Four Hours: Exploring the wonderfully weird and wildly walkable Venice


The aromas that swirl and dance with the salty air of the seaside neighborhood of Venice are guaranteed to take your olfactory system on a Mystic Journey — pun intended for those of you who know the neighborhood’s legendary new-age bookstore of the same name.

From the spray-painted graffiti walls near the boardwalk to handmade luxury perfumes on Abbot Kinney Boulevard to earthy incense from yoga studios, Venice delights, dazzles, bewilders and shocks the senses. Strap on your fitness tracker for a rollicking walking tour that will reveal some of the quirkiness and swagger that this beach community — once known as the “slum by the sea” — has to offer: As you go, look for signs of Venice’s still-bohemian core rubbing up against some of the priciest real estate in Los Angeles County.


3:30 p.m. Reawaken your love for arts and crafts with this kitschy-meets-splendorous house called the Mosaic Tile House at 1116 Palms Blvd. Professional artists and husband/wife team Gonzalo Duran and Cheri Pann have opened their Instagram-worthy house — covered with over 10 million mosaic tiles — to the public, and it’s fine art meets a rainbow explosion. There’s a yellow brick road, a giant fortune cookie, a Beanie Baby celebration wall and more, all made of mosaic tiles. (The couple make their own tiles in their private art studio located in the back of their home.) “You know when people say less is more? Well, we say more is more,” Duran said of his design philosophy. “More creativity initiates more ideas.” Their home is open for tours on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m for $20 per person (reservations recommended) and weekdays by appointment only for $30 per person. Expect to spend about 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon how many selfies you want to take.

4:00-4:45 p.m. If you’re up for walking, stroll southwest on Palms Boulevard and you’ll hit Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a thoroughfare lined with picturesque palm trees and filled with designer shoes, swanky coffee shops and crystals galore. (Your other option is to drive or get a ride closer to the boulevard and the beach, but expect traffic, costly parking lots and the possibility of a parking ticket.) What was once a mile-long stretch that was home to an enclave of shabby artists and local beach dwellers has taken shape as something entirely different — and dare we say — en vogue? This is arguably ground zero for the philosophical debate between proponents and opponents for and against the resurgence and gentrification of Abbot Kinney Boulevard and the surrounding Venice area.

As you take in the sights and sounds of Abbot Kinney, you may even get a whiff of the supernatural: If you feel like the stars are aligning, watch for the Tin Can Tarot, a mini-trailer for Tarot card readings that occasionally can be found parked on the side of the road.

If time allows, stores such as Toms Shoes, Principessa, Stone Cold Fox, Burro, Strange Invisible Perfumes and Stag make window shopping an experience that assuages a California state of mind. Consider satisfying your sweet tooth at Salt & Straw at 1357 Abbot Kinney Blvd. with a scoop of ice cream by choosing from unusual flavors such as: black olive brittle and goat cheese, chocolate rose petal, wildflower honey with ricotta walnut lace cookies and orange blossom sorbet with edible flowers.

People ride bikes and scooters along the Venice Beach boardwalk on April 19, 2019.
(Allison Zaucha / For The Times)

4:45 p.m.-5 p.m. If you’re up for it, keep walking southwest to the Venice Canals. Or, if you want to travel like one of the locals, pick up one of the many nearby electric scooters and scoot over to the man-made canals. Be sure to ride only on the road, follow posted signs and drop your scooter before entering the Venice Canal Historic District: Bikes and scooters are not permitted inside.


5:00-5:50 p.m. Continue to give your fitness tracker a workout as you wander the Venice Canals, an homage to the canals of Venice, Italy, that was planned by developer Abbot Kinney. Once coined “America’s most unique attraction,” the Canals of Venice were excavated in 1905 and donated to the city in 1912. The beautiful waterways with artistic bridges stretch for three miles and are filled with water from the Pacific Ocean. The home of the late Kinney is situated along the Venice Canals — along with some of the most premier homes in Los Angeles. “The Venice of America” is certainly no Italy, but it offers a charming and enlightening walk where you can be your own guide, and where you can spend as much or as little time as your schedule allows.

6:00-6:20 p.m. Venture down to the Venice Boardwalk, where you are sure to see some eyebrow-raising sights. Street vendors and performers pack the boardwalk at all hours, making the energy in the area strikingly palpable. From the boardwalk you can take in the Venice Public Art Walls, Muscle Beach and the Venice Beach 11 POP Tennis Courts. At this location you are likely to see Arnold Schwarzenegger look-alikes, break dancing, local art, unusual fashion choices and perhaps even some sights you wish you hadn’t seen.

6:30-7:30 p.m. Cheers! You have made it to the end of an eventful day and now you can celebrate on Venice’s only rooftop bar. Venture northeast to the High Rooftop Lounge at Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Ave., which is located mere feet from the sand and offers spectacular sunset views. Sip on a My Little Pony cocktail (Hangar One vodka, lime, basil, strawberry purée and ginger beer) as you look out toward the ocean and feel the chill Venice Beach air kiss you a sweet, salty and strange goodbye. Walk, grab a scooter or a car service back to your starting point.

Mikki Hernandez from left, Lorenzo Cruz, Casey Wu and Colin Linggo hang out at Hotel Erwin rooftop lounge on a cloudy Venice evening on April 19, 2019.
(Allison Zaucha / For The Times)