By Jim Smith
Summer in Venice is hectic and thrilling. It’s an all day carnival of the crazy, the craven and the conniving. It’s a place where you can have experiences that will change your life. Just being in Venice has brought enlightenment to thousands, and thousands more have found the love of their life. At the least, you can survive, and have lasting memories by following a few simple directions.
What to Do:
Residents and Visitors: Enjoy Venice. Forget about the outside world. It isn’t real anyway. Venice is a world apart because of the ocean, the texture of the sky, the mix of people from all over the world. Everyone “does” the Boardwalk (Ocean Front Walk). It’s more than a mile of sensory overload and can absorb your entire visit or weekend, if you “go with the flow.” Check out the Graffiti Pit (it’s new respectable name is the Venice Art Wall). It’s on the beach, out from Windward Avenue. In the evening, head out on the sand to the Drum Circle.
But Venice is much more than the ocean front. Visit the canals (south of Venice Blvd.), Visit SPARC, the world’s best mural center, in the old Venice jail, 625 Venice Blvd., where you can see people’s art (as opposed to commercial art). Next door is Beyond Baroque, poetry central in Venice. On the other side of SPARC is the Pacific Resident Theater, where first class plays are performed.
Stumble around town and you’ll be rewarded with sights and people that make it all worthwhile. Venice is full of hidden murals and gardens. Don’t miss the Wall of Tiles at the Vera Davis Community Center at 610 California Ave. (just off Abbot Kinney). The intricate tiles were designed and painted by the children and youth of Venice in the 1990s. They tell the story of multi-racial, multi-cultural Venice.
If you want a quiet beach experience, head down the peninsula south of Washington Blvd. There are few people on these beautiful Venice beaches. Problem is you’ll either have to walk or bike down Speedway to get to them. You can also visit the last remaining Venice pier at Hamburger Square, where Washington Blvd. meets the sand.
Venice is relatively free of chain stores, and we mean to keep it that way. Please DO NOT PATRONIZE them. There are way cool local shops and restaurants on Ocean Front Walk, Windward Avenue, Abbot Kinney Blvd., Rose Ave., Washington Blvd. and Lincoln Blvd. Coffee houses, head shops, speciality stores, small cafes and restaurants abound. Please patronize those that advertise in this community newspaper.
Check the Beachhead Calendar for events this month in Venice. Many are within walking or biking distance.
Driving around town is so unVenetian. Venice, unlike L.A., is a walking city. In addition, timing tests have proven that you can get around Venice as quickly on a bike as by car, when parking is taken into consideration (see Nov. 2002 Beachhead at www.freevenice.org). There’s also the Big Blue Bus that has several routes in Venice. The regular fare in 75 cents.
Residents: Don’t even think about moving you car on weekends if you only have street parking. You won’t find another parking place until Monday. Do your shopping on Friday at the latest. Plan your weekend around neighborhood stores, restaurants and events. If you stay off Ocean Front Walk, you’ll find plenty of room to move around and enjoy paradise.
Visitors: If you’re driving, come early, before 9AM if you want to park near the beach. Otherwise, park a mile or more away and catch a bus to Venice. It’s a lot cheaper than paying for parking near the beach. If you want to avoid all the hassles let the MTA do the driving for you.
Where to Stay:
No problem for residents, but if you’re just visiting, whether you’re a transient, traveler, or tourist, check out Venice’s hostels. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be from another country to stay at a low-cost hostel. Rooms run from $22 – $52 per night. All you need is a passport to enjoy the low rates for a bed in a dormitory or a private room. Here’s three that are recommended by a friend: Venice Beach Hostel – www.venicebeachcotel.com, 1515 Pacific Ave. – 310-452-3052; Venice Beach Cotel – 25 Windward Ave. – 310-399-7649. The Hostel California, about a mile from the beach has dorm rooms for only $17. – www.hostelcalifornia.us, 2221 Lincoln Blvd. – 310-305-0250.
If you’ve got more bucks, the most charming hotel is probably the Cadillac Hotel – 8 Dudley Avenue – www.thecadillachotel.com – 310-399-8876. It’s right in the thick of the action. Summer rates are high – $139 – $200 per night!
If you’re coming in an RV, make sure you move every day to avoid the random irritable homeowner. If you just have the clothes on your back, you should know that it’s illegal to sleep on the beach. Look for an isolated spot to bed down. Be aware that there are predators on the beach as well as friendly people.
Little known facts about Venice:
1. Regardless of what you have heard on TV, there is no such place as Venice Beach. It is Venice. While we’re at it, there are no such places as Santa Monica Beach or Malibu Beach. At least try to get our name right.
2. Venice has been under occupation for 83 years. John McCain would love it here. We were taken over by Los Angeles in a bloodless Anschluss years ago. There are still insurgents resisting the occupation, who the occupiers call gangs and troublemakers, but in general, tourists are relatively safe. If you see men with guns and uniforms, keep a safe distance.
3. Venice is one of the most leftwing communities in California. We compete with Berkeley for that title. In 2004, George Bush got 13 percent of the vote. Visitors will find us open minded and happy to make new friends.
Have a great time:
Residents: Don’t hyperventilate about the traffic, all the people and the noise. All things will pass. In the meantime, pretend you’re a visitor seeing Venice for the first time.
Visitors: There is nothing like summer in Venice. Whether you’re rich or poor, you’ll likely be welcomed by Venetians if you are friendly and courteous. The ocean, the coast, and the good times belong to everyone! Enjoy.