{ DAY TRIP }

VENICE

From unique boutiques to seaside amusements,
this hip L.A. ’hood Is SoCal Cool.

BY Christina Oriovsky Page
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The coastal community has come a long way since its founding on July 4, 1905, as “Venice of America,” an attraction created by local developer and conservationist Abbot Kinney, who envisioned a stateside version of its namesake Italian city. According to the Venice Historical Society, Kinney created a “cultural city” with Venetian-themed buildings, a pier, a carnival-like atmosphere, with camel rides and a miniature railroad, and 16 miles of manmade canals, complete with Italian gondoliers.

If You Go

Venice is approximately 130 miles from San Diego. Prepare for usual L.A. traffic and expect the drive to take at least two and a half hours. Abbot Kinney Boulevard is just off Venice Boulevard, and both are within a 20-minute walk to the beach.

Like elsewhere in Los Angeles, parking throughout Venice can be a challenge, so plan to park for the day and explore on foot, taking care to read street signs for time limits or park in a paid lot off Abbot Kinney.

Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., 310.450.1429,
gjelina.com

Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Ave., 800.786.7789,
hotelerwin.com

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If the words “Venice Beach” bring to mind 1980s scenes of Schwarzenegger sweat sessions at Muscle Beach or boardwalk fortune tellers tempting tourists with tarot card readings, it’s time for an updated vision. Sure, today’s Venice still offers its fair share of seaside side shows, but it also tempts trendy families, foodies and fashionistas with an assortment of shops, restaurants and good, old-fashioned people-watching.

Today, a few blocks of canals remain, covered by charming bridges and surrounded by spectacularly artsy homes. The Venice Canals Walkway, off Washington Boulevard and Dell Avenue, is well worth a stroll to start your day.

A few-block walk either way will take you to the day’s other destinations: the famed boardwalk and Abbot Kinney Boulevard. For a modern-day carnival atmosphere, head west to Ocean Front Walk, a roughly 1.5-mile paved walkway running parallel to the Pacific, leading into Santa Monica to the north and Marina Del Rey to the south. It’s a scene straight out of a movie, with street performers and “believe-it-or-not” attractions, sidewalk vendors, souvenir shops, and tattoo and piercing parlors.

For a more upscale day of shopping and lunching among the stylish and possible celebrity (in fact, a recent afternoon outing included a near-collision with Ron Howard on a coffee shop sidewalk), there’s no place better than the bustling Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Named after the early-20th-century developer, Abbot Kinney is a haven for hip shoppers looking for trendy threads (KALE sweatshirt, anyone?) and quirky books and gifts at Firefly, vintage T-shirts at celebrity favorite Junk Food Clothing Co., antiques and kitschy home décor at Bazar, and brand name clothing and accessories at TOMS, Jack Spade, Warby Parker and Lucky Brand. Before all that shopping works up an appetite, put your name down on the list for lunch at Gjelina—you’ll recognize the corner restaurant by the crowd waiting outside—a dining hotspot offering breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Try to score a spot away from the bustling dining room on the picture-perfect back patio and don’t miss the mouth-watering brick-oven pizzas, topped with creative and tasty toppings like house-made chorizo, duck or lamb sausage, and mushroom, fontina and truffle goat cheese.

A day of house-hunting, people-watching, shopping and dining wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential sunset. For a million-dollar view, with a cocktail in hand, head to High, a rooftop lounge atop the Hotel Erwin, which boasts prime Pacific Ocean real estate and a beachy chic vibe that perfectly completes your day in Venice.

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