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Although there is a 5-kilometre-long sandy beach here, it is rarely the reason why people come to Venice Beach. This sandy stretch and boardwalk is mostly famous for its eclectic mix of eye-catching people, street performers and California beach boys. Venice Beach is all about people watching.
Venice Beach belongs to the Venice city district, wedged between Santa Monica Boulevard and Marina del Rey. The neighbourhood takes its name from the many canals that were dug here in 1905 to turn the land into a residential area. In the 1920s, a number of canals were filled in again to build streets for the horse-drawn carriages. Fortunately several canals have survived and form this charming neighbourhood right by the beach.
It is always busy along Ocean Front Walk, the ‘boardwalk’ of Venice Beach. Numerous street performers – ranging from musicians and singers to acrobats and magicians – entertain the crowds. Muscle Beach is where bodybuilders and fitness fanatics sculpt and flex their muscles on outdoor equipment. It is not always clear whether they are actually trying to get fitter or simply showing off their bodies to the ever-present crowds.
Sports are a very popular pursuit here. There are numerous volleyball and basketball courts on and around the beach, and the long cycle path that runs from Venice Beach to Santa Monica is popular with skaters and cyclists. There are also several rental shops along the boardwalk where you can rent rollerblades and bicycles if you don’t have your own. For the ultimate California experience, rollerblade along the boardwalk under the palm trees as the sun sets.
Venice Beach is a great destination to shop for unusual and fun souvenirs. The boardwalk is lined with dozens of shops selling clothing and jewellery. You can also pick up a quick tattoo, although that may be a somewhat permanent souvenir to take home. For more options, browse along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This street runs diagonally through the Venice neighbourhood and offers a great mix of boutiques, restaurants and trendy bars.