L.A. is chalked full of iconic locations, from historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame and the Sunset Strip. One place that seems to pop up in film, music and movies most of all though, is the famous Venice Beach which also heavily populated with attractions like Muscle Beach, The Venice Beach Boardwalk, the iconic white lifeguard towers, numerous small shops, street vendors and performance artists that call the area home.
It also happens to be the central hub of kookiness of an already kooky L.A. gathering artisans, musicians, skaters, cyclists and gawkers in a small dense geographic location.
About Venice Beach
Located in Santa Monica Venice is a residential area that has been around for over one hundred years. If you are wondering about the name, it’s because of its manmade canals created upon its founding back in 1905 in an attempt to emulate Venice, Italy. This actually worked and much of the land around the canals was sold and developed. Unfortunately after their creation the canals fell into disrepair, as did the area at large, some of the canals were filled in and turned into streets and the sidewalks running adjacent to the canals were condemned. Eventually a new initiative renovated the remaining canals inflating the value of the area and making Venice shine again!
L.A.’s Obsession with Fitness
Los Angeles is famous for its fitness obsession and Venice Beach might as well be its headquarters. With the famous Venice Beach Skate Park (which the origins of freestyle skateboarding can be traced back to the area), the famous Muscle Beach, surfing and cycling paths bordering the area. Make sure if you choose to cycle keep in mind that you will have to walk your bicycle or leave it at a bike rack and walk.
Muscle Beach Venice
When I said that Venice was the headquarters of the fitness obsession it was a little bit of a misnomer, in actuality it was its birthplace. As early as the 1930s the fitness obsessed would gather on the south end of the Santa Monica Pier to exhibit their gymnastic prowess. Later on the location most people are familiar with today is homage to the original open air gym south of the pier. You might also hear it being referred to as “The Weight Pen” which is what it was called before the name was officially changed to “Muscle Beach Venice”. There are periodic body-building events held there but during opening hours you will always be able to see weightlifters, showing off their muscular chops. Although you can stand around outside the pen and gawk all you want if you want to pump iron with the best Venice has to offer, you’ll have to get a year-round membership for 170 bucks, a weekly membership for 50 dollars or a day pass for 10.
Venice Public Art Walls
Another famous point of interest in Venice are the public art walls designated for street artists to practice their craft. The exciting thing about these public walls is that they are constantly changing, but are managed by Creative Unity. This area is also colloquially known by the locals as “the Pit” or “the Graffiti Pit”. These walls were originally part of a pavilion built in the 60s and which became an ad-hoc graffiti gallery when its use was suspended. After the building was torn down artist continued adorning the fragments of the walls left behind, unmolested by the police and to the joy of the community. Eventually Creative Unity, a Venice based graffiti initiative got permission from the city so the artists could work with a permit on the walls. Today it’s a staple of the Venice Beach scene, tying seamlessly with the surfers, skaters and pedestrians walking the area.
Sideshows used to travel with fairs, carnivals and circus, and featured a menagerie of oddities to disgust, terrify and amuse its patrons. They usually featured animals or people with certain disorders and due to insensitivity towards people with disabilities. If you still want your skin to crawl and see strange feats being perform in front of your eyes, then you can visit Venice’s very own Sideshow. The story of how it started might actually be just as interesting as the attractions. Todd Ray woke up one day and decided to create a sideshow…which doesn’t seem that crazy right? It does when you consider he was an award winning music producer making millions of dollars. But his endeavor has proven successful, combining a museum of grotesque oddities and sideshow attractions like a bearded lady and a sword swallower.