When traveling families consider what to do in Southern California, most plans gravitate toward Disneyland and Universal Studios, with a side trip to one of the standout beaches and a visit to the LA Zoo. Not too many families throw Venice Beach into the mix, a beachfront district on the Westside of Los Angeles. This is a mistake, since from my own experience Venice Beach was a big hit with my preteen son, when we spent an afternoon on the beachside promenade.
If your family doesn’t freak out at the sight of counter culture street vendors and a live and let live vibe, then they’ll probably enjoy a day at Venice Beach.
Start out the day with an expertly prepared breakfast at The Rose. Ask for one of the tables on the patio. One thing about Venice Beach – it’s not a “let’s hurry and get things done” neighborhood. After a relaxed breakfast, browse the hip shops of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This is a constantly changing shopping district, with lots to interest all members of the family.
Head over to the canal system that gave the city its name. The Venice Canals were built back in 1905, and can be explored via pathways and streets. The canals wind past colorful houses sporting a range of architectural styles.
Head over to the 2.5 mile Oceanfront Walk. The walk is lined with vendors, skateboarders, surfers, artists, and musicians.
You’ll want to have your bathing suits and beach gear with you, since most of the afternoon will be spent on the beach or in the ocean, with the option of renting surfboards, and boogie boards. Up on dry land, families can rent bikes, roller blades, and skates.
Before hitting the beach, consider dropping into Small World Books, which is right on the boardwalk. If your family is composed of readers, pick up a book each and head to the beach.
Kids will also be intrigued by the fact that Venice is the birthplace of skateboarding, as depicted in the documentary film Dogtown and Z-Boys and Sony Pictures’ The Lords of Dogtown.
Another not to miss sight is the original Muscle Beach, where pumped up folks lift weights in the open air.
At some point the family is going to get hungry for lunch. The good thing about being on the boardwalk is the array of snack shops, with enough variety to suit each member of the family. My personal favorite is Jody Maroni’s Sausage Kingdom, where you can choose from a menu of 14 different grilled-sausage sandwiches.
For a late afternoon treat, head over to Charlie Temmel, a boardwalk ice cream shop. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a habitué, dropping in for Charlie’s Austrian crepes.
For a spooky early evening sight, walk over to El Bordello Alexandra, an apartment building bedecked with an assortment of wicked-looking demons straight out a Hellraiser film.
Before the sun is all the way down, make tracks for the Venice Pier, where the family can enjoy great views of the sunset while checking out what the pier fishermen have caught that day.
For dinner, it’s a toss-up. For something simple and quick, head over to Abbot’s Pizza Company, where they create pizza to rival that found in NYC. For a more leisurely sit down dinner, head over to Mao’s Kitchen, where they serve classic Chinese cuisine in a casual setting. The neighborhood is a bit dicey – but hey – this is Venice Beach. After a day of exploration I don’t think anyone in the family will be fazed.