Venice Beach Boardwalk: Street Performers, Art, Food, Drink and Magic
Venice is the number one tourist destination in Southern California, with the world famous Venice Boardwalk being the hottest spot in the town. It’s a place where the people are Bohemian and free-spirited. The boardwalk provides a never ending show of street performers, stands of artists selling one of a kind hand crafted artworks, restaurants, bars and shops. Oh, and some terrific ocean views. Not surprisingly, it draws about 16 million tourists each year.
The history of the Venice Boardwalk isn’t well documented. I’m sure it dates back to the early 1900’s when Abbot Kinney founded the town. The Rose Hotel dates back to 1906 and the other Venice Boardwalk Hotels date back to the early 1900’s as well. One would assume there was a boardwalk there at that time.
The personality of the Venice Boardwalk and the town as the hip, free-spirited, Bohemian place that it is began to be shaped in the 1950’s when bodybuilding became the rage in Venice. In fact the entire fitness craze we see today was rooted in Santa Monica and Venice. The key shaper of it came in 1965 when the famous Gold’s Gym opened in Venice.
The 1960’s brought the Beat Generation and the hippies. A strong sense of individuality fed a culture of artists, musicians, and poets. Some of the most famous artists, poets and musicians grew out of this era in Venice.
The Venice Boardwalk also gave birth to skateboarding. It was originally called sidewalk surfing. The 70s and 80s brought the punk rock culture.
All of these influences have combined to make the Venice Boardwalk a place without equal in Los Angeles, if not the world. The boardwalk was redone in 2000 and in 2009 the famed Venice Skate Park opened on the beach.
Fun Things to do on the Venice Boardwalk
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1. Watch the show
People watching on the boardwalk is not equaled anywhere on earth Street performers eat fire, walk on broken glass, sing, break dance, juggle and walk on stilts. And the people that are not necessarily performing are also a show as the artistic spirit in the community extends to how they dress as well.
2. Cruise The Strand
The Strand is a bicycle/pedestrian path spanning the length of the beaches in Southern California. In Venice it crosses over the boardwalk and runs a path approximate to it. You can rent a bike from one of the shops on the boardwalk or from the Metro Bike Racks. You will see electric “Bird” scooters leaning against fences, laying on sidewalks etc all over. If you have the app on your phone all you have to do it pick one up where you see see it laying around and take it for a spin. When you arrive where you are going, simply leave it for the next person. There are actually all types of scooters to rent out on the boardwalk
There are shops along the boardwalk where you can rent a surfboard if you want to get wet. I’ve also seen people renting them out of vans in the parking lots.
4. Workout at Muscle Beach
A day pass at the Muscle Beach Gym is only $10.00. It is probably the cheapest place you can spend a day in any of the Los Angeles tourist spots. It will make you the envy of all your fitness friends. You can also get an energy boost with some wheatgrass, fresh juice, smoothies, protein shakes and more at the Muscle Beach Juice Bar
5. Skate at the Venice Skatepark
The famous Venice Skatepark covers 27,000 square feet and has it all.
6. Let the Kids Play
There is a children’s park with two play areas that is fenced to keep the kids in or the strangers out and let the kids play till their hearts content.
The Venice Boardwalk is lined with arts and crafts stands on the west side where you can find unique art, jewelry and more. The east side is lined with stores offering everything from surfboard and bike rentals to tattoos and T-shirts.
The Boardwalk is lined with a number of cool restaurants that played host to some of the legends that grew out of Venice Beach. They also have great food and drink!
9. Play Volleyball
I don’t know if there is any procedure to use the volleyball courts on the sand, but the beach is lined with them and there are usually a few open. And if you want some sport other than volleyball, there is a basketball court, boxing area, handball courts and a roller skate plaza.
This is actually not a complete list of things to do on the Venice Beach Boardwalk but it covers some of the main activities. You will find enough to do to keep you occupied and having fun for days. See our Venice Beach Vacation Guide video of more of the sights and fun things to do in Venice California.