Venice Beach is the coolest neighborhood on Los Angeles’ coastline. It has a boho vibe with street performers, canals, and skate parks, and that’s without mentioning the iconic boardwalk. The neighborhood sits overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is a constant hive of activity.
If visiting Los Angeles, staying in or visiting Venice Beach is a must. In fact, it’s one of the best things to do in Los Angeles. Tourists flock here for water activities and hot sand. It has a creative pulse and fun-loving character that make it impossible not to love.
Venice Beach is an ‘outdoor’ destination. Whether you are admiring street art, playing on tennis courts, hitting the beach, or walking the boardwalk, its sunny streets are lined by street vendors and performers, and the message is clear: get out and have fun. It is a far cry from the slightly gritty streets of inner Los Angeles, and this goes down a treat.
In this guide, we’ll cover all the best things to do in Venice Beach. Get ready for some serious inspiration – we’ll create an ultimate itinerary.
Location-wise, Venice Beach is roughly a 25-minute drive west of Los Angeles’s city center. It’s sandwiched between Topanga State Park and Los Angeles International Airport and has 238 acres of beach.
You can enjoy handball courts, restaurants, the iconic boardwalk, and beaches under the watchful gaze of the lifeguard headquarters. There are hundreds of things to do in Venice, California and these are just a few..
Best of Venice Beach: A Quick Guide
- Must see: Marina Del Rey, Venice Canals, Venice Boardwalk, Muscle Beach Venice Gym, Venice Public Art Walls, Venice Fishing Pier, and Mosaic Tile House Venice.
- Where to stay: HI Los Angeles Santa Monica Hostel, Hotel Erwin, and Shutters on the Beach
- Fun to Do: Admire the view from Hotel Erwin’s rooftop, snap photos in the Mosaic Tile House, shop in Small World Books, workout on Muscle Beach Venice Gym, and cruise the Venice Canals.
- Day trips: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area, Topanga State Park, Angeles National Forest, Catalina Island, and San Diego. For a car rental, you can compare prices here.
Best Things to Do in Venice Beach
Are you looking forward to the unforgettable bohemian subculture of Venice Beach? Everything from an oceanfront walk along Venice Pier to the iconic Boardwalk is super scenic. The neighborhood was designed to promote outdoor living, and its fun-loving atmosphere just emphasizes this.
Are you excited to experience the best of this iconic neighborhood? Let’s make a start. These are the 21 best things to do in Venice Beach.
1. Venice Canals Walkway
The Venice Canals are one of the most historic places and things to do in Venice Beach. Its network of six waterways that, in the pre-1920s, were more popular than transport by car.
The canals are located at the southern end of Venice Beach, still lined by residential houses. The Venice Canals preserve a once-popular way of transport and life. You can take Venice Canal Historic District tours and ride gondolas and water buses.
There’s also the Venice Canals Walkway, a path linking the shores by a series of picturesque bridges. It’s a family-friendly route with beautiful views – ideal if you’d prefer to experience the canals on foot.
- Insider Tip: Enjoy the Venice Canals Walkway if you want to see this area for free.
- Practical Information: The canals stay open 24/7 and are free to visit on foot.
2. Muscle Beach Venice Gym
Muscle Beach Venice Gym is one of the most famous outdoor gyms in the world. Whether you’re a gym lover or not, you should tick off the use of this hallowed gymnastics apparatus and weights. At Muscle Beach, fitness stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Lalanne have worked up a sweat.
Chances are you’ve seen outdoor gyms mostly resembling children’s play areas. Muscle Beach is a bit more advanced.
You can enjoy great equipment – working up a sweat while working on your tan. Muscle Beach is nicknamed the ‘Home of Bodybuilding’ and was established in 1963. Pop by for a quick workout. You just buy a day pass.
- Insider Tip: Arrive outside of peak times and purchase a day pass.
- Practical Information: A day pass costs $10, and the gym is open from 8am until 5pm.
3. Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is where to head for fun. The famed spot is an amusement pier with a giant Ferris wheel and numerous rides. It’s also a famous Hollywood film setting, from T.V. shows like The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and reality shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Entering Santa Monica Pier is totally free. You only pay for rides. We recommend visiting the Pier as one of the best free things to do in Venice Beach if you’re happy to soak up the atmosphere.
Santa Monica Pier has a fun and cheesy atmosphere, plus great views over the Pacific Ocean and amazing beaches. What’s not to love? Book this highly rated ebike tour of Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
- Insider Tip: Entrance is free if you are on a budget and happy to skip the rides.
- Practical Information: Expect to pay between $5 and $10 per ride.
4. Beyond Baroque
Beyond Baroque is a well-respected arts center. Art and literary enthusiasts, this is a spot for you. There are poetry events, theater performances, workshops, and art sales. The best way to approach Beyond Baroque is by checking the center’s schedule and seeing what it has coming up.
Keep in mind that Beyond Baroque only opens regularly on Fridays and Saturdays. This means you’ll have to jiggle your itinerary around accordingly. On these days, it begins from midday until 6 pm.
You can easily reach Beyond Baroque on foot. The arts center is located off of South Venice Blvd, a 30-minute from Venice Beach’s center.
- Insider Tip: Check the schedule ahead of time in case tickets go quickly for events.
- Practical Information: Beyond Baroque opens from midday until 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
Venice Beach Skatepark is one of the world’s most iconic skate park choices. It’s open to everyone and free to enjoy.
The skate park sits right next to the beach, overlooking the ocean. It’s sunken into the ground, with street-inspired designs and features like stairs and railings. It’s the best place to hone your skills if you love skateboarding. And a wonderful place to people-watch if not.
The Skatepark is next to Venice Breakwater. It’s off the Ocean Front Walk – a famous promenade hugging the seafront.
- Insider Tip: Grab a coffee from the Sidewalk Cafe and head to watch the tricks.
- Practical Information: It’s open daily from 8am until 7pm and free to enter.
6. Venice Art Walls
If you are stopping by the skate park, visit the Venice Art Walls. These are substantial industrial-looking walls and structures adorned with local street art. To embrace Venice Beach’s cool, skater-chic undertone, you can’t stop by anywhere better.
The Venice Art Walls are free to admire just remember to bring a decent camera and get ready for lots of posing. This free attraction is located just off the Ocean Front Walk. It’s easily slotted into even the busiest of itineraries.
- Insider Tip: Bring a great camera and visit out of peak hours to get the best shots.
- Practical Information: Open 24/7 and free to visit.
7. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway to Santa Barbara
The Pacific Coast Highway is the most famous road trip in California. The entire highway runs 9 hours from just above San Francisco to just below Los Angeles, and it’s full of beautiful state parks like Pfeiffer Big Sur and Point Mugu. In a day trip, we suggest just driving to Santa Barbara.
You pass Malibu – famed for its sleepy beach town vibe – passing remote beaches like Zuma Beach and Paradise Cove. You’ll pass Leo Carillo State Park and Point Mugu State Park, finally arriving in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is a great place to enjoy Spanish colonial heritage.
The entire return trip should take 4-5 hours to drive – a perfectly feasible day trip. It’s one of the most adventurous things to do in the area. Read more at The Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary
- Insider Tip: Stop off at Malibu and some beaches and state parks en route.
- Practical Information: Your only costs are fuel and the rental car. Check rates for car rental here.
8. Spend a Day in Los Angeles City Center
Venice Beach is amazing, but you want to experience Los Angeles, too. Dedicate at least half a day to exploring all the city center’s best parts.
You can tour Paramount Pictures Studio, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Universal Studios. Los Angeles is the city of movie magic and celebrities. Don’t miss out on either of these. Book this highly rated tour of Los Angeles including Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Griffin Park, and Monica Pier.
You can easily reach Los Angeles by taxi in just 20 minutes or use public transport to get to the city center in 1.5 hours. Read more: 37 Best Things to Do in Los Angeles.
- Insider Tip: Set off early in the morning to catch attractions like the Walk of Fame with minimal crowds.
- Practical Information: Certain attractions, like the Walk of Fame, are open 24/7 and are free. Studio tours cost around $55-60 and open around 8 am and 5 pm.
9. Mothers Beach
This beach is named because of its sheltered, surf-free conditions. It’s tucked into the Marina Del Rey area and ideal for a quiet beach day.
Mothers Beach has a children’s playground and picnic tables. With shallow waters and a peaceful atmosphere, it’s a perfect place to try out swimming. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best things to do for families in Venice Beach. Read more: 28 Best Beaches in California
- Insider Tip: Try out kayaking if you feel adventurous.
- Practical Information: Open 24/7 and free.
10. Venice Beach
Of course, we can’t discuss Venice Beach without discussing its same-named beach. This is a beautiful place to have a beach afternoon. You can sit along the sand, admiring crashing waves and sunbathing.
The best part about the beach is how accessible it is. You can walk right from the center of the neighborhood to the beach in just minutes.
- Insider Tip: Bring a picnic to enjoy on the Beach.
- Practical Information: Open 24/7 and free.
11. Go Surfing
Who doesn’t think of surfing when they envision California? You can join a group lesson, rent a board, or book a private lesson to improve quickly.
You can surf along the Venice Beach strip – including at Santa Monica on the northern end. Some companies even offer photos and videos of your surfing session.
- Insider Tip: Look for early morning slots so you have less crowded waters.
- Practical Information: Budget around $20 for rentals and up to $100 for private lessons.
12. Venice Sign
The Venice sign is one of the quickest experiences in this guide. But that doesn’t stop it being one of the most iconic things to do in Venice Beach.
This illuminated string of letters is suspended above Pacific Avenue and is a must-experience at night. The soft glow of the letters is a magical touch. Tourists flock to the sign to get a quick selfie.
- Insider Tip: Visit at night to see the sign lit up.
- Practical Information: Open 24/7 and free.
13. Bergamot Station Arts Center
Bergamot Station Arts Center is a beautiful, stimulating art space with a rotation of several different galleries. Around 30 galleries and art businesses are in the center – meaning tons of diversity and other things to see.
There’s everything from fine art to contemporary works. If you love art and creative spaces, then you don’t want to level this off of your itinerary.
- Insider Tip: Catch the number 1 bus to Bergamot; it takes around 40 minutes.
- Practical Information: Open 10am until 6pm Tuesday until Saturday.
14. Small World Books
If you visit Venice Beach, stop by Small World Books. This independent bookshop is an incredible place to browse or buy. Check the upcoming schedule for everything from second-hand paperbacks to poetry volumes and organized events.
Literature fans can’t get better than Small World Books. It’s located conveniently just off the Ocean Front Walk – an easy itinerary addition.
- Insider Tip: Leave extra hand luggage room to bring home a few books!
- Practical Information: Open 10am until 8pm daily.
15. The Getty
The Getty is a hive of American and European art, all set within a dramatic contemporary building and manicured gardens. It’s huge. It’s also free – making it one of the best free things to do in Venice Beach.
You could easily spend hours wandering the Getty, and we’d recommend it for any enthusiast or person looking for a rainy day activity.
- Insider Tip: Visit on Saturday evening for an after-hours experience.
- Practical Information: Open 10 am until 5:30 pm Sunday to Friday, open until 8 pm on Saturdays, and closed on Mondays.
16. L.A. Louver
L.A. Louver is a brilliant art gallery which opened in 1975. The gallery solely showcases contemporary art and is a beautiful place to spend a few hours. L.A. Louver is ideal if you want art-related things to do in Venice Beach. It’s also more formal than the street art experiences.
L.A. Louver showcases work from both international and local artists. It has everything from sculptures to canvas pieces.
- Insider Tip: Entry is free, but reserve your slot.
- Practical Information: Open 10am until 6pm from Tuesday until Saturday.
17. High Rooftop Lounge
This rooftop lounge is located in Hotel Erwin with the best Venice Beach views. If D.J. days and nights with ocean views and specialty cocktails sound up your street, you’ll love the High Rooftop Lounge.
The lounge is 100% open-air, so check when the weather is good during your stay. You should also make a reservation to avoid queuing.
High Rooftop Lounge is one of the prettiest places to admire the beautiful neighborhood from above. You’ll get aerial views of the boardwalk, ocean, and street life.
- Insider Tip: Make a reservation in advance.
- Practical Information: Open from around midday until 9pm Monday to Thursday, noon until 10pm Friday and Saturday, and 10am until 9pm on Sundays.
18. Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a main street and known as the ‘coolest block in America.’ The street is a mile long and is lined with colorful shops, art galleries, and restaurants. It’s the place to be when visiting.
We’d suggest walking Abbot Kinney Boulevard for the most authentic and immersive experience. It’s named after the prominent developer Abbot Kinney, a water supply expert who influenced the Venetian canal system.
You can walk the stretch in around 20 minutes to 30 minutes. But allow extra time to shop and eat.
- Insider Tip: Visit on the first Friday of the month to enjoy food truck snacks.
- Practical Information: N/A
FAQs: Things to do in Venice Beach
There are tons of amazing things to do in Venice Beach. Before you rush off to indulge in all the things to do, check out these top FAQs. These are the snippets of information that are worth looking at.
Is Venice Beach, LA, worth visiting?
Venice Beach is absolutely worth visiting. The boho vibe and waterfront living are a beautiful combination, and it’s ideal in good weather because of all the outdoor things to do.
What’s so special about Venice Beach?
Venice Beach is special because it offers a laidback community right next to the beach, only a 25-minute drive from Los Angeles’s city center. You can enjoy its canal district, beaches, and street culture.
Is Venice Beach or Santa Monica better?
Venice Beach is our favorite. It’s smaller and super vibrant during the day. Santa Monica comes into its own at night-time with bars and upscale restaurants. Santa Monica is larger with more of a classy than a boho vibe like Venice Beach.
Can you swim in the ocean at Venice Beach?
Yes, Venice Beach has tons of beaches where you can swim. Just don’t swim in the Venice Beach canals – you can get arrested for doing so, and it’s super unhygienic.
Tips and Information Before Visiting
Are you serious about visiting Venice Beach? You should check out some tips and tricks before visiting. This way, you’ll be as prepared as possible and get the best out of the boho community.
The Best time to visit
The best time to visit Venice Beach is undoubtedly in hot weather, so pencil in a visit between May and September. Between these months, the temperatures hover around 75 Fahrenheit – meaning you can enjoy the ocean, walk around Venice Beach, and the sunniest skies.
Let’s narrow things down even more, though. How do you pick from those months?
July until August is the peak season in Venice Beach. This is when you’ll find the crowds, as everyone flocks to California for summer. If you’re okay with crowds, July and August are fun. But to avoid crowds, we’d suggest shoulder months – May, June, or September.
The best way to reach Venice Beach is to fly into Los Angeles International Airport or travel from Los Angeles’s city center.
If you fly into Los Angeles International Airport, you take the bus to Venice Beach or catch a 20-minute taxi for around $20. This is ideal for anyone traveling internationally or from distant states in the U.S. If you’re traveling from Los Angeles to Venice Beach, the quickest way is to catch a taxi for around $30-40. Alternatively, you can use public transport, which takes about 1.5 hours.
You can also road trip to Venice Beach. It takes around 2.5 hours to go from San Diego to Venice Beach and 6.5 hours from San Francisco.
The easiest way to get around is on foot or by bike – there are plenty of bike path options in the city center. You can also get around on the water, with public transport options including water buses, water taxis, gondola rides, and traghettis. And there’s a public bus line for more traditional transport. You can rent a car or catch taxis if necessary.
How much time do you need?
Ideally, you need 2-3 days. This gives adequate time to relax with the Venice Beach ‘lifestyle’ – enjoying volleyball courts, street art, and boardwalk views. To incorporate a few day trips and experiences in inner-city Los Angeles, you need 7-days.
Where to stay in Venice Beach
So, where should you stay in Venice Beach? The southern end of Venice Beach has Marina del Rey and the historic canal district. It’s also where you’ll find the iconic Venice Beach Boardwalk. The south end is best during the day and for an authentic experience.
The northern end is where Venice Beach conjoins with Santa Monica. Santa Monica is larger, with the huge Santa Monica Pier and more upscale hotels, restaurants, and bars. It’s where to stay to go out more at night and enjoy a luxury Venice Beach experience.
Here are some of the best hotels in Venice Beach…
HI Los Angeles Santa Monica Hostel is the largest purpose-built hostel in the U.S. It has many dormitory options, including a private room. Get rates and availability here.
This 4-star property is one of the most beautiful mid-range properties. It’s famed for its rooftop bar, gorgeous boardwalk, and Pacific Ocean views. Check rates and availability here.
Shutters on the Beach is a 5-star property in Santa Monica Beach with a pool and spa. It’s more upscale and surrounded by luxury restaurants. Check rates an availability here.
Venice Beach will keep you busy whether you want art galleries, live music, tennis courts, or skate parks. There are so many things to do in Venice Beach. Remember to check out the day trips from Los Angeles, too.
Venice Beach is an exciting destination that channels a creative, laid-back lifestyle and atmosphere. You’ll love this iconic neighborhood if you love the outdoors and seaside destinations.