Venice: not all it’s cracked up to be

Venice Beach, CA
Venice Beach

Venice Beach in California that is. My Lonely Planet Encounter guide says “Venice is just plain cool.” It then follows up by describing the oceanfront walk as “… a little bit crazy and a whole lot of fun.” I beg to differ.

Perhaps I should mention it right up front here, that I’m not a beachy person. Going to the beach has never really interested me. It’s a whole lot of sand that sticks to sweat and vestiges of salt water. It’s a whole bunch of waves pounding incessantly forming a tinnitus in my head. I just don’t find it a relaxing experience. I have seen a lot of beautiful beaches in my time and spent a good two months traversing the Brazilian coast where after a couple of hours at the beach, I was chomping for something more active and adventurous than lazing on a sarong. So for me, there is rarely anything charming about a city beach.

I went to Venice with Movie Lass to see the beach, walk the esplanade and observe the circus I had imagined it to be. I was kind of surprised to see the market stalls setting up as we arrived on a Saturday around 11am. That and getting a $15 park just one street back. I had been told to go on a weekend to see it at its craziest yet here we were in a relatively deserted place with crowds I would expect to find on a weekday, not a glorious 30°C Saturday.

Venice scene
Old guy rocking out in Venice

We started off checking out some stalls, for essentials like hats and sunglasses, but didn’t buy anything. In hindsight, we should have bought the hats when we first saw them because the sun started to beat down rays of redness. We wandered past Muscle Beach, an outdoor gymnasium where I saw a really toned chick with ginormous breasts giving instructions to two muscle-bound guys, but otherwise, it was fairly quiet and there weren’t any other dudes with thighs like huge hocks of ham working out.

It’s obligatory to dip one’s feet in the opposite side of the Pacific, so we crossed the wide stretch of sand to the shore where people were sunbathing, kids were building sandcastles and playing in the shallows, girls taking glamour shots of each other with the waves in the background and people running on the wet sand. Just your regular city beach. The water was freezing cold, yet there were still kids running in there.

When they were handing out freebies, Movie Lass & I were there. Ping pong balls and free soft drink.

We walked north towards Santa Monica where the pier juts out ostentatiously and if we were so inclined, it would have been a good walk to go the whole way. But instead we had to feed our hunger so we walked back to the boardwalk and got a table at the Figtree Cafe, first in the burning sun, and then we moved to a table in the shade, although it wasn’t as great a place to watch the people go by.

I had been expecting it to be circus, with crazy people everywhere, weirdos, and glamazons, and fitness freaks. I guess I expected a lot more entertainment from the people watching than there was. Sure, there was a guy standing on a stool wearing a leopard print loincloth and holding real looking rubber snakes in his hands, and the guy spruiking tickets to see a two-headed turtle, but that was about it.

Venice canals
The beautiful canals of Venice, CA

Aside from the canals, which are really beautiful and peaceful, I didn’t find much to love in Venice. Maybe there’s some more charm for me hidden in the streets away from the beach, but since I’m not into the weed scene or beach scene, Venice is not my kind of place. I’d be keen to hear your thoughts about Venice Beach. What are your memories or experiences? Would you recommend it to your friends as a place to visit?


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