5 star rating: Highly Recommended 28 Reviews

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  • Address: Pacific Coast Highway
  • Hours: Open 24 hrs daily
  • Admission: Free

Southern California’s quintessential bohemian playground, Venice Beach is a haven for artists, New Agers, homeless people, and free spirits of all stripes. This is where Jim Morrison and the Doors lit their fire, where Arnold Schwarzenegger pumped himself to stardom, and where Julia Roberts and Dennis Hopper make their homes today.

Life on Venice Beach moves to a different rhythm and nowhere more so than on the famous Venice Boardwalk, officially known as Ocean Front Walk. It’s a nonstop Mardi Gras of fortune tellers, street musicians, and characters of all colors, shapes, and sizes. This is where to get your hair braided, your karma corrected, and your back massaged qigong–style.

Encounters with hoop dreamers, a Speedo-clad snake charmer and a roller-skating Sikh minstrel are pretty much guaranteed, especially on hot summer days. The Sunday-afternoon drum circle draws hundreds of revelers for tribal playing and spontaneous dancing.

Not far from the boardwalk, find bodybuilders pumping iron at Muscle Beach - a gated area containing weight lifting and gymnastic equipment - where Schwarzenegger used to be a regular.

For a break from the madness, head couple of blocks away from the beach, where you’ll find a series of narrow canals connected by one-lane bridges that thread past eclectic homes where ducks preen and locals lollygag in little row boats.

Practical Info

Venice Beach is southeast of Santa Monica, along the Pacific Coast Highway. Abbot Kinney Boulevard has street parking, but you can also find ample parking along the beach.

The stretch of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, between Venice Boulevard and Main Street, is chockablock with boutiques, galleries, vintage clothing stores, and restaurants.

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