Having never been to Venice Beach, I didn’t really know what to expect when I got there. What little knowledge I have gained of the area has been through the media, and the Tony Hawk video game representation of Venice is completely inaccurate.
When I got off the Santa Monica Blue Bus at Pacific Avenue and Windward Avenue on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting a rainbow of different street buildings, or streets bursting with life. I’ve been to the Santa Monica beach and pier several times, and even when it’s the most crowded it doesn’t have the same energy Venice has on a cool winter afternoon.
If I knew how to ride a bike I would have rented one to ride around, but I settled for walking. Venice is a place where walking around and taking in the sights is enough. Surf lessons are available, and several people will try to convince you to get evaluated for medicinal marijuana, but there is also plenty to see and an amazing selection of street performers and artists to watch.
During my visit to the beach I saw break dancers, body builders, a freestyling art vendor and a guy on roller skates playing electric guitar. I also checked out the skateboarders in the skate area on the beach, where a small crowd had already gathered.
If shopping is your thing, then you’re in luck, because every shop that isn’t a tattoo parlor, a pipe shop, a sunglasses shop or an evaluation center sells clothes and shoes. Some stores close to the actual beach are more high end, but many have bargain basement prices.
One interesting thing about Venice is that there are no easily recognizable chain restaurants or stores. All of the vendors close to the beach are in tent-like shacks the size of about half a dorm room, with straight-to-the-point names like “Surf Lessons” and “Sunglasses.” On Ocean Front Walk the shops are in buildings, but the names still have that apparent, one-of-a-kind quality to them.
I ended up getting an ice cream cone at Charly Temmel’s ice cream place, because of their weather-faded, retro sign that boasted the best ice cream in the world. Either I was the only one with a mind to challenge such a boast or January really is too cold for ice cream, because the shop was empty when I went in and ordered a scoop of their strawberry cheesecake ice cream on a waffle cone.
The sign needs to be changed.
I would recommend at least visiting the place, just because they have interesting flavors such as pineapple coconut and a cotton candy that’s a beautiful turquiose, pink and purple. And, according to the manager of the shop, she and her husband make many of the flavors from scratch when the right fruits are in season, meaning spring is a better time to visit.
Before heading back I stopped by the Gotta Have It vintage shop at 1516 Pacific Ave. and talked to Jessie Lieberson, an employee of the shop. Gotta Have It is a consignment shop, so they handpick and purchase the items brought in to them by the items’ previous owners. According to Lieberson, that is why it’s hard to say what the price range in the store is, but casual dresses cost around $20 while the evening gowns that line the walls approach $300 in price. Like the rest of Venice, the store is down to earth, which isn’t always the case in Los Angeles.
E-mail John at [email protected] if you’d like to learn to ride a bike on Venice Beach.