Venice Beach and Boardwalk
If the Santa Monica Pier doesn’t provide you with enough chaos and kitsch, head on down to the Venice Boardwalk (Ocean Front Walk at Venice Blvd.) for a nearly unlimited supply of both all year-round. Locals refer to the Boardwalk as “The Zoo” and tend to shun the area, especially in the frantic summer months.
As you shamble down the tourist-laden path, you’ll pass an astonishing array of tacky souvenir stores, tattoo and piercing parlors, walk-up food stands, and more. An honest-to-goodness carnival freak show sits near the middle of the Boardwalk, and a surprisingly good bookstore is tucked in beside a large sidewalk café.
On the beach side of the path, dozens of artists create sculptures and hawk their wares. You can watch sculptors creating amazing works of art out of sand, or purchase a piece of locally made jewelry. The dude with the roller skates, the turban, and the guitar is pretty much always there—if you talk to him, he may follow you around until you pay him to leave you alone. (He’s harmless.)
The beach side includes the infamous Muscle Beach (two blocks north of Venice Blvd.), an easily distinguished chunk of sand filled with modern workout equipment and encircled by a barrier.
The wide, flat beach adjacent to the Boardwalk gets incredibly crowded in the summer. Parking can be nightmarish in this land of car-free walk streets. Expect to park far from the beach and the Boardwalk and to pay for the privilege. The beach at Venice is lifeguard-protected and has restroom and shower facilities built on the sand. You can get all the junk food you can stomach from the Boardwalk stands.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition