The Boardwalk is filled with all sorts: break dancers with boomboxes, a 70-year-old clown, quirky creatives, “green” doctors in scrubs, guys on guitar, and tourists galore. We hadn’t planned on spending Thanksgiving evening at Venice Beach but that’s where we’d ended up. Seated at an ocean-facing cafe, we ordered sides of chewy calamari, deep-fried jalapenos, and guac ‘n chips; we cheered to a spectacular sunset with too-sweet mixed drinks. It was pretty close to perfect.
Named for the developer who famously weaved canals into Venice’s urban grid, Abbot Kinney Boulevard remains one of the coolest streets in Los Angeles, even after GQ magazine named it the “hottest block” in America, 2012. Yes, new boutiques may have popped up since then, as have dining spots, but strolling the streets on a Tuesday still feels like a Sunday. Its laid-back attitude is alluring, not to mention that its vibe, to me, is quintessential LA: a little bit glam tinged with edginess; (20th century) historic and palm-fringed; creative, inspiring, and dreamy.
I love Venice Beach even more after having discovered it is a quasi-peninsula, bordering the inlet into which the Pacific Ocean flows to feed Marina Del Rey’s waterfront views.
Scenes taken with the phone camera on a lovely 80F day.
Away from its famed Boardwalk jammed with tables selling eclectic art, and not far from the über cool Abbot Kinney where street art decorates many a store facade rests Venice’s grid of canals.
As you enter the walkways of this historic district, which line four east-west canals and two north-south canals, the high-energy vibe of surrounding Venice Beach metamorphoses into a feeling of stillness and calm. There’s nothing to do but inhale the sweet salty smell of the sea air as you admire the residential architecture and outdoor living spaces. Here, no two homes are alike.
I can guarantee that there are few places in this city where you will share a walkway with pairs of ducks, dogs walking their owners, locals, and low key tourists all at the one time. Perhaps I’ll hire a paddle board to skim the canals next time – just to take the road less traveled.
“Thank you to all the men and women who serve and protect our country, and their families that support them. Share our message to help honor those who serve.”
~ President Bill Clinton, May 27, 2013
It’s easy to take the beach for granted when you live so close to it. Today, we honoured Memorial Day and walked from Santa Monica to Venice Beach, then back again. Uninterrupted sunshine, crowds, the glorious Pacific; kites, volleyball games, and families gathered around picnics – I wouldn’t have changed anything about the day. It was perfect.
(All photos taken with my HTC Phone)
On the way there…
It’s inevitable that, as a first time visitor to Los Angeles, you will be drawn to its better known sights like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, and Venice’s Muscle Beach. I am all for it; the media and motion picture industries are part of Los Angeles’ DNA, and what we might read about, watch on TV, or see in the movies can greatly influence our itinerary choice. It’s on the second trip that you may want to reconsider the Star Line bus tour and tourist-friendly draws however, and explore the layers beneath LA’s celluloid surface. What you’ll find is a patchwork of cities and neighborhoods that enrich the county’s culture and communities.
Here are 10 suggestions to help you sidestep the well trodden tourist path:
1. Mulholland Drive – Perhaps one of the most appealing things about LA, aside from its warm climate, is its proximity to the ocean and mountains. To see it from top to tail, rent a car and cruise along the 21-mile stretch of winding Mulholland Drive. The road will take you through the Hollywood Hills, over the Valley, and to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Tip: GPS is essential in navigating this road as it is broken up in parts.
2. Hollywood – LA looks different when you look at it through the letters of the Hollywood sign. To get to the top of Mt. Lee, Google: Beachwood Drive and Hollyridge Trail. There’s room for parking and it’s about a 40 minute walk, one way. Tip: Keep on track by staying left of the trail.
3. Griffith Park – Los Angeles is home to a variety of architecture; Moby even has a blog dedicated to it: Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog. A beautiful example is The Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. At once futuristic and historic, the details of its precast building blocks harken to Mayan times; you may also remember the house from the 1980’s movie Bladerunner. Tip: Address is 2607 Glendower Ave, Loz Feliz.
4. Echo Park – Echo Park Avenue has the artisan feel. Street art colours the hilly neighbourhood; cafes offer pour over coffees for $5 a cup. Located close to downtown LA, the area feels like it’s on the cusp of something big. Tip: Go to FIX for a pour over coffee – order anything from the “Handsome Coffee Roasters” line. Pazzo Gelato on Sunset Blvd offers $1 scoops during its 4-6pm Happy Hour. The Pear Sorbetto is highly recommended.
5. Silver Lake – More than 500 staircases around Los Angeles used to serve its public transportation system; now they are a good excuse to stairwalk and see a neighbourhood up close. An excellent starting point for the novice is the Music Box Stair Loop in burgeoning Silver Lake, made famous by the movie starring Laurel and Hardy. Tip: Check out Walks @ Secret Stairs-LA for more routes. The website counts the Music Box set to have 133 steps across multiple landings as part of a 2.5 mile loop.
6. Downtown LA – Newly built condos in the area have attracted a young entrepreneurial community. The Art District has injected a creative vibe in this part of town, and galleries can be found along Spring and Main Sts between 2nd and 9th. Tip: Check out a couple of the laid back eating spots: go to Urth Caffe on Hewitt St for a Moroccan Mint Latte, or a Belgian Beer at Wurtskuche on East 3rd.
7. Westwood – In the midst of a cluster of office buildings rests Westwood Village Park Memorial Cemetery. Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Ray Bradbury, Truman Capote, and other stars are buried here. Tip: Located at 1218 Glendon Avenue, the narrow street looks like the entrance to a parking lot – it’s easy to overlook.
8. Pacific Palisades – For a panoramic scene that spans downtown LA to the ocean, hike to the top of the Los Liones trail. It’s 2 miles each way and not too strenuous but wear your sneakers. Tip: Go on a sunny day for a clear view.
9. Malibu – Perhaps one of the loveliest museums in LA is The Getty Villa. High up in the mountains, with the Pacific as the backdrop, it feels Mediterranean – manicured gardens, fountains, and a herb garden surround a villa that houses antiquities and sculpture collections. Tip: Allocate some time to lunch on wine and cheese in the courtyard, but don’t forget to reserve your entry free tickets on http://www.getty.edu prior to visiting.
10. Venice Beach – The Pacific is alluring, the boardwalk is not. Navigate the Venice Canal Walk in the direction of Abbot Kinney – a retail stretch of road where you’ll build up an appetite as you window shop. Tip: Go to Gjelina for an excellent modern Italian meal, or stop at TOMS for a pair of shoes. Browse as you sip on an espresso made to order from their in-store coffee bar.
Having my sister visit LA from Down Under is such a treat. It reminds me of how much I value time with my family, and of that irreplaceable bond between siblings.
It’s also a wonderful excuse to act like a tourist in my newly adopted home base.
I dedicate this post to my sis, Katya.
Below are some of our fun moments photographed around LA with either the Nikon 35mm or Smartphone.