11 Best Things to Do in Venice Beach, California
When visiting Los Angeles, checking out the coastal community of Venice Beach is a must for any travel itinerary.
Known for its laid-back bohemian energy, lively boardwalk, sandy shoreline, and Venetian-style canals, there are many awesome things to do in Venice Beach, California, to cater to all types of travelers.
Kids love the famous beach, backpackers thrive off the outdoorsy atmosphere, and foodies are enthralled by the abundance of beachside cafes. And of course, wandering the Venice boardwalk is one of the best free things to do in Venice Beach, California, for all visitors!
Despite being just 17 miles west of downtown LA, (and often just regarded as a part of LA itself) Venice Beach offers an entirely different perspective on the huge SoCal city.
Easily accessible via driving or public transportation, you can explore the area as a day trip or part of a longer stay. After all, this is one of the coolest and prettiest beaches in the state! It only makes sense to soak up the rays and take some time getting to know the community.
If you really want to immerse yourself in the iconic SoCal way of life, pair your visit to Venice Beach with nearby Santa Monica.
But what exactly are the best things to do in Venice, California? What to do in this famous beachfront resort town, indeed!
Read on for a complete guide to fun, free, and family-friendly Venice Beach tourist attractions and activities!
What is Venice Beach, California, known for, and how might you expect to spend your time there?
Let’s break down the basics for folks looking for an at-a-glance overview! If you want more details, simply continue reading for more detailed advice on each of these places and activities.
11 Best & Fun Things to do in Venice Beach, California
Now, let’s dive into the top activities and Venice Beach attractions to visit.
1. Venice Beach and Boardwalk
Address: Ocean Front Walk, Los Angeles, CA 90291
When in Venice Beach, California, the number-one item on the agenda should be to dig your toes in the sand and at least wade into the Pacific Ocean.
Venice Beach Walking Tour
You can explore the major sights on foot. Start your self-guided walking tour at the neon Venice sign that flies above Pacific Ave and Windward Avenue. From there, you can wander down to Windward Plaza and enter the main beach and Venice Beach boardwalk area.
Venice Beach Skatepark & Venice Public Art Walls
Pay attention to the Venice murals that decorate the entrance to the beach. These works of street art were painted by professional graffiti artists and are a joy to both see and photograph. At the same time, you can while away hours watching skaters hone their technique at the Venice Beach Skate Park.
Be sure to check out the Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower nearby the Venice Skatepark as well. This original shack received its rainbow makeover during Pride 2017 and stands to represent diversity in the area while supporting both local and wider LGBTQ+ communities.
Muscle Beach is another Venice Beach icon. Celebrating physical health, the recreation zone contains a weightlifting area and basketball court for public use.
You’re welcome to use the Muscle Beach facilities yourself or simply grab a seat and people-watch. There are typically lots of street performers in this area as well!
Visiting the beach and walking along the boardwalk are classic free things to do in Venice Beach, California. However, if you feel inspired to brush up on your knowledge about the local area, consider booking a ticket for the Ultimate Venice Beach Experience.
This guided walking tour is led by a local who explains the significance of Venice’s main sights. You’ll also have the fun opportunity to lift weights at iconic Muscle Beach!
The tour is perfect for families, couples, and solo travelers alike – especially those who might feel self-conscious working out at the outdoor gym at Muscle Beach unsupervised!
See Related: Best Beaches in the US to Visit
2. Marina Del Rey
Address: Beach Ave, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Marina Del Rey is a seaside community and recreation area situated just behind Venice Beach. The neighborhood bustles with waterfront eateries, lodging for residents and tourists, and over 5,000 boats bobbing along as the waves break.
Burton Chace Park sits on the east side of the docks and provides beautiful views across the water and marina.
During the summer months, you can expect to find free concerts and events taking place, while festive installations bring cheer leading up to the holidays in the fall and winter.
Across the park on the west side, you’ll find Mothers Beach and Marina Beach. This is a no-surfing-allowed zone where smaller children can paddle and exhaust themselves in the beachside playground.
Besides taking a casual stroll around the green spaces and grabbing delicious food in the restaurants, the best way to experience Marina Del Rey is by getting out on the calm water.
This Kayak and Paddleboard Tour with Sea Lions lets you choose between a boat or a SUP. It’s led by a knowledgeable local guide who provides the lowdown on the local environment and resident marine wildlife.
Starting at Mother’s Bay, you’ll paddle toward the channel that leads to the Pacific Ocean. Single and double kayaks are available, making this one of the best things to do in Venice Beach for adventurous travelers – whether solo, as a couple, or with family and friends.
See Related: Best Vacations for a Group of Friends
3. Surfing Lessons
Address: Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90292
Did you even visit Southern California if you didn’t catch at least one wave? Surfing is the quintessential Californian pastime, and Venice Beach is no different.
If you’ve never surfed, then surf lessons are one of the most popular things to do in Venice Beach, California. There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the SoCal lifestyle! Besides, Venice Breakwater enjoys mellow waves that offer optimum conditions even for surf newbies.
Venice Beach surfing lessons
This 2-hour Group Surfing Lesson is designed for total beginners as well as intermediates looking to improve their technique. Before diving in (literally!), your certified instructor will explain the basics of the sport from the beach.
Afterward, you’ll have around 40 minutes of coaching in the water while your coach keeps you safe. Surfboards and wetsuits are included in the booking fee, so you can simply show up!
Alternatively, for a more immersive experience, you can book a Private Surfing Lesson in Venice Beach. Again, the class is geared toward first-time surfers as well as those with previous experience. This private surf class permits children as young as 7 to participate and is an epic activity for families to share.
Surfing is available year-round at Venice Beach. Even if you decide to skip it, be sure to take the time to observe the pros at work and cheer on those attempting to catch their first wave.
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See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World
4. Venice Beach Sunset
Address: Venice Fishing Pier Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Is Venice Beach, California, worth visiting for the sunset, you might wonder. Well, the answer is a big YES! Venice Beach experiences some of the most magical sunsets in the state, and it’s worth going purely for golden hour.
If you’re lucky enough to spend a couple of nights at Venice Beach, you can pick a different sunset destination for each evening of your stay.
Where to watch the sunset in Venice Beach
One of the best places to watch the Venice Beach sunset is the Venice Fishing Pier. This 700-foot-long pier stretches out over the Pacific Ocean and provides panoramas out to sea and back toward town.
You can fish from the Venice Beach Pier without a license, and rentals are readily available as you stroll along the pier – there’s really no reason not to give it a go!
Other coveted sunset spots include Venice Beach itself, Marina Del Rey, and the Venice Canals. Seize the moment to return to your favorite place in Venice Beach to experience it at this special time of day.
We all know that sunsets are best when shared with other travelers. Whether you’re traveling solo or with relatives or buddies, the Venice Beach Sunset Walking Tour is a great way to make new friends while in town.
The tour guides you to the iconic sights of Venice Beach before concluding with a refreshing mocktail on the sand as the sun sinks into the water, creating an idyllic scene.
Looking for rentals in Venice Beach?
VRBO is one of the best sites to find cheap rentals.
5. Cycle to Santa Monica
Address: (for cycling the South Bay communities): 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Santa Monica, another must-visit California city, is conveniently located just 2.5 miles north of Venice Beach. This is where you’ll find the legendary Santa Monica Pier, jutting out into the Pacific with its giant Ferris wheel towering 55 feet above the beach.
Fun fact: the Santa Monica Pier was the first of its kind on the West Coast. Built in 1909, the concrete pier was a massive feat of engineering and architecture, and it’s still just as iconic today as it was over a century ago!
Because of their proximity, it makes perfect sense to visit the two towns in tandem. And the journey between the two beach resorts is where the fun really begins!
Walking or cycling to Santa Monica from Venice Beach is a great way to soak up the sights while getting a mild workout, the SoCal way.
The beach bike path, known as The Strand, connects the two towns and runs parallel to the ocean, highlighting a completely different aspect of Los Angeles County.
The flat, easy bike path makes this one of the most adventurous things to do in Venice Beach with kids, as a couple, or solo. You can even do this with your own wheels if you have them!
Otherwise, the Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Adventure provides bike rentals and a guide service with a small group.
On the other hand, the Private Electric Bike Tour of Santa Monica and Venice Beaches is a more accessible option that provides the luxury of a private tour exclusive to your family or group.
Once in Santa Monica, you can explore the local attractions and even visit the site marking the end of Historic Route 66. This lesser-known Los Angeles attraction shouldn’t be missed!
See Related: Best Things to Do in California
6. Venice Canals
Address: Venice Canal Historic District Venice Beach, CA 90292
The Venice Beach canals truly put the “Venice” into Venice Beach!
Inspired by the original canals in Venice, Italy, the Venice Canal Historic District is a network of artificial waterways constructed in 1905.
The canals are centrally located off Pacific Avenue and South Venice Boulevard and open to the public. A series of bridges and pedestrian sidewalks connect the waterways and make it easy to navigate on foot.
Strolling around the Venice Canals district is one of the most romantic things to do in Venice Beach, California. The canals are beautiful to encounter at any time of day, with mornings offering a peaceful experience and evenings bringing remarkable sunsets.
If you want to elevate your experience, you can explore the waterways by canoe as part of a Private Tour on Historic Venice Canals. This takes place in the evening to coincide with sunset and offers a unique way to immerse yourself in the Venice Beach Canals.
With no waves to contend with, the activity is suitable for guests of all experience levels, abilities, and ages. Generally speaking, the beach attracts the lion’s share of the crowds at golden hour. That means that you’ll get the rare and unique opportunity to paddle the waters in (near) solitude!
There’s also a small playground situated within the Venice Canal Historic District complex, which will appease the kids (or kids at heart!).
7. Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve
Address: Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
Now, time for something entirely different! The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is a natural green space south of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and Marina Del Rey. It encompasses 600 acres of wetlands, uplands, shrubland, sand dunes, and salt marshes and overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
The wetlands are subject to seasonal flooding and provide a safe sanctuary for such wildlife as American kestrels, peregrine falcons, desert cottontails, coyotes, and California king snakes.
Plant life is equally diverse, with scatterings of wild sage, beach evening primrose, and pampas grass. It’s the perfect environment for getting some clean air into the lungs!
You can explore the reserve independently or book a guided tour led by one of the volunteer guides who tend to the park.
Ballona schedules frequent tours and immersive events throughout the year that aim to educate and kindle an interest in conservation. They also host clean-ups and appreciate the support of volunteers from the general public.
Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve is one of the best outdoor things to do in Venice Beach. This is especially true for kids who want to learn about the natural world!
But, really, the reserve deserves to feature on any Venice Beach itinerary – especially if you’re passionate about conservation and The Great Outdoors.
See Related: Best Holiday Destination Spots for Couples
8. Luxury Boat Cruise with Wine and Cheese
Address: 13524 Bali Way, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292
Venice Beach is associated with surfing, skating, and boho vibes. But that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of luxurious things to do in Venice Beach when you feel like indulging in something glamorous!
Specialty boat cruises invite you to get out on the water and indulge in rest and relaxation. One of the best cruises in Venice Beach is this Luxury Boat Cruise with Wine and Cheese.
You will hop aboard an electric Duffy boat in Marina Del Rey and settle back as your captain glides you through the water, past hidden gems and the sea lions and birds who dwell in the docks.
The experience takes you up close to see the mega yachts docked in the marina and gives you a chance to connect with both the community and nature.
This romantic activity includes a serving of charcuterie, fruits, and white or red wine of your choosing (two glasses per participant). It’s perfect for date night during your Venice Beach getaway.
The tour is available as a group, with sailings commencing at 5:00 pm daily. Otherwise, for an additional touch of luxury, you can surprise your other half and book a private cruise. These are available at various times throughout the day.
9. Shopping in Venice Beach
Address: Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291
This eclectic beach town is the perfect place to pick up some unique souvenirs to commemorate your time in Los Angeles. Independent stores, boutiques, and souvenir shops in Venice Beach sell all manner of items, including jewelry, surf and skatewear, arts, books, and trinkets.
We recommend checking out Burro Venice on Abbot Kinney Boulevard for high-quality apparel, accessories, stationery items, and gifts. The friendly staff even offers a gift wrap service.
Principessa, also on Abbot Kinney Blvd, and Boardwalk Vintage specialize in stylish retro and contemporary clothing, swimwear, and accessories. At the latter, you can also browse vinyl records.
If you’re fortunate to find yourself in Venice Beach on a Friday, you can visit the weekly farmers market. This takes place on Venice Blvd. between 7-11:00 am.
You can pick up farm-fresh produce, artisanal pantry items, locally-made arts and crafts, and a seemingly infinite assortment of goodies. Even if you aren’t looking to shop, this is one of the best places to visit in Venice Beach for the atmosphere alone.
Come Saturday, it’s Marina Del Rey’s turn to have a farmers market. This one takes place at Mothers Beach between 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.
Items on sale follow in the same vein as the Venice Boulevard market, offering all sorts of fun things. That being said, the Marina Del Rey market is primarily known for its exemplary vegan street eats and products, as well as some of the best coffee in town.
See Related: Cheapest Shopping Destinations in the World
10. Seaside dining and drinking
Address: Venice Whaler, 10 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292
All these activities are going to make you rather hungry, so let’s run through where to eat in Venice Beach. In terms of dining and drinking, there are two essential places to visit in Venice Beach.
Up first, the Rose Venice is an icon that attracts Venice Beach residents and tourists in equal measure. The space consists of indoor and outdoor seating, making it the perfect choice if rain threatens your outing (which is fortunately rare in SoCal!).
The menu spans comfort food such as pizza, pasta, and all-day breakfast, as well as raw seafood and health-conscious meat, fish, and veggie dishes. Drinks are inclusive of tea, coffee, smoothies, and cocktails.
Offering ocean views, no-frills grub, and happy hour drinks, the Venice Whaler on Washington Blvd is a pillar of the community.
Try the clam chowder or snap up the catch of the day. The joint opens up from brunch until 2:00 am and is the perfect spot to start or end a night out in Venice Beach, California.
Committed foodies will appreciate taking a Secret Food Tour of Venice Beach, Los Angeles. The package is available as a group or private option, which makes it a solid choice for solo travelers as well as groups.
The local guide will steer you toward secret treasures and share intel on the Venice Beach foodie scene while you nibble on tasters.
11. Santa Monica Pier
We couldn’t finish this guide of the best things to do in Venice Beach without dedicating a whole section to the iconic Santa Monica Pier. While it’s technically not in Venice Beach proper, the pier is just a couple of miles north (you can easily spot it from its Ferris wheel!)
When it was built in 1909, the 1,600-foot-long Santa Monica Pier had a strictly functional, very non-glamorous purpose: to carry sewage pipes.
However, the pier understandably became an instant entertainment attraction, drawing locals and visitors alike who spent hours walking the pier and fishing from it.
It wasn’t long before the “amusement pier” with rides and games, Coney Island-style, was built adjacent to the original pier. Today, many still stand, including the famous Looff Hippodrome Carousel, celebrating its 100th birthday in 2022.
Families, friends, couples, and solo adventurers all find plenty to do at the Santa Monica Pier. Enjoy the amusement park rides, spend time simply people-watching, sample some of the delicious foods, and try your luck fishing right off the pier. You don’t even need a fishing license here!
Take a Santa Monica and Venice Beach Tour from Los Angeles and see the beauty of the pier.
No matter how you spend your time at the Santa Monica Pier, don’t leave before taking a selfie with the neon Santa Monica Yacht Harbor sign — it’s one of those California tourist attractions you just can’t skip!
Are you looking for hotels near the pier?
Find cheap hotels at Booking.com or Hotels.com to get the best deals.
See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit
Getting around Venice Beach, California
Now that you know about the best things to do in Venice Beach let’s address how to actually navigate to and around the destination.
The great news is that Venice Beach is extremely walkable. Many of the activities outlined above are accessible either on foot or by bicycle. Venice Beach is extremely bike-friendly, so you can feel safe getting around on a two-wheeler.
While bikes aren’t permitted on the Venice Beach boardwalk or Venice pier, the city has several dedicated bike lanes. You can bring your own bike or rent from one of the many rental stores in town on Venice Boulevard or near the boardwalk.
Public transportation in Venice Beach
There is no subway service in Venice Beach. However, local buses connect several neighborhoods if you need to travel further out than the city center. Buses in town are operated by Metro and Big Blue Bus, with regular connections to the Santa Monica Pier and Los Angeles.
In terms of getting to Venice Beach from Los Angeles, you can drive the 17 miles with your own rental car in about 30 minutes when traffic is at its best.
Alternatively, you can take bus number 33 from Patsaouras Bus Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. Operated by Metro, the ride takes around an hour.
If you do wish to rent a car to get around Venice Beach and Los Angeles County, we recommend using Rentalcars.com or Kayak. Venice Beach parking is widely available in town, but at peak hours, spaces do fill up fast. We recommend booking accommodation that includes parking, if possible.
What is the best thing to do with kids in Venice Beach?
Kids will love making sand castles on Venice Beach and burning off energy at the beachfront children’s playground. Simply enjoying an oceanfront walk and looking for shells is great too!
What are some fun things to do in Venice Beach?
Taking a surfing lesson and cycling the Venice Beach Boardwalk are some of the most entertaining things to do in Venice Beach, California.
What are some things to do in Venice Beach when it’s raining?
In terms of what to do to explore Venice Beach, California, you can browse the small boutiques and savor a cup of coffee from a beach cafe. Or, sample local brews at the Venice Beach Beer Company.
What are the best tourist attractions in Venice Beach?
The best Venice Beach tourist attractions include Venice Beach Boardwalk, Marina Del Rey, the Venice Canals, Muscle Beach, and the Venice Sign.
Is it safe to swim at Venice Beach?
The waves are mild at Venice Beach, which makes it safe to swim and surf. Lifeguards are stationed on the beach.
When visiting Los Angeles, checking out the coastal community of Venice Beach is a must for any travel itinerary.
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