Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Venice Beach

On an incredibly warm Friday, I decided it would be a great time for me to explore one of Los Angeles's famous beaches.  After doing a bit of internet searching, I was eager to check out the colorful Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is considered a global tourist destination and has been labeled "a cultural hub known for its eccentricities."  The beach receives millions of visitors a year.

Before going, I tried my best to locate parking.  However, everything I found online was very vague.  The price listed on the Venice Beach website was Winter $4.00 to $9.00; Summer $5.00 to $15.00.  Umm.... that's a huge range!  I found an address for a parking lot, but that turned out to be a garage a ways from the beach, so I kept driving until I found myself on a one-way street.  I was really confused and didn't know how to turn around, so I parked at the first place available, which of course was priced at the highest end of the parking fee spectrum.  $15.00 valet parking in a secure lot for the day.  Sure... why not?

As soon as I left the valet lot, I walked right by a larger public parking area which was listed at $9.00.  Of course, this would happen to me.  Oh, well... at least the valet lot felt really safe.

The beach was a short walk away, but the width of it was huge.  Walking from the boardwalk up to the water was quite a hike.  But it was so large that even though it was well-populated, everyone could really spread out.

Venice Beach



I absolutely loved the lifeguard huts.  You'll find it amusing that I've seen these in movies and on television, but never before in real life.  I suppose I was almost surprised that they were a real thing.  At the beaches I've always gone to with my family, there either aren't any lifeguards (the Caribbean) or the lifeguard team really just runs around on golf-cart sized vehicles whenever they're called to help (Destin).  The most legitimate-looking lifeguards I've seen are at Atlantic Coast beaches like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head, where the lifeguards sit in elevated chairs under umbrellas.

Of course, I'm sure that lifeguarding is a much more serious job at Pacific Coast beaches where the waves are huge, beach-goers surf, and the cold water is home to giant sharks.  (Yes, there have been many Great White sightings off the coast of Venice Beach.)

Was I crazy enough to enter the habitat of the Great White Shark?

Venice Beach

The answer is absolutely yes.

I was waiting for the opportune moment.... kept looking around to see if there were any shady-looking people headed my way.  My biggest fear was that someone would rob me while I was in the ocean (all of these photos were taken after I returned from the water because I didn't want anyone to know that I was carrying some expensive equipment in my backpack).  I waited for the people a little ways from me to return from the water because they seemed like kind people who would stop a robber from swiping my stuff.

The water was cold, and I considered stopping at my ankles... but I wanted to really swim in the Pacific Ocean.  It was breathtaking, really.  As soon as I forced myself to get all the way in, I quickly acclimated, and it felt refreshing.  It felt so crazy and different to be in the cool water with giant waves crashing in front of me.  I wished that I had a GoPro or waterproof camera with me to film and photograph the experience.  But you'll have to take my word for it.... to all of you Atlantic Coast, Gulf Coast, and Caribbean water swimmers... this is a completely different sensation.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Another thing I found absolutely amazing was being able to see the giant mountains on either side of me.  Whenever I have told people that I actually learned to ski on the east coast, in the mountains of North Carolina, they always ask in amazement, "North Carolina has mountains?"  And I would confirm that yes, the Appalachian Mountains ran down the East Coast, through North Carolina.  And though I've skied out West before (Colorado and Lake Tahoe, even) and experienced their grandeur, I don't think it was until I saw the mountains from Los Angeles that I realized... yes, we have mountains on the East Coast, but the West Coast has Mountains.

I was  located at the edge of Venice Beach, I believe.  I could see the Santa Monica Pier from where I was laying.  If you squint or perhaps enlarge the photo, you might be able to see it in the distance, too...

Venice Beach

The Venice Beach Pier is located in this direction...

Venice Beach

There is also a bike trail that spans Venice Beach, and bikes are available for rent on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.  Though I did see some runners and skateboarders on the bike trail, I was advised that the bike trail is for bicycles only, and that you can actually be issued a citation for doing any other sort of activity on the bike trail.

Venice Beach

Another recreation option is volleyball.  There were courts set up all over the beach.

Venice Beach

Baseball on the Beach

Venice Beach, being a public beach, does not rent chairs or umbrellas.  You bring and set everything up yourself.  Personal umbrellas and chairs are permitted, but it seemed that most of the beach-goers (myself included) were content with just a towel or mat to lay on.

Venice Beach

The beach itself was very relaxing.  Perhaps it's because I went on a Friday afternoon and most kids were in school and adults at work, but it was a really mellow environment on the beach... not exactly what I was expecting from the beach known for its lively boardwalk and eccentric people.

Venice Beach

Join me for my October series, 31 Days of Los Angeles, for more Southern California fun!