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Fun Things to do in Venice Beach, A Venice California Vacation Guide

We rounded up over 20 fun things to do in Venice Beach and put them together for you in this article and as a video you can watch.  So if you are planning a vacation in Venice or Southern California, you can preview your vacation destination and decide what things have to be on your Venice Beach bucket list.

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Updated January 11, 2010 to include even more Venice Beach attractions.

Venice Beach is a funky bohemian town with no equal in the world.  As such it has also become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

To help you with your travel planning our Fun Things to Do in Venice Beach video takes you through a weekend in Venice video explores all of the attractions in Venice California.  You’ll see how the vibe of the town changes drastically as we move from the north end to the south.  There is something for everyone in Venice.  We’ve also broken it out the attractions in Venice Beach into list with links to more detailed articles to help you plan your trip.

1. Pose for a photo under the famous Venice Sign

One of the top Instagram hot spots is the illuminated Venice Sign that stretches over Windward Avenue at Pacific Avenue.  There is a point on each traffic light cycle where traffic is stopped in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross diagonally as well.  During this brief period you can stand in the middle of the intersection and have a friend snap your photo (or take a selfie) with the Venice sign directly over your head.

Windward Plaza is on the north end of Venice Beach and is where all the action starts. A number of key events take place here including the annual Venice Sign lighting party in December that is a full fledged street party with live music and dancing.  

The stretch of Windward Avenue from this sign to the world famous Venice Boardwalk has funky shops and two great restaurants: The Poke Shack and Surfside Venice Restaurant.  

2. Watch the World Famous Venice Electric Light Parade

Windward Plaza is the gathering point for a grassroots event that started three years ago and has happened every Sunday at Sunset since.  Called the Venice Electric Light Parade, hundreds of Venetians gather with bicycles illuminated in colorful LED lights and equally colorful costumes to parade up the beach path and through the neighborhood streets.  You can ask one of them before it starts what their path will be but it usually starts by heading north along the beach path beyond the large courtyard.

3. Take in the side show on the Venice Boardwalk

Venice Beach
Venice Beach Hotels

If you enjoy people watching, Venice won’t disappoint.  The Venice Boardwalk is teaming with people from every nationality, walk of life and personality.  There is always a show going on. Street performers and buskers are abundant.  You’ll see people dancing on stilts, walking on glass, breathing fire and most anything you can think of.

The west side of the boardwalk is lined with tents and tables of people selling artisan handmade goods.  The east side has permanent shops renting bicycles, selling t-shirts, trinkets, sunglasses and Venice memorabilia.  If you’ve been to the east coast, it’s a decidedly different experience than the Atlantic City Boardwalk or the Ocean City Boardwalk in New Jersey.  The vibe is a lot funkier.

4. Get fit at the outdoor Venice Recreation Center

Venice Beach
Basketball court at the Venice Recreation Center. The handball courts are in the concrete structure in the background

A very large area on Venice Beach is known as the Recreation Center.  There is a world famous skate park, hardball courts, tennis courts, basketball courts and workout equipment.  There is no where more beautiful and invigorating to get fit. (see photos of the Venice Skate Park at bottom of post)

5. Enjoy the music at the Drum Circle

Every Saturday and Sunday at noon the beach at the intersection of Brooks Avenue and Ocean Front Walk comes alive with music and dancing.  Though unofficial and not organized to my knowledge, the Drum Circle has become world famous and happens every weekend.

You get to enjoy the music and dancing of hundreds of performers with drums, shakers, congas and percussions making music and dancing in a freestyle jam.  This is a high energy event where the audience and participants all feed each other’s energy!

It’s free to attend.  The address is 998 Ocean Front Walk, but all you really have to do is follow the music!

6. Become a graffiti artist at the Venice Art Walls

Venice art walls
The Venice Graffiti Walls where you can legally create your own street art.

What is now the Venice Art Walls, or Venice Graffiti Walls are the remains of what was once the Venice Pavilion.  The graffiti started illegally when the pavilion was still standing, but the community loved the “art” and the police overlooked the “crime.” 

The pavilion was torn down in 1999, but some of the walls were left standing to continue their role as canvases for the artists of Venice.  Painting the walls was decriminalized in 2000, however it’s now a regulated activity.

If you want to paint the walls, you have to get a permit and do so within the allowed hours which is on weekends and holidays.  There is no painting allowed on weekdays, though I have seen people painting them any time I go there!  However, I recommend if you plan to have some fun expressing yourself with public art, do it legally.  It’s free and easy to comply.  To get a permit, visit Venice Art Walls and obtain one by email.  Or you can get one right on site when you arrive.  They guarantee there will be a spot for everyone. 

The Art Walls are at 1900 Ocean Front Walk.  The easiest way to find them is just look for the painted tee-pees to your southwest when you arrive onto the boardwalk from Windward Ave.

7. Pay homage to famous poets at the Venice Beach Poet’s Monument

Venice Beach is a magnet for artists of all types including artists, writers, musicians, actors and beatniks.  It was in particular known as a haven for beatniks and their poetry.

Poetry runs though the soul of Venice, and is now chiseled into the concrete of the Venice Recreation and Parks Office and police sub-station at 1800 Ocean Front Walk.  The monument was created as part of the City of Los Angeles 2000 renovation of the Ocean Front Walk at Venice Beach. The walls contain verses of works from some of Venice’s best known poets: Charles Bukowski, Jim Morrison, Philomene Long, and many more.

There are actually four walls.  The main one is on the building above.  Another wall is on the nearby public restrooms.  The outdoor shower walls on two of the other public restrooms also contain the verses.  Look for signage set in the stone showing where the other locations are. (photo at bottom of post)

8. Pose for an Instagram pic at the ceramic totem pole

I have no idea what this totem pole is, but it looks very cool.  I’ve looked for anything saying who created it and why and come up empty handed.  You’ll find it in the same area as the Poetry Walls and skatepark just past the children’s playground.

Catch it in the morning light and you’ll have a perfectly lit picture of yourself beside this intricate ceramic totem pole with the ocean behind you. (photo at bottom)

9. Let the kids work off energy in the beach playground

Toward the south end of the recreation center is a children’s playground with slippery slides, jungle gyms and all the typical playground equipment.  It’s a great place to let the kids have fun while you take a moment to relax and enjoy the scenery.  Look for the tee-pees of the art walls and the playground is just a bit south of them. (photo at bottom)

10. Take a bike ride on The Strand

Rent a bicycle or an electric scooter and ride it along The Strand, a beach path that runs the length of the Southern California coast.  The bicycles can be rented in racks along the path and the electric scooters are just left wherever the last person finished with them.

Riding the strand is also the easiest way to get up to Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Pier.  Even though the two towns are only 2 miles apart, the traffic and parking are not pleasant.

11. Bulk up at the world famous Muscle Beach

If a workout is in your plans, what better place to work out than at the famous outdoor Muscle Beach facility.  It’s where the whole fitness movement started.  You can also walk off the beach a few blocks and head to Gold’s Gym, also a first in bodybuilding.

While you’re there make it a point to walk past the Google offices in the famous binoculars building. Originally the offices of the advertising agency Chiat/Day the Binoculars Building was designed by architect Frank Gehry and the giant binoculars were created by artists Claes Oldenburg and Coolie van Bruggen.  Venetians feel the location with the giant set of spy glasses couldn’t be more appropriate.  After all, while Google does help us find the information we need, its primary activity seems to be spying on on the activities of every person in the world and selling the information for profit.

12. Dine and drink at the hip sidewalk cafes along the boardwalk

If you have worked up an appetite, sidewalk cafes line the boardwalk from one end to the other. There are also numerous restaurants along Rose Ave on the northern end and Washington Blvd on the south end.  We’ve listed most of the Venice Boardwalk restaurants for you here.

13. Tour the murals in Venice Beach

Jm Morrison Mural
A group with the Venice Street Art Tour at one of the murals of Jim Morrison in Venice Beach

You’ll quickly notice that Venice is a town of artists.  Murals adorn the sides of most all of the structures in Venice Beach.  Most notable among them are the Ellison Murals which feature larger than life portraits of celebrities… most notably American actress Marilyn Monroe and rock singer Jim Morrison of the Doors.

It’s difficult to find a building without a mural in Venice, but the highest concentrations of murals will be found on properties near the boardwalk and along Abbot Kinney Blvd.

You can also take the guided Venice Street Art Tour for an informative tour of the artwork and history of Venice.  We highly recommend it!

14. Stay in a funky, Bohemian beachfront hotel

The boardwalk is also lined with funky hotels.  While there are numerous chain hotels in the vicinity, we recommend staying in one of the Bohemian beach front hotels in Venice to get the full flavor and experience of Venice Beach.

These will lack some of the luxuries of the more modern hotels, but we think you will treasure the experience.

15. Shop and Eat on Abbot Kinney Blvd

A couple blocks off the beach, Abbot Kinney Blvd is lined with unique shops in building adorned with artistic murals and trendy, health oriented restaurants.  It’s a shopping experience you won’t be able to find in any corporate run shopping mall or area.

16. Party during the gourmet food truck extravaganza on Abbot Kinney

If your Venice Beach vacation has you in town for the first Friday of the month, check out the food truck extravaganza on Abbot Kinney Blvd.  Enjoy live music and entertainment while you dine at the gourmet food trucks  – something Los Angeles is known for – and browse the hip shops that have stayed open late.  Many of the food trucks in Los Angeles feature top chefs and are as sought after as a five star restaurant.  The best of the best congregate on Abbot Kinney for this monthly event.

Venice canals
Beautiful Venice Canals

17. Relax in the beauty of the Venice Canals

For a more quiet and peaceful experience, head south a few blocks to the famous Venice Canals.  The canals are part of the original plan to make Venice California a replica of Venice Italy.  Stroll down the paths along the peaceful canals and take in the eclectic collection of luxury homes, gardens, reflections and bridges.

This is one of the most beautiful and prestigious neighborhoods in all of Southern California.

18. Walk out over the ocean on the Venice Pier

At the south end of Venice we arrive at the Venice Fishing Pier.  The funky shops, artist booths and street performers have given way to manicured luxury homes and a much quieter experience. People watching takes a back seat to drinking in the expansive beach, ocean and vibrant sunsets.

On a hot summer day, the temperature can often be ten to fifteen degrees cooler when you walk out on the Venice fishing Pier.  Enjoy the fresh ocean air and the sweeping views along the coastline.

19. Surf at Venice Beach

If you plan on taking in some surfing, I feel the south end near the pier is a better place to do so.  The water is closer here than up near the boardwalk.  If you’ve never surfed, you can take lessons (and rent surf boards) at the Venice Surf School located on the south end of the Venice Pier parking lot.

20. Refuel and party on Washington Blvd

The block where Washington Blvd meets the pier is lined with cool restaurants and pubs with a lively atmosphere.  You can look out over the ocean from the rooftop patio at the Venice Whaler. Others have sidewalk tables and all have fun.

Also a hotel I recommend called the Inn at Venice Beach is just a few blocks up Washington Blvd.  It has a modern, artistic decor, good prices and parking.

Plan on spending a couple of days in Venice.  Though the town is quite small, there is too much to enjoy to get to it all in one day.  For more information to help you plan your vacation in Venice Beach including reviews on restaurants and hotels be sure to see our other in-depth articles about this popular vacation destination.

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See more Venice Beach photos after the break…

Venice Beach California

Venice skate park
World famous Venice Skatepark at Venice Beach
Recreation center at Venice Beach
Venice Canals, featuring models Zeus Ley and Kamilia Czech
Venice Beach
Sunset at Venice Beach
The ceramic totem pole on Venice Beach makes a great location for Instagram photos.
Children’s playground at Venice Beach

venice beach

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