Our recent holiday over Christmas and New Years, began with a few nights in LA, staying close to Venice Beach. We both loved this area, and later in the trip added in another night here too. We would happily have spent more time around Venice Beach too. It’s a good place to start if you are flying into LAX as it’s quite close to the airport. Beaches, quirky shops, and some great places to eat and drink means it has a lot to offer. Most people think of Muscle Beach when they think of Venice in LA but there’s much more to it than that, in fact we didn’t even set eyes on Muscle Beach during our stay!
Where to Stay…
We stayed nearby to Venice Beach in the Hilton Garden Inn in Marina del Rey. There’s also a Marriott in Marina del Rey that we have stayed in before. Both are functional, good hotels. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the Hilton to the Venice Beach Pier and about the same to the centre of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. So it’s a good base for this area if a little on the edge.
Hotels in Venice itself are not plentiful; AirBnB is probably a good way to go if you want to stay in the heart of things. A couple of hotels we might look at for the future would be The Kinney or Hotel Erwin. But I have to say the Hilton Garden Inn ticked a lot of boxes for us, well priced, spacious rooms, good value self parking, a nice bar with good food and a terrace with fire pit for that evening glass of wine.
What to Do, Eat & Drink…
Venice Beach & Boardwalk
As we stayed in the area for our first couple of nights, we were awake early ( the joys of jet lag!) but this is a great location for early rising. Pick up a coffee (most of the local coffee shops open early, 6am or earlier), walk the pier, watch the surfers, stroll the beach. We felt very safe walking around here, even in the early morning, just be sensible in what you bring with you.
Waiting the sunrise every morning here, was a highlight. After the pier, walk (or skate or cycle) along the boardwalk. We stopped off in Noah’s Bagels then for breakfast which we brought back to our hotel and ate on the balcony, before getting ready for the day ahead.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a mile long street of shops, food and drink and at the heart of Venice. We wandered along Abbot Kinney boulevard, stopping into different shops including Adidas Originals, Vince, Hourglass Cosmetics and Pixi; there’s an eclectic mix here and something for everyone. And plenty of parking too along the streets parallel to the main boulevard.
We stopped by Intelligentsia for an espresso. This is clearly where all the cool kids hand out. Coffee was good, but be prepared to queue and wait for it! We also picked up a juice and a bite to eat in Greenleaf later on.
Abbot Kinney was a person too; a developer who designed and built ‘Venice of America’ in 1905. He wanted to recreate Venice, Italy in Southern California hence the canals. Many of the canals were filled in as roads from the 1920s on, but some still remain today. Those that were left fell into disrepair. In 1992 a full renovation programme restored the canals and pathways. You can stroll along the canals too, daydreaming about living in some of those gorgeous houses that line the canal and admiring their boats, particularly the novelty ones!
The Venice Whaler
The Venice Whaler is a good spot for a drink and to watch the sunset if you’re there at the right time. Established in 1944, this is a local institution, serving casual food and drinks and right on the beach.
We had passed Charcoal on our morning walks and decided to book it for our last night in Venice Beach. We arrived just in time for the last of the ‘evening glass off’ so we had a couple of glasses of white wine, a white Rhone blend, Jean Luc Colombo “Les Abeilles” at $7 each, and a little portion of Smoky Grilled Chicken Wings, Oregano, Chili, and Vinegar ($6). The chicken wings were incredible, reminding us of the wings we have had in BBQ restaurants in Japan before. We wished we had ordered more!
We were seated originally at a table in the main restaurant part, but spotting stools at the bar where we could see into the kitchen, we asked could we relocate. We ordered a couple of dishes to share, the Smoked and Grilled Bone-In Short Rib ($42), Steak Fries with Homemade Ketchup ($10) and a Pappardelle pork special ($26). Having tasted wine from Inglenook at the California Wine Fair, when we saw it on the menu here, we decided to treat ourselves with a bottle of Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 ($135); it was worth every cent.
Our total bill came to $255.14, not including service. If you like meat and BBQ put Charcoal on your list to visit, and take a seat at the bar for great atmosphere. The ‘Evening Glass Off’ menu served from 5.30pm-7pm offers great value bites such as oysters, wings, skewers, calamari, cocktails, beer and wine. Although it’s a shame the wine on this menu is French, and not Californian!
Sunset on Venice Beach
We were lucky that we had awesome weather during our time in California, although I think in any weather and at any time of the year I’d be quite happy to walk along the beach, with the waves lapping at my feet. We caught the sunset on our last day before we went north to Seattle and it was a perfect send off.
If you are planning a holiday in LA, staying in this area is highly recommended, for proximity to the airport, the beach and lots of amenities. I’d love to hear your LA recommendations too, I plan to go back as we love it there, so add your suggestions in the comments below!