Travel Thursday: Resting Venice Beach Face
The alternate title for this piece would be "Travel Thursday: A Midwesterner's Guide To A Place He Feels Inferior To In Every Way But Still Braves Because It's Simply Sublime." While glossy, shimmery, shiny Los Angeles continues to make me feel like a potato, the sights, sounds, smells, and borderline frenetic energy that permeates the city makes it impossible to not feel alive when visiting.
On my most recent trip I was actually pummeled by a rare L.A. rainstorm, but was still the happiest potato around, and I want to spread the good word for anyone considering taking a trip Los Angeles, and for the sake of this post, Venice Beach specifically. My husband and I stayed in Venice Beach and found the area to be a city within a city - an enclave with just the right balance of action and opportunities for reprieve.
Venice Beach is an area of Los Angeles with a rich history, vintage curiosities, and gorgeous beaches. We settled on staying in Venice Beach for its fifteen-minute driving distance from the airport without traffic (a distance unfathomable to Chicagoans,) immediate proximity to beaches, and stunning Airbnb options available for a more palatable price tag than the houses in nearby hotspot Santa Monica. Navigating to other Los Angeles neighborhoods from Venice Beach is easy, but we decided to mainly explore this fascinating area.
A millionaire named Abbot Kinney founded (yes, we're taking it back, but I swear it's interesting) Venice Beach - originally called the "Venice of America" - in 1905 as an oasis of culture and sophistication. His goal of replicating the splendor of Venice, Italy was foiled once the area was incorporated into Los Angeles County in the 20's and oil tycoons ravaged the land adjacent to the beach - turning Venice Beach into an unsightly oilfield.
This led to the destruction of a lagoon as well as the Abbot Kinney Pier that once featured carnival rides and a circus. A commenter on LAist even recalls having to scrape the tar off her feet after exiting the ocean in the 60's. Yikes.
But Venice's most famous sight - the man-made canals - remain to this day, and a stroll around them while visiting is a must. Here you can peek into unique houses in a neighborhood that feels like it belongs somewhere between Epcot and Architectural Digest. Check out a guide for traversing the canals here.
Venice Beach has been in the midst of gentrification for quite some time, and a walk, bike ride, or electric scooter ride along the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk will allow you to take in the old and the new. We stayed in the southern part of the area on 27th Street, and by following the Boardwalk north, you'll see quirky yet mammoth-priced houses abutting the path make way for the endless kitschy shops and throngs of people that many associate with the area.
If showing off your hard work at the gym at the infamous Muscle Beach isn't your thing, I recommend you take in the action happening at the nearby skate park. These skaters come to impress, and you half expect Travis from Clueless to show up.
Located directly between the skate park and the ocean is a designated gay section of Venice Beach made perfectly clear with its rainbow flag lifeguard stand. As you guys know I don't get to have fun, but if I was a swiper, I'd have swiped. And no visit would be complete without every Instagram user's Venice Beach pièce de résistance - the "Venice" sign hanging over Windward Avenue. This is a modern-day replica of the one originally installed by Kinney in 1905, showing that the visionary was truly ahead of his time. Readying the world for Instagram perfection over a century ago.
Of course, all of this isn't even to mention the bazillion other activities to do while in Los Angeles, but for this Midwestern potato, Venice Beach offered more than enough to make me feel like I had a truly unique weekend getaway. Abbot Kinney's master plan may have been thwarted, but he at least made one gay writer's weekend.