Top Ten Places and Things To Do in Venice and Santa Monica, California

(This post was originally written as a guest blog entry for Got Saga)

Los Angeles may be best known for Hollywood and Disneyland but you won’t get to see the real LA in these places.  In fact, the real LA is not easy to define, as the city is vast and composed of multi-cultural pockets of neighborhoods.  As a westsider, a “Venician”, my LA is artistic, eclectic, and organic with plenty of sunshine, great food and beach time.

Spend a few days in Venice and its neighboring city Santa Monica and you may just never leave this side of LA, with easy access to the freeways, close proximity to the airport and some of LA’s best beaches, as well as great restaurants and shops.

Here are the top ten things to do in Venice and Santa Monica.

  1. Venice Beach.
    Always entertaining and whimsical, Venice can make you feel out of this world.  Take a walk on the Boardwalk and you’ll see various street performers juggling, dancing, singing or haggling.   Step away to the beach for some peace and quiet.  You may even spot a few dolphins swimming very close to the shore.
  2. Browse the eclectic shops on Abbot Kinney Blvd.
    You can spend hours on the stretch of Abbot Kinney between Venice Blvd and Main St.  I wrote a blog entry about where to shop/eat a while back. Abbot Kinney is most lively every first Friday of the month, when stores and art galleries stay open till 10pm for First Fridays.
  3. Eat from food trucks.
    We love food trucks in LA, ever since Kogi BBQ started the food truck craze with their Korean fusion tacos. There are now hundreds, from Vietnamese sandwiches (Nom Nom) and Dim Sum Truck to Ludo Fried Chicken and Coolhaus for ice cream.  You can usually find some of these trucks at the Brig on Abbot Kinney at First Fridays and Saturday afternoons.  The locals’ favorite, however, is La Isla Bonita taco truck at Rose Avenue and Fourth St.  Its popular ceviche tostadas are a must eat and a Venice best buy at only $2.
  4. Santa Monica Pier.Known as the Western Point of Route 66 – the historic roadway that starts in Chicago, Santa Monica Pier bustles with activities and thrilling rides.   Come here for a ride on the Ferris Wheel, a free summer night concert, or to simply enjoy the view of the Pacific.
  5. Farmer’s Markets.
    Going to a Farmer’s Market is a weekly ritual to many Los Angelenos.  No wonder, since one of the best things about California is its fresh local produce.  Catch or assemble your own lunch at one of Santa Monica’s Farmer’s Markets, on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Third St Promenade, or Sundays on Main St.
  6. Watch sunset at Venice Beach or Santa Monica Beach.
    Like many locals, I never get tired of watching the sun set over the pastel blue color of the Pacific.  Venice or Santa Monica Beach is the perfect location for this ultimate, eternal grand show of nature.
  7. BP Oysterette.
    Come to this cute, low-key oyster parlor on Ocean Avenue for fresh raw oysters or a hearty mussel curry.  The patio’s also a great location to watch the sunset.
  8. Yoga.
    Los Angeles is a mecca for yoga.  One of the most revered yoga studios in the nation, Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, is right here in Venice.  Take a class with well-known teachers such as Shiva Rea, Saul David Raye, Seane Corn and Annie Carpenter.
  9. Chinois On Main.
    Wolfgang Puck’s irreverent take on Chinese food remains a local favorite after more than 27 years.  Try the famous Chinois Chicken Salad.  The barbecued baby back ribs and the sizzling catfish burst with flavors.

10. The Getty Center.
The Getty is the one place any visitor to Los Angeles should not miss.  Only a short drive away from Santa Monica on the 405 Freeway, the Getty offers superb panoramic views of Los Angeles, the mountains and the ocean.  Go to the Getty for its lovely gardens, open spaces, Richard Meier-designed modernist architecture, and free concerts in the summer.