After spending two weeks in Venice Beach, it might just be my favorite place in California. Located on the west side of Los Angeles, this eclectic and creative community has the spirit of a city with a laid back beach vibe. Beyond the temperate and sunny weather, this area has a ton of independent businesses which give Venice Beach its character. I have seven top picks to get a true feel for Venice.
I am by no means a true yogi, but the unique teaching style of Love Yoga can make anyone say "om." I originally intended to try various studios in the area, but after my first class with Kyle Miller, I bought an unlimited pass and went nearly every day of my trip. What makes it so special? The teaching style is encouraging, with a bohemian/surfer type vibe that made even a newbie like me feel welcome.
"I am elevated" is how you order a glass of rose lemonade at Cafe Gratitude. With everything on the menu named after an affirmation, ordering my meal was an experience in itself. This 100 percent organic, plant-based restaurant was so tasty, meat eaters would even enjoy it. Everything I tried was great, and I definitely recommend the yam cauliflower samosa chaat and house "BLT" with coconut bacon.
As you approach Salt & Straw, you can smell the sweet aroma of ice cream begging you to come in. I was greeted by the sweetest employee named Jackie who gave me the lay of the land — and by that, I mean making sure that I sampled about every flavor. Each flavor was unique and went a step above what you'd expect. For instance, their Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons had salt in the vanilla, not just the caramel swirl. My personal favorites were Honey Lavender and Wildflower Honey with Ricotta Walnut Lace Cookies, but you honestly can't go wrong with anything that you try.
I had to make sure to get some physical activity in after my food indulgences. Unlike some parts of Los Angeles, Venice has welcoming, walkable areas. The Venice Canals were my favorite place to explore. The winding canals were gorgeous, and equally admirable houses dot the waterway.
I probably visited Abbott Kinney five times during my trip, and each time I discovered a new store. You won't find chains on this popular street, which makes it a special place. While many stores are on the pricey side, I found reasonably priced souvenirs at Avocado and Huset. It's also worth walking down some side streets to see street art that is located all around the neighborhood.
The Lincoln is a bar that recently opened and stays true to the Venice Beach vibe. With a curated menu and tightly chosen décor in the indoor/outdoor areas, I was able to meet Venice locals and try a few cocktails on the seasonal menu. All cocktails and wine on the menu were an affordable $12. My favorite was the Hot Route, a Mezcal-based cocktail with a refreshing watermelon twist.
High Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Erwin has killer views of the Pacific Ocean and LA skyline. It's a great place to see the sunset and observe Venice from above. Breezy night? No worries! Heaters and blankets and readily available, which were helpful on the windy night that I went. They also have a pretty awesome crab dip and extensive cocktail list.
Overall, Venice Beach was just what I needed to relax and have an easy getaway from Manhattan. I can't wait to return and would love to hear tips for anything that I missed.
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