Surf, sun and sand take a backseat to the loud and lively human carnival on parade along the Venice Beach Boardwalk. There’s never a dull moment for people-watching in this sun-drenched bohemian enclave of artists, musicians, poets, singers, skateboarders and jugglers. From chain-sawing acrobats to fire-breathing cyclists, you’ll find Los Angeles at its most ostentatious, eccentric and unrestrained. Just remember to tip performers if you watch most of their show or take their photograph.
While you make your way along the boardwalk’s 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) stretch, browse the stalls, shops and stands laden with souvenirs, trinkets, cheap sunglasses, T-shirts and sandals. Have your fortune read or get a temporary tattoo.
Further along the boardwalk is Muscle Beach, best known as the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno (of Incredible Hulk fame) once flexed their pecs and biceps. At this outdoor gym you’ll see the toned and tanned pump iron while acrobats bend, twist and contort their bodies into eye-watering shapes. You can join them. Just buy a day pass (about $10) at the Venice Beach Recreations and Parks Office on Ocean Front Walk and then take your place to work out in front of the passing crowds.
Peel your eyes away from the vivid and flamboyant spectacles and head to the beach, a three-mile stretch of well-maintained and manicured sand. The water is patrolled during daylight hours, so you can dive in if you want to do more than soak up the rays on the sand. Rent surf or body boards and catch some waves, but be mindful of other riders.
LA’s Mediterranean climate makes Venice Beach a good place to be for most of the year; however, it is incredibly crowded in the summer. It is around 19 miles (30 kilometers) from downtown LA on the coast between Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey. There are plenty of city parking lots next to the beach.