If there is one place you could ever travel to to relive those childhood days of the early 2000s when you would sit at home eating Fruity Pebbles and watching the latest episode of Rocket Power, it would be Venice Beach, California. I repeat, Venice Beach, California.
Now I hate to say that after traveling all around Europe and Central America, that a place in America is actually one of my top five favorite places in the entire world (so far), but dammit Venice, you make it hard for me to love somebody else. Of course I was always a huge Rocket Power fan and secretly jealous of anyone who said they grew up in Southern California, so reasonably, it does makes sense for the city to be in my top five. However, my connection with Venice Beach hasn’t always been a love story. Ha, far from it.
The first time I went to Venice, I was by no means impressed. Someone in Santa Monica told me,“Oh my god, you just have to go to Venice! It’s the sh#t!” so I took their advice, walked the beachside path from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach, and there I was.
Giving Venice Beach the stank-eye.
Venice is “the sh#t?” More like just “sh#t.” Uh, I only saw gritty streets filled with tanned beach bums lying on the pavement; I saw numerous medicial marijuana booths for “patients” (…oh c’mon); and I saw a whole lot of closed, abandoned-looking storefronts with a whole lot of loitering Sketchy McSketchersons. I wrote it off as just another Hollywood Boulevard of LA – a place that is just filled with tourists and commercialism that ruined the cool factor – and got the hell up outta there.
I decided to give Venice another chance on my third trip to Los Angeles when I kept hearing over-and-over that I just had to go to Venice. Oh yeah righhhht, you can’t make me go back there!
But I went anyway. And this time, I made sure it wasn’t a Tuesday morning at 9:30am. If there is one line in this entire blog that you pay attention to, it is this one: you must visit Venice Beach on a Sunday afternoon.
The town I had once wrote off as another Hollywood Boulevard was whoaaaa, far from it. It had completely transformed into a beachy paradise. At every angle you looked, you saw a new hobby. It was like a fluffy, happy-ending of a children’s book. College students playing a pick-up game of basketball. Parents and their kids flying kites on the beach. Shaggy blonde-haired dudes surfing the waves. Laguna Beach-esque high schoolers enjoying a picnic on the beach. Beefcakes working on their fitness at Muscle Beach. Crowds of tourists gathered around street performers long-jumping over young children. Thirty-somethings playing beach volleyball. Androgenyous teenagers skating in the skatepark. Quad-skaters jamskating to old-school hip hop from a boombox. And to top it all off, I mean, you even had free public restrooms. Suck it, Europe.
On a less-vulgar note, I really don’t think I’ve ever experienced such an alive and active city. Ever. But witnessing wasn’t enough. You don’t see a city by observing. You see a city by taking it head on. I knew that my Venice Beach experience would not be complete until I, too, partook in a beachside festivity or two. Luckily, Jo and I found Jay’s Rentals, a skate shop run by two super rad Californians right off the Boardwalk that sold skates, surfboards, and skateboards by the hour. I was tempted to go with my usual and rent rollerskates, but I figured that’d be too obvious a choice, so I went with the more risqué option: skateboarding – something I have never done in my life.
If beachside paradises aren’t your thing and you still want to experience Venice, head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard – a boulevard everyone and their mom talks about in LA. It’s a palm-tree lined, sunny boulevard filled with trendy, one-of-a-kind boutiques and seriously amazing coffee shop ambiances (like TOM’s Flagship Café and Intelligentsia). Jo went into a boutique store where literally everything, and yes I mean everything, was $16. Brass bracelets? $16. Black dress? $16. Denim shorts? $16.
And between Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Venice Beach Boardwalk, you’ll find the Venice Canals, which have mostly been filled in, but the time I went, I did see a woman sunbathing and reading a self-help book and another woman smiling at the sun as she paddleboarded with one arm (the other arm was taken by her fresh green smoothie – you know, the ones that cost $7.99 at Whole Foods).
These are the people who inhabit Los Angeles…and I hope to soon be one of them.