LA City Guide: How to Spend a Day in Venice
Venice is one of Los Angeles’ most attractive neighbourhoods, having the ocean, the Santa Monica pier, a variety of restaurants and independent shops all within a short walk of one another. If you’re not a Los Angeles native, Venice can quickly become overwhelming. Because it is a known and sought out tourist attraction, Venice is crowded, hectic and sometimes unkept. It is equally vibrant, colourful and creative.
Today, I thought I’d share with you how my friend and I spent a wonderful day in Venice on our recent trip to Los Angeles. Keep on reading to learn about the best places to grab a bite, thrift vintage finds and where to wander around.
We started out in the morning on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, fuelling up for the day with a cup of coffee at Intelligentsia (I’ve raved about this coffee shop in my Favourite Coffee Shops in LA blog post). Our plan for the day was simple - explore Venice at a leisurely pace, taking our time to pop into shops, browse bookstores and enjoy delicious food. After coffee, we walked up and down Abbott Kinney Boulevard (a must-see if you come to Venice) and spent the morning exploring store after store.
The first place we stopped into was GROW, an outdoor boutique featuring home items and garden essentials. It took everything in me not to purchase the brown ceramic plant potters! What fascinated us (and this was a recurring topic of conversation throughout the day) was the possibility to create an entire outdoor shopping experience and not be constricted by weather. This is a foreign concept to us Canadians who suffer from unpredictable weather year round.
A few doors down from GROW is Urbanic Paper Boutique, where we spent a good half an hour looking at stationary, writing tools, greeting cards and other lifestyle items. It was so wonderful to browse these items and enjoy the ocean breeze coming through the door.
Continuing our wandering down Abbott Kinney Boulevard, we popped into Alternative Apparel, an iconic sustainable clothing store, and then continued on to browse the outdoor boutiques that lined the boulevard. It was a relaxing, creative, and inspiring (mostly for home decor ideas) way to spend a morning in Venice.
For a snack break, I highly recommend you stop into Blue Star Donuts. Their baked goods are so delicious and will surely satisfy your sweet tooth.
After we covered everything we wanted to see on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, we made our way to the Venice Beach Boardwalk. There was a stark difference in experience, leaving the slow-paced and well-kept boulevard and coming to the boardwalk, which featured an outdoor gym, a skate park, an entire lineup of beach-side huts selling touristy memorabilia, and street performers at every turn of the head. Although I was overwhelmed, I couldn’t help but realize what a true image this painted of Los Angeles - free, creative, unhinged, a little dirty, crowded and fun.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the iconic Venice Sign (you can find it at the intersection of Pacific Avenue and Windward Avenue), which you’ve probably seen on every influencer’s Instagram page. It’s really funny to see the behind the scenes of those photos! But the best part of the Venice Sign, in my humble opinion, are the two amazing vintage stores found in its vicinity. We first went into Animal House and browsed vintage denim, neck scarves and straw hats. Diagonal to Animal House is Gotta Have It where, after a lot of sifting through, my friend found the cutest pair of shoes - and in her size! Score! Isn’t that the best feeling? Content with our finds we walked back to the beach, dipped our toes into the ocean and enjoyed a moment taking in the Santa Monica pier and the mountains in the distance, paired with the wonderful ocean air.
Tucked behind the Venice Beach Boardwalk, is a residential neighbouhood known as “The Venice Canals”, inspired in their naming by their overseas counterpart. Here, hidden from hustle and bustle of the main beach, are riverside homes in warm brown colours, lush gardens, with boats parked in the water outside of their beautiful properties. If heaven was a place on earth, I imagine it would look a lot like this.
Starving as we were after our morning of exploring, we weighed our options for lunch - Cafe Gratitude, The Butcher’s Daughter or Felix? While all three sounded incredible, we chose Cafe Gratitude, and after mimosas and vegan burgers, we were not let down. They support local farmers, value sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and environmentally friendly products. Each menu item was paired with an “I Am…” affirmation. I am strong. I am generous. I am enthusiastic. When ordering, we were asked to say “I am” and our choice of food. The server would answer with “You ARE ____”. It was an empowering and gratifying dining experience in more ways than one.
Full-bellied and happy, we walked to a local bookstore nearby that had been operating for the last 20 years. Later, we met our husbands (who had gone on an adventure of their own in the Canyons) for a romanic sunset viewing on the Santa Monica Pier. We ended the day by taking in the kids screaming excitedly at the amusement park, the couples rolling up their beach towels to go home and the pier performers making their voice heard on the crowded pier.
Sun-kissed, windswept, tired, but so happy, we parted ways.
I hope you find Venice to be just as wonderful and wonky when you visit. Be sure to snap a photo and share it with me. And seriously, get that donut.
Until next time,