One of North America’s most popular boardwalks hovers along the ocean front of one of the largest, and trendiest, cities in the world: Los Angeles. And with current affordable flights from Vancouver International Airport to LAX, the infamous Venice Beach Boardwalk is now a hop, skip, and a jump away.
A vibrant Southern California neighbourhood, Venice Beach is a quick – yet satisfying – getaway, and can be done over a small period of time, and on a budget. Sunshine, beach, free activities, hip cafes, and cheap eats – Venice is truly a hidden gem for budget travellers.
Three days in this glorious beach town is enough to recharge during the West Coast’s rainy season. And with budget in mind, here is a brief guide to the home of Gold’s Gym (where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained back in the ’70s), some Baywatch scenes and America’s latest tech hub: Venice Beach.
In the heart of Venice Beach’s boardwalk, right along the beach and Windward Plaza, is Canadian-owned Samesun Backpackers. Situated at the start of Windward Avenue, this location could not be more ideal for travellers. With ocean views, a kitchen and close proximity to pretty much all of Venice, this is the perfect spot to rest your head after a day of biking, surfing and eating. Oh, and did we mention the world-famous Venice sign is on that street?
Budget eats and drinks
Along the boardwalk, a line-up is usually visible at the popular Venice lunch spot Poke Poke. Poke, a Hawaiian style tuna tar-tar, is not sashimi, but its very own tasty and affordable treat. At Poke Poke, you can choose the marinate and toppings. For $7, this healthy lunch will fill you up- but you will definitely come back for more. Our tip: take the bowl and enjoy it on the beach.
One of the best parts of travelling to a new place is discovering its local dive bars. Venice Beach’s Hinano Café is just that. A perfect spot for cheap beers, but a must order here is their world famous cheeseburger for $6.50, which comes with a randomly selected bag of chips. Equipped with pool tables, televisions, and extremely frosty mugs, this bar is a must-visit while in Venice.
Speaking of beers, the Venice Ale House has a lot of them and is right on the beach. On any given afternoon, this patio is packed with locals and tourists alike. Their food is locally sourced and organic, and their beers and wine are from California. Unsure of what to drink? Try the flight. They are delicious, sharable, and are presented on a skateboard.
Budget (or free) activities
Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the Venice Beach boardwalk, the community’s hidden canals were once used as part of the transportation plan. With the increased use of vehicles, some of the canals were filled in and converted into roads- specifically Pacific and Electric Avenues. Luckily, some canals remain – and a walk among them is way to spend a beautiful quiet afternoon in Venice. To find these treasures, look for the Venice Canals sign (and one of the canals) on North Venice Blvd, between Pacific and Dell Ave.
Run, bike, skate, or dance along the Venice Boardwalk. It stretches to the neighbouring communities of Marina del Rey and Santa Monica, both worth a visit too.
Rent some surf gear and check out the Venice swells. Or just bring a towel and relax on the empty beaches.
Visit Muscle Beach. It is outdoors, and free. You don’t need to work out there to appreciate it. And yes, this is part of the Venice experience.
Check out the beach front skate park. The Venice Skate Park has beginners and pro’s on it from sunrise to sunset. You’ll see many visitors around the park snapping shots of the skaters.
Take a stroll down to Abbott Kinney. This street, named after the developer of the Venice Canals, is full of little boutiques and awesome coffee shops. Among the best coffee shops on Abbott Kinney is the TOMS Flagship Store. Serving fair trade coffee, this TOMS store has a unique layout mixing retail with comfortable couches, and even a dog friendly area. Possibly one of the best spots to use wifi, sip on coffee, and upload some great Instagram shots of your Venice trip.
Here are two local splurge tips for your trip: Menotti’s Coffee Shop, a more pricey cup of coffee, but some of the best you will ever have. For $5, try their delicious almond milk latte.
Windward Farms: This local grocery store located right by the Venice sign has some amazing freshly squeezed juices. The $4.50 green juice is the perfect hangover cure in Venice.
With multiple daily departures, Air Canada’s budget line Air Canada Rouge offers direct flights to LAX with return flights as low as $250. After the two-hour and 45 minute flight, options include a shuttle bus or a quick 20 minute Uber or Lyft ride to take you to Venice Beach. If you’ve never used Lyft or Uber, your first ride is free (up to $20) when you first sign up. And while there, these are your best friends in terms of transportation.
Safe travels, Vancouver!
Map from: Venicebeach.com
Images: Yasmin / Vancity Buzz
Disclosure: Accommodation in Venice was provided by Samesun Backpackers.