoes. Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Venice (in my opinion!) if you’re strapped for time.
Get up early and go for a leisurely paddle board session at Mother’s Beach ($25/hour rental through SUP surf shop). More of a yoga person? You’re in luck, because there’s no shortage of studios in Venice to choose from. My favorites are Yoga Nest and Yoga Collective that take a more spiritual approach to the practice. YAS on Abbot Kinney is great for yogis who want to skip the pep talk and just get their sweat on.
Hop over to brunch at Dudley Market for their toasts and a mimosa or coffee. This spot is relatively new and still a semi well-kept secret (it won’t be for long), and it’s one of my favorite new additions to Venice. Just make sure to order one of the toasts either as an appetizer or your meal—you won’t regret it.
Walk one block West to the famous Venice Boardwalk to check out the street performers, Muscle Beach fanatics, funky vendors and skate park daredevils. You’ll get more action here on weekends, but any day is a good day for some people watching on the Boardwalk. If the weather is nice (and it usually is), make sure to cross over to the beach to catch some rays or just bury your feet in the sand and soak up the ocean breeze. You can also rent bikes to cruise to the Venice Pier and back.
Is Noon too early for a beer? I think not. Walk a few blocks North on the Boardwalk to Venice Ale House to take in more people watching with a cold beer in hand. There can be quite a wait here on weekends, but don’t let it deter you from grabbing a seat outside for food and drinks. LA is surprisingly devoid of bars with direct beach access and Venice Ale House is the closest you’ll get to dining on the sand.
Take a short walk SouthEast to Abbot Kinney starting on the North end where it meets Brooks Ave. You could spend days here visiting each shop and watching stylish passersby, but after cruising this strip for four years, these are the spots I’ve come to love most:
- Cuyana: The brand’s motto is “fewer better things,” and their beautiful leather goods and high-quality apparel live up to their slogan.
- Principessa: A bohemian beach babe’s dream boutique.
- Burro: This perfectly curated shop is where I consistently pick up great gifts for all my friends — scented candles, framed quotes, coffee table books, vintage denim cut-offs, quirky greeting cards and more.
- Mystic Journey: A spiritual bookstore with psychic readings on offer and plenty of couch space to rest your legs.
- Current/Elliott: This Americana and vintage-loving brand sells well-worn denim, t-shirts and leather goods. Plus it’s their only brick-and-mortar location worldwide.
- The Piece Collective: A boutique for the minimalist meets global gal. You might recognize the store by its insta-famous yellow triangle painted on the front entrance.
- The Juicy Leaf: The ultimate spot for the urban gardener.
- Urbanic: My one-stop-shop for the best paper goods in Venice.
- Illesteva: Chic sunnies to pick up for your next beach adventure.
You’ll need some sustenance after all that shopping, so don’t forget to stop in for a sweet treat at Blue Star Donuts, which sells creative flavors like passion fruit and Mexican chocolate (don’t worry, you’ll walk off the calories). Salt & Straw is another welcome addition to Abbot Kinney and serves up some of the most interesting and delicious ice cream flavors I’ve ever tried.
If you’ve got coffee on the brain, Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia are the best although Tom’s Shoes has a nice amount of seating and outlets if you need to recharge (your body and device simultaneously).
Need something more substantial? The Butcher’s Daughter (above), which opened in the last six months is my new go-to for healthy smoothies and snacks. They also have a great vegan-that-doesn’t-feel-vegan brunch if you’re feeling on the healthier side.
During your Abbot Kinney stroll, don’t forget to check out some of the street art along the way including my personal favorite–The Buddha Wall–located at the corner of Abbot Kinney and Santa Clara Ave.
Keep heading south on Abbot Kinney until you hit Venice Blvd, which will lead you towards the Venice Canals in the direction of the beach.
The canals are just a residential neighborhood now, but they represent a major part of Venice’s history from the early 1900s. At that time tobacco millionaire, Abbot Kinney, was working on building the waterfront community into the “Venice of America,” including re-creations of the gondola-filled canals of its Italian namesake. Many were sadly filled once cars came into popularity, but the area is still a nice place to take a stroll and peek at all the adorable homes along the way.
5:30 – 8:00 PM
Timing will depend on the season, but you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss the sunset as LA’s can be notoriously epic. Hotel Erwin is the best place for sweeping views of the city and coastline — just make sure to make a reservation to ensure your spot as they reach capacity quickly. If you’re on a budget, a sunset viewing from the beach will do just fine.
Most people will agree that if there’s one place you have to eat at in Venice, it’s Gjelina (pronounced: Jeleena). It’s my go-to spot to bring out-of-towners because they knock it out of the park with flavor every time. Even your most vegetable-opposed friends will drool over every veggie dish on the menu, although they have amazing meat options as well. I recommend ordering several plates to share including one of their thin crust pizzas. Just make sure to book dinner reservations several weeks in advance to secure your spot.
If you’re not keen on waiting for a table or booking far out in advance, you can still try some of their delectable fare at GTA (Gjelina Take Out) next door.
If you still have energy for a nightcap, head over to Rose Ave and grab a drink at Oscar’s Cerveteca, Rose Cafe or Venice Beach Wines for a casual vibe. If you’re looking for a more hopping bar scene, James Beach (made famous by the movie “I Love You Man”), Townhouse and The Whaler are three places where you’ll find a DJ and a more social drinking scene.
For something a bit more upscale, pop over to Scopa (probably my favorite spot in town), which is an Italian restaurant that develops a pretty great bar crowd as the evening progresses. The super high ceilings and exposed brick interior remind me of some of my favorite old New York City bars.
If you have time to squeeze in more activities during your visit, I recommend heading East to Lincoln Boulevard where the once drab commuter road is having a rebirth with uber stylish boutiques like General Store (pictured above), Flowerboy Project, Deus Ex Machina, Flynn Skye and Christy Dawn flocking to the area for retail space. It’s becoming the new hot spot to shop in Venice.
If you’re a visual person like me, the map below should help you sort out where everything is located in relation to each other so you can make the most of your time in Venice.
Have any favorite places I missed? Let me know in the comments below!