Venice Beach Getaway Guide: Where to Shop, Eat and Stay in LA's Homage to Italy
Image by Taraneh Ghajar Jerven
Take a scenic walk or just sit and soak in the sun along Venice Beach
Iconic Venice Beach in Los Angeles offers golden sandy beaches, edgy retail, hip restaurants and an ideal location for exploring L.A.’s urban sprawl
Venice Beach draws people from all walks of life, from ultra-chic designers to sleek yuppies, old-school beatniks and self-declared freaks.
The 500-foot-deep, seven-mile-long beach, with boardwalk and hip Abbot Kinney shopping and eating district began in 1905 as developer Abbot Kinney’s dreamy Californian replica of canal-filled Venice, Italy.
After its brief glory days as L.A.’s original amusement park, Venice entered a long period of neglect from the 1930s onward, gaining a reputation as the "Slum by the Sea." But the years following the slump for the former cult-hit have been kind, as the rise of a new offbeat culture continues to draw in new visitors.
It’s precisely Venice Beach's troubled past that makes this L.A. icon a happening destination for locals and tourists in pursuit of non-chain boutiques, hot new restos and prime people watching opportunities.
Where to Shop on Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Historic Abbot Kinney Boulevard is the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind treasures. (Image: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven)
As home to local activist group Venice Unchained, a community organization fighting to keep formula stores off the boardwalk, and with its reputation as a boho shopping district, the exciting retail strip on Abbot Kinney Boulevard is refreshingly free of mainstream chain stores.
Stroll along one of L.A.’s only remaining walking streets at a leisurely pace and take in the unique fashion and decor community.
In this upscale, minimalist boutique curated by a Canadian expatriate, expect to find impeccable shoes and accessories available only in limited stock. Splurge on an off-runway, beach-happy choice like chic sunglasses from The Row, or rhinestone-studded Marni platform wedges.
1112 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-452-4070
This bespoke denim company that resembles an upscale general store in the Wild West reproduces Stronghold jeans, the very first denim label ever sold in L.A. Take the time to get accurately measured by a suspendered employee, and benefit from the special combo of old-world workmanship and genuine indigo-dyed selvage cut to a perfect fit. Don’t miss the quality leather accessories or novelty dry goods also stocked in this retro boutique.
1625 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-399-7200
Named after the Japanese symbol for longevity, this family-owned bungalow is a one-stop-shop for the design buffs of Venice looking for artful yet functional items to embellish their canal-front homes.
1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-314-8448
Where to Enjoy Small Plates in Venice, CA
AXE, pronounced (ă • shay) means "go with the power of the Gods and Goddesses." (Image: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven)
It’s hard to keep up with restaurant openings in Venice, as established Santa Monica staples relocate here and new spots appear every other week. Despite the ‘hood’s reputation for random blackouts, you’ll find that many a Los Angelite makes the pilgrimage to the up-and-coming Abbot Kinney restaurant strip, and gratefully takes the first seat they can get.
In this serene congona and black acacia wood restaurant with rear courtyard, beautifully simple aesthetics and local organic produce combine with harmonious results. Enjoy heirloom tomato and baby butter leaf salad with fresh avo dressing alongside build-your-own-bowl options including quinoa, salmon or house-made sausage, seasonal veg and citrusy housemade sauce. Stay for the over the top strawberry shortcake and a glass of Sonoma wine.
1009 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-664-9787
The popular destination for the see-and-be-seen crowd doesn’t do reservations, but it’s well worth the wait to sample food by self-taught celebrity chef Travis Lett. Stand and sip a glass of wine as you wait for a table and watch the next generation of L.A. ‘it’ boys and girls, while perusing seasonal small plates like wood-roasted squash with mint-pistachio pesto and braised artichoke, pecorino and chili pizza.
1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-450-1429
The Mediterranean tapas at this perfect first date bar and bistro are top notch. Eschew the crowded interior for a seat on the light-draped patio and dig into decadent cheese plates, Spanish cured meats and saffron and garlic mussels, paired with a wine from the extraordinary selection of by-the-glass picks.
1025 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-396-5353
Although the diner’s name evokes old-fashioned jugs of sweet summer beverages served on grandma’s porch, this resto is neither quaint nor old fashioned. Instead fresh-squeezed, summery drinks are served in a mod chrome and white space with plush Astroturf walls. Comfort foods like brisket and mac’n’cheese appear alongside innovative light options such as roast chicken with grapes and oregano, and black kale with kumquat and lemongrass.
1661 Abbot Kinney Blvd, 310-452-6200
Where to Rest and Relax in Venice
Hotels and cozy cottages are tucked among the local retailers and restaurants. (Image: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven)
This historic, art deco hotel sits directly on the bustling Venice Beach boardwalk, with breathtaking views of Santa Monica Bay and the Malibu coastline at rates starting under $200. The rooms are clean and spacious, the coffee is Starbucks and best of all, there’s frequently a hot event happening at the hotel-whether it’s an art opening in the lobby, or a music video being shot on the roof.
8 Dudley Ave, 310-399-8876
These three charming, solar-powered cottages conveniently sit a short walk from the ocean and the shopping and dining at Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The luxe price takes into account full kitchen and decor that includes creatively repurposed bits and bobs, including a hot tub made from milk bottles. It’s no wonder actress-owner Cynthia Foster’s cozy yet sleek eco-hospitality has received rave reviews from media outlets like Good Housekeeping and The Guardian.
447 Grand Blvd, 866-802-3110
How to Explore Venice Beach
Cycle along the boardwalk, and then stop in at one of the many nearby cafes for a quick snack. (Image: Taraneh Ghajar Jerven)
Rent Some Wheels
Bicycles run $18/day and rollerblades are $15/day from Venice Bikes & Skates. Choose your mode of transport to cruise the seven-mile smooth and flat Venice Bike Path, enjoying the nutty variety of street performers, as you make your way to happening Santa Monica. Warning: the double-seat bicycles are not so good for stop-start cycling or taking curves.
21 Washington Blvd, 310-301-4011
Intended to be an exact replica of Venice, Italy, Venice Beach once featured 16 scenic canals when construction was completed in 1905. Over the years, many of the canals fell into disrepair, but some were refurbished in the ‘90s. Meander along the remaining original canals and view the unique, historic architecture in the area. The tour guides are also keen to impart tidbits of salty history about resident artists and musicians like The Doors’ Jim Morrison.
5 Rose Ave, 310-396-1585
When you've had your fill of Venice Beach, why not state-hop over to do Las Vegas on the Cheap?