Venice Beach may not have a reputation for being exceptionally family-friendly, but if you’re up for an adventure, it actually packs quite the playful punch and is one of the best beaches in Los Angeles. From out-of-the-box street performers to skateparks set against a backdrop of the shimmering Pacific Ocean, Venice Beach has more than enough eccentric entertainment to make for a fun outing with your bohemian babes. Keep reading for a list of our favorite things to do in Venice with kids in tow!

Photo: Tomas Del Coro via Flickr

Ocean Front Walk: The Venice boardwalk is truly a circus for the senses and what kid doesn’t love a circus? You and your tiny tourists-for-a-day will have more than enough visual (and fair warning: nasal) stimulation simply strolling past the one and a half miles of shops selling anything from sunglasses to life-sized Transformers.

There is more eclectic flair packed into a one and a half mile stretch of sidewalk than anywhere else around! If you’re looking for polished and pretty, you might want to hit up the Third Street Promenade in neighboring Santa Monica but if everyone wants to shake up the norm a bit (and have a blast doing so), then Ocean Front Walk does this in spades. And the best part? It’s free to see!

Good to Know: Street parking can get tricky around these parts but there are plenty of paid lots in the area for your parking pleasure. There are city parking lots right on the sand at the end of Venice Blvd. and along Pacific Ave. or private lots near Winward Ave, Venice Blvd. and Rose Ave. City parking lots range from $4-$15 depending on the day of the week and/or time of year. Private lots are a little pricier and can run around $25 for the day. As most prefer beach parking, those spots will fill up early, especially on weekends, so plan accordingly. On weekends, swing by the Westminster Elementary School lot (enter on Main St.) as they sometimes offer additional parking for only $5! 

Hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

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Insider Tip: To really get the full experience of Venice, start at the end of Washington Blvd. near the Venice Fishing Pier (technically Marina del Rey) and walk north along the Venice Beach boardwalk. There is an expansive city parking lot right on the sand that rarely fills up (as well as a couple of coffee shops here to keep you caffeinated for your trek into Venice)!

Online: venicebeach.com

Photo: Herbert E. via Yelp

What to See:

Muscle Beach: The site of the original Gold’s Gym, this outdoor exercise space is sure to pump everyone up in the family. There are usually at least one or two bodybuilders lifting weights on-site while bystanders gawk and marvel at their superhuman strength.

Insider Tip: The indoor gym is still frequented by Arnold Schwarzenegger and, if you are lucky, you might catch him entering or leaving on a Sat. morning!

Hours: Mon.- Fri., 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sat.-Sun. noon -4 p.m.

1800 Ocean Front Walk
Venice
Online: musclebeach.com

Photo: Marc Cooper via Flickr

Street Performers: The Venice boardwalk is probably most famous for its vast array of performers. This is not a fancy stage show by any means. The sometimes hundreds of folks dotting the sidewalks are working hard to get your tips. From walking on broken shards of glass and break dancers to unicyclists wearing sequined shorts playing guitar, there is truly a wide variety of spectacle (and talent for that matter). It’s truly a down and dirty circus that is a sure bet to entertain all ages!

Good to Know: Entertainers are sprinkled throughout the boardwalk with a heavier concentration of the beachside entertainment at Winward Ave. Expect to see more performers on the weekends.

Photo: Sharat Ganapati via Flickr

Venice Skatepark: Undoubtedly one of the best stops on the boardwalk, the Venice Skate Park draws people of every age and skill level. Your small shredders will wish they had their own boards on hand as they take in the talented tricks set against an ocean backdrop. There is always a crowd cheering on the skaters (sometimes the pros even show up here to break out some moves) which makes for a fun sense of community that energizes everyone around! 

Hours: Daily; Dawn until dusk

800 Ocean Front Walk
Venice
Online: veniceskatepark.com

Photo: John M. via Yelp

Venice Canals: Viva L’Italia! After enjoying the bohemian buzz of the boardwalk, take your brood inland a couple of blocks to soak up a slice of Italy (without boarding a plane). Nestled in an upscale residential area of Venice Beach, these charming canals are a small part of what used to make up most of the surrounding area. The gondoliers may not be there anymore but (lucky for us!) some of the canals survived and now it’s a perfect place to take your tadpoles for a stroll. Picturesque arched bridges connect the canals in a maze-like layout while ducks float serenely along the paths making this Venice hotspot truly fun for the entire family!

Carroll Ct. and Eastern Canal Ct.
Venice

Photo: Hege M. via Yelp

Venice Beach Bike Path: If you want to zoom your way down the boardwalk and still take in some pretty great people watching, take your bikes to the boardwalk and ride along the bike path. If your little ones’ legs are up for the challenge, take it all the way into Santa Monica. Or if you’ve got tiny tykes in tow, stop along Ocean Front Walk to check out some shops or sidewalk performers.

Good to Know: The bike path can get pretty crowded on weekends (and super sandy) so take your adventures there during the week for a more serene experience.

Need to rent bikes? We recommend Ride! Venice which can run you anywhere from $5 per hour for kid options or $7-$12 per hour for adult bikes. This place has everything on wheels from strollers and baby trailers to tandem and mountain bikes. Rent by the hour or pay a day rate (more cost effective if you plan on enjoying the bike for longer than a few hours).

1915 Ocean Front Walk
Venice Beach
Online: southerncaliforniabeaches.org/venicebeach_bikepath

Photo: Paolo Gamba via Flickr

The Beach: Perhaps the biggest draw of all for your baby sharks is the actual beach at Venice Beach. Three miles of sand manicured daily is a huge draw for anyone whether you’re a local or a tourist. With Los Angeles Lifeguard headquarters stationed here on this beach, parents can rest assured their minnows are being well watched. Parents will love the views while kids will love meeting tons of other kids playing in the sand. Win/win!

Good to Know: There are some great public parking lots right around here that tend to fill up quickly on weekends so best to arrive as early as possible.

South City Parking Lot (near Venice Canals, Venice Recreation and Parks/Muscle Beach Gym/Skate Park/courts)
2100 Ocean Front Walk
Venice

North City Parking Lot:
300 Ocean Front Walk
Venice

Washington Blvd. Lot (Near Venice Pier and Washington Square)
3100 Washington Blvd.
Venice

Beach Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

End of Winward Ave.
Venice
Online: www.venicebeach.com

Photo: Humphry Slocombe via Instagram

Sweet Treats

Humphry Slocombe: Pop into this store that is celebrating its 10th Birthday on Dec. 28th where their Venice outpost will be offering free scoops all day (donations will be accepted and given to Homeboy Industries—an organization that provides free services and job training to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women.

Good to Know: As part of their month-long celebration, they are bringing back fan-favorites like Government Cheez-It and Jesus Juice.

Hours: Noon-12 p.m.

1653B Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice
Online: humphryslocombe.com

It Sugar: As the name not-so-subtly implies, this super colorful store is chock full of all kinds of candy, including the nostalgic and hard to find variety. The selection here is pretty amazing and you can find confectionary delights that you won’t be able to find many other places. But wait, there’s more! Along with sugar, kids will also go nutty for the toys, plush items, and other funky gadgets that this place has to offer.

Good to Know: There are also mature trinkets and merchandise scattered throughout the store that’s tailored specifically to adult shoppers but unless you have an older child, the younger set will be too distracted by the rest to notice.

Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m; Fri.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun. 10:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
2017 Ocean Front Walk
Venice Beach
Online: itsugar.com

photo: Burro Kids via Yelp

SHOPPING

Abbot Kinney Blvd.: After a long day at the beach, head over to trendy Abbot Kinney Blvd. to feed your hungry hippos at one of the many restaurants, cafes and food trucks dotting the street. Known as the hipster capital of Venice, this popular thoroughfare also boasts funky shops, eclectic salons and street art you won’t see anywhere else in the world. If a restaurant meal isn’t in the cards, grab a cup of coffee, get the kids a donut, sit back and take in the laid-back Venice vibe.

Online: abbotkinneyblvd.com

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Jenifer Scott

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