Venice is a neighborhood of the city of Los Angeles within the Westside region of Los Angeles County, California. Venice was founded by Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a seaside resort town. It was an independent city until 1926, when it merged with Los Angeles. Venice is known for its canals, a beach, and Ocean Front Walk, a two-and-a-half-mile (4 km) pedestrian promenade that features performers, fortune-tellers, and vendors.
Venice is adjoined on the northwest by Santa Monica, on the northeast by Mar Vista, on the southeast by Culver City, Del Rey and Marina Del Rey, on the south by Ballona Creek and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Venice is bounded on the northwest by the Santa Monica city line. The northern apex of the Venice neighborhood is at Walgrove Avenue and Rose Avenue, abutting the Santa Monica Airport. On the east, the boundary runs north–south on Walgrove Avenue to the neighborhood’s eastern apex at Zanja Street.
Venice offers a unique and vibrant mix of activities and attractions, from its world famous boardwalk and beautiful beach to the shopper’s paradise of Abbot Kinney Blvd. Venice is one of L.A.’s top neighborhoods, offers fun in the sun, a unique shopping experience, or a sophisticated evening of art and music.
Venice attracts visitors from all over the world who come to soak up the vibrant atmosphere. Walk along the iconic boardwalk and watch a variety of street performers, including stilt walkers, snake charmers and fortunetellers. Watch roller skaters and admire the unique hairstyles and outfits worn by locals. On most weekends, you can join in the Venice Beach Drum Circle and bang a bongo or chant and dance.
Venice is a colorful neighborhood with eclectic shops, organic cafés and a scenic beach in the Santa Monica region of Los Angeles County. Sip on smoothies, stroll through a maze of canals and browse alternative shops at this Californian beach, famous for its boardwalk and quirky residents. It is home to Venice Beach and its adjoining pier and famous boardwalk. Explore independent shops, choose from an array of restaurants and watch street performances.
Sunbathe or take a dip in the ocean at Venice Beach. It is also a popular surfing spot with gentle waves that suit beginners. Walk around the famous pier and play arcade games with the kids. Ride the Ferris wheel to the top and enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding Venice area. Stop by Muscle Beach and watch the locals carry out their daily fitness regimes. Drink smoothies containing a blend of exotic fruit and vegetables from the organic juice bar.
Make your way to the trendy haven of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Palm trees and street art line the road, which is packed with sophisticated boutiques, art galleries, wine bars and restaurants.
Take a romantic stroll through the canals. Venice’s founder, Abbot Kinney, built the system of canals in 1905 to pay tribute to the Italian city of the same name. Kinney’s initial vision of creating a cultural mecca was set aside to accommodate the public, and Venice became the “Coney Island of the Pacific,” complete with an amusement pier and a miniature steam railroad. Kinney also created a system of canals and imported gondolas and gondoliers from Venice, Italy.
The Venice Boardwalk was an important meeting point in the 1950s and early ’60s for poets from the Beat Generation, such as Jack Kerouac. From its days as home to Beat Generation poets and artists, Venice continues to be an important Los Angeles cultural center.
Venice Canal Historic District
The Venice Canal Historic District is embedded in the residential Venice suburb of Los Angeles, California. The historic district is noteworthy for possessing man-made wetland canals, built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his Venice of America. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in coastal Los Angeles County. The lit canals with gondoliers and arched bridges drew widespread publicity and helped sell lots in the development.
By the 1920s, with cars quickly gaining popularity, the canals were viewed by many as outdated, and as a result a number of canals were filled in 1929 to make room for paved roads. The canals were finally renovated in 1992; they were drained, and new sidewalks and walls were built. The canals re-opened in 1993, and have become a desirable and expensive residential section of the city.
The residential district surrounding the remaining canals was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. However, in recent years, there has been extensive renovation work on many of the old houses, and many large, modern houses have been built. The water enters the canals through sea gates in the Marina Del Rey breakwater, and again in Washington Boulevard. They open at low tide to drain most of the water, and at high tide they are closed, trapping the water for about three days, before being refreshed again.
Built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his “Venice of America” plan, the Venice Canal Historic District is famous for its man-made canals, which evoked the canals of Venice, Italy and likewise featured gondola rides. Visitors can walk along the canals in the area located within South Venice Blvd., Pacific, Ocean Ave. and Washington Blvd.
While Venice’s claim to fame may be its beach culture, the ‘hood’s most stylish block, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, has some of the city’s best boutiques, galleries, restaurants and bars (Felix and Gjelina, most notably). The posh neighborhood manages to keep things pretty casual, so feel free to bike over from the beach and peruse the storefronts.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbott Kinney Boulevard is a principal attraction, with stores, restaurants, bars and art galleries lining the street. The street was described as “a derelict strip of rundown beach cottages and empty brick industrial buildings called West Washington Boulevard,” and in the late 1980s community groups and property owners pushed for renaming a portion of the street to honor Abbot Kinney. The renaming was widely considered as a marketing strategy to commercialize the area and bring new high-end businesses to the area. The mile-long stretch of Abbot Kinney Blvd between Venice Blvd and Main St is full of upscale boutiques, galleries, lofts and sensational restaurants. Some years back, GQ named it America’s coolest street, and that cachet has only grown since.
In late September, the Abbot Kinney Festival draws tens of thousands of revelers, and the monthly First Friday street fair bills itself as LA’s premier food-truck gathering, with street foods up and down the boulevard.
Venice Farmers Market
Founded in 1987, the farmers market operates every Friday from 7 am to 11 am on Venice Boulevard at Venice Way.
72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill
72 Market Street Oyster Bar and Grill was one of several historical footnotes associated with Market Street in Venice, one of the first streets designated for commerce when the city was founded in 1905. During the depression era, Upton Sinclair had an office there when he was running for governor, and the same historic building where the restaurant was located was also the site of the first Ace/Venice Gallery in the early 1970s and, before that, the studio of American installation artist Robert Irwin.
Historic post office
The Venice Post Office, a red-tile-roofed 1939 Works Progress Administration building designed by Louis A. Simon on Windward Circle, featured one of two remaining murals painted in 1941 by Modernist artist Edward Biberman. Developer Abbot Kinney is in the center surrounded by beachgoers in old-fashioned bathing suits, men in overalls, and a wooden roller coaster representing the Venice Pier on one side with contrasting industrial oil derricks that were once ubiquitous in the area on the other side.
After the post office closed in 2012, movie producer Joel Silver unveiled plans to purchase it for 7.5 million and revamp the building as the new headquarters of his company, Silver Pictures. The sale included the stipulation that he, or any future owner, preserve the New Deal-era murals and allow public access. Restoration of the nearly pristine mural took over a year and cost about $100,000. LACMA highlighted the mural with an exhibit that displayed additional Biberman artworks, rare historical documents and Venice ephemera with the restored mural. Silver has a long-term lease on the mural that is still owned by the US Postal Service.
Residences and streets
Many of Venice’s houses have their principal entries from pedestrian-only streets and have house numbers on these footpaths. (Automobile access is by alleys in the rear.) The inland walk streets are made up primarily of around 620 single-family homes. Like much of the rest of Los Angeles, however, Venice is known for traffic congestion. It lies 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the nearest freeway, and its unusually dense network of narrow streets was not planned for modern traffic. Mindful of the tourist nature of much of the district’s vehicle traffic, its residents have successfully fought numerous attempts to extend the Marina Freeway (California State Route 90) into southern Venice.
East of Lincoln
East of Lincoln is separated from Oakwood by Lincoln Boulevard. It extends east to the border with Mar Vista. Aside from the commercial strip on Lincoln (including the Venice Boys and Girls Club and the Venice United Methodist Church), the area almost entirely consists of small homes and apartments as well as Penmar Park and (bordering Santa Monica) Penmar Golf Course.
Venice Beach is the busiest facility operated by the Department of Recreation and Parks. Venice Beach has been labeled as “a cultural hub known for its eccentricities” as well as a “global tourist destination”. It includes the promenade that runs parallel to the beach (also the “Ocean Front Walk” or just “the boardwalk”), Muscle Beach, and the Venice Beach Recreation Center with handball courts, paddle tennis courts, a Skate Dancing plaza, and numerous beach volleyball courts. It also includes a bike trail and many businesses on Ocean Front Walk.
Venice Beach attracts visitors from all over the world and it is estimated that approximately 28,000 to 30,000 people visit the Venice Beach Boardwalk and adjacent Recreation and Parks property on a daily basis. The Boardwalk, also known as Ocean Front Walk, is the second most-visited destination in Southern California, with an average of over ten million visitors per year. It is known as one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk stretches over two miles and hosts hundreds of street vendors and performers along with numerous privately owned restaurants and food venues. The Venice Beach Recreation Center offers various activities including but not limited to basketball, paddle tennis and handball tournaments, body building at the world famous Muscle Beach Venice gym, and other special events.
Venice Beach also offers a fishing pier, a world renowned skate plaza, bike path, two children’s play areas and provides a variety of services for the culturally diverse population that visits throughout the year. Film productions are also very popular at Venice Beach and occur year round. All of the sports courts, skate plaza, pier and other amenities are open to the general public on a daily basis.
The basketball courts in Venice are renowned across the country for their high level of streetball; numerous professional basketball players developed their games or have been recruited on these courts. Venice Beach will host skateboarding and 3×3 basketball during the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Along the southern portion of the beach, at the end of Washington Boulevard, is the ‘Venice Fishing Pier’. A 1,310-foot (400 m) concrete structure, it first opened in 1964, was closed in 1983 due to El Niño storm damage, and re-opened in the mid-1990s.
The Venice Breakwater is an acclaimed local surf spot in Venice. It is located north of the Venice Pier and lifeguard headquarters and south of the Santa Monica Pier. This spot is sheltered on the north by an artificial barrier, the breakwater, consisting of an extending sand bar, piping, and large rocks at its end.
The world famous Venice Ocean Front Walk (aka “the boardwalk”) beckons from the doorstep of the Hotel Erwin. The boardwalk is one of the best places in L.A. for people watching—everyone from colorful locals to visitors from around the globe. Prepare for a sensory overload on Venice’s Boardwalk, a one-of-a-kind experience. Buff bodybuilders brush elbows with street performers and sellers of sunglasses, string bikinis.
There’s something for everyone on the concrete boardwalk: on one side there are specialty shops, restaurants and uniquely designed residences, and on the other a myriad of street performers, artists, fortune tellers and much more. Mexican ponchos cyclists and in-line skaters whiz by on the bike path and skateboarders and graffiti artists get their own domains.
Gym streak can get a tan and a workout at this famous outdoor gym right on the Venice Boardwalk, where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu once bulked up. The body builders totally want you to gawk.
Venice Beach Recreation Center
Venice Beach Recreation Center, which features a number of facilities located between Ocean Front Walk and the bike path, Horizon Ave. to the north, and N.Venice Blvd. to the south. The center includes several children’s play areas with a gymnastics apparatus, as well as handball courts, tennis courts and volleyball courts, all unlighted. The outdoor basketball courts are renowned for games that feature some of the best streetballers in the country. Numerous NBA players developed their games or were recruited from these courts, yet another example of why Los Angeles is Hoops Heaven.
When Angelenos drained their swimming pools during a 1970s drought, board-toting teens from Venice and neighboring Santa Monica made their not-quite-welcome invasion and modern skateboarding culture was born. This public, 17,000-sq-ft, ocean-view skate park is now a destination for both high flyers and gawking spectators.
Arts and culture
Venice has been known as a preferred location for creative artists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Venice became a center for the Beat generation and there was an explosion of poetry and art, which continues today. Major writers and artists throughout the decades have included Stuart Perkoff, John Thomas, Frank T. Rios, Tony Scibella, Lawrence Lipton, John Haag, Saul White, Robert Farrington, Philomene Long, and Tom Sewell.
Originally established as a planned city imitating Venice, Italy, Venice is home to a large number of early 1900s buildings built in to emulate Italian renaissance architecture. Particularly along Windward Avenue, where an arched arcade covers the sidewalks on portions of both sides of the street. Similar buildings originally formed a continuous arcade from the boardwalk to the former lagoon (now the Windward traffic circle) but these were condemned by the City of Los Angeles after annexation. Only through the efforts of local preservationists were the few buildings that remain able to be preserved, although many were substantially modified.
Designers Charles and Ray Eames had their offices at the Bay Cities Garage on Abbot Kinney Boulevard from 1943 on, when it was still part of Washington Boulevard; Eames products were also manufactured there until the 1950s. The brick building’s interior was redesigned by Frank Israel in 1990 as a creative workspace, opening up the interior and creating sightlines all the way through the building.
Originally located at the Venice home of Pritzker Prize–winning architect and SCI-Arc founder Thom Mayne, the Architecture Gallery was in existence for just ten weeks in 1979 and featured new work by then-emerging architects Frank Gehry, Eric Owen Moss, and Morphosis. Constructed on a long, narrow lot in 1981, the Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex was designed Frank Gehry in partnership with artists Laddie John Dill and Charles Arnoldi. Frank Gehry has designed several well-known houses in Venice, including the Jane Spiller House (completed 1979) and the Norton House (completed 1984) on Venice Beach. In 1994, sculptor Robert Graham designed a fortress-like art studio and residence for himself and his wife, actress Anjelica Huston, on Windward Avenue.
In the 1970s, performance artist Chris Burden created some of his early, groundbreaking work in Venice. Other notable artists who maintained studios in the area include Charles Arnoldi, Jean-Michel Basquiat, John Baldessari, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, James Georgopoulos, Dennis Hopper, and Ed Ruscha. Organized by the Hammer Museum over the course of one weekend in 2012, the open-air Venice Beach Biennial (in reference to the Venice Biennale in Italy) brought together 87 artists, including site-specific projects by established artists like Evan Holloway, Barbara Kruger as well as boardwalk veteran Arthure Moore. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Venice Beach boardwalk became a mecca for street performances, turning it into a popular tourist attraction. Chainsaw jugglers, break dancers, acrobats and comics like Michael Colyar could be seen on a daily basis. Many performers like the Jim Rose Circus got their start on the boardwalk.
The Venice Beach boardwalk area is known for its many famous murals by local artists, including Rip Cronk, Jonas Never, and Levi Ponce. Los Angeles is one of the world’s capitals for street art, and murals throughout Venice add to the area’s vibrant energy. Famed muralist Rip Cronk has painted nearly a dozen Venice murals, including Portrait of Abbot Kinney, Venice on the Half Shell and Morning Shot, a portrait of Jim Morrison. The interior of the historic Danny’s Deli on Windward Ave. is decorated with the last original Venice gondola from 1904, as well as Cronk’s Hobnobbing in Venice.
A 40-foot mural that depicts the last century of Venice with past and present celebrities observing the scene. Artist Jonas Never completed Touch of Venice on the side of the Danny’s Deli building in April 2012. The mural was inspired by Touch of Evil, the classic 1958 film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Marlene Dietrich.
Touch of Evil was filmed almost entirely in Venice, which Welles chose as a stand-in for the fictional Mexican border town where the story takes place. The three-minute, 20-second opening tracking shot of Windward is regarded by film critics and fans as one of the greatest long takes in cinematic history. As an homage to that opening, Touch of Venice depicts Heston and Leigh walking down Windward, with numerous references to Venice throughout the mural.
Venice Public Art Walls
The Venice Art Walls were built in 1961 as part of the Venice Pavilion, a recreation and performing arts facility. It was a popular hangout spot for locals owing to its proximity to the beach and large number of concrete tables. The central area of the pavilion, known as “the pit” was surrounded by flat concrete walls that made for ideal painting surfaces. The pit became a hotbed of the growing graffiti movement in Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s, with many prominent artists and graffiti crews painting elaborate pieces on the pavilions walls. The area’s thriving counterculture and arts scene, along with law enforcement’s general neglect of the area made it an ideal location for artists to paint. Thirty-eight years later the Venice Pavilion was torn down but some of the walls, along with two large, conical concrete structures, were maintained. They were restored in 2000 as part of a renovation of the beachfront park area at the end of Windward Avenue, and ever since artists have been allowed to paint there freely and legally.
Venice was where rock band The Doors were formed in 1965 by UCLA alumni Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison. The Doors would go on to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Morrison being considered one of the greatest rock frontmen. Venice is the birthplace of Jane’s Addiction in the 1980s. Perry Farrell, frontman and founder of Lollapalooza, was a longtime Venice resident until 2010.
Venice in the 1980s also had bands playing music known as crossover thrash, a hardcore punk/thrash metal musical hybrid. The most notable of these bands is Suicidal Tendencies. Other Venice bands such as Beowülf, No Mercy, and Excel were also featured on the compilation album Welcome to Venice.
Recreation and parks
The Venice Beach Recreation Center comprises a number of facilities. The installation has basketball courts (unlighted/outdoor), several children play areas with a gymnastics apparatus, chess tables, handball courts (unlighted), paddle tennis courts (unlighted), and volleyball courts (unlighted). At the south end of the area is the muscle beach outdoor gymnasium. In March 2009, the city opened a sophisticated $2 million skate park on the sand towards the north. The Graffiti Walls are on the beach side of the bike path in the same vicinity.
The Oakwood Recreation Center, which also acts as a Los Angeles Police Department stop-in center, includes an auditorium, an unlighted baseball diamond, lighted indoor basketball courts, unlighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, a community room, a lighted American football field, an indoor gymnasium without weights, picnic tables, and an unlighted soccer field.