Every California girl knows about the best beach cities in Los Angeles right? I’m talking about Venice Beach and Santa Monica, two of my favorite California beaches, and a must-visit for anyone taking a trip to LA.
Maybe you’ve walked the boardwalk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica to take a ride on the Ferris wheel. Maybe you’ve seen a photo of one of your favorite actresses spotted at some swanky restaurant in Santa Monica. Maybe you’ve actually spotted a movie star while roaming around the city?! How exciting would that be?!
Ok, maybe you haven’t been there yet, but surely you’ve seen the famous Santa Monica Pier before. It can be spotted in movies like Iron Man and Forrest Gump. It has been spotted on tons of TV shows, and even in video games like Grand Theft Auto. I told you, it’s FAMOUS.
These are two of LA’s greatest gems, and if you haven’t heard of them, you are really missing out and I recommend you get there ASAP. You are seriously lacking the California dream.
Each time I take a road trip to Los Angeles I try to see or do something a little different because there’s just too much to do in that city I could never fit everything into one single day. This is one reason why I love Venice and Santa Monica so much because there’s always something new for me to see or do.
I’m going to show you one of my favorite day trip itineraries, which will take you from the start of the Venice Beach Boardwalk to the famous Santa Monica Pier. I recommend this itinerary if you are on a time crunch, or trying to stick to a budget. Follow along and let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
One Day in LA: From Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier
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What to Wear/Bring:
- Comfy shoes are a must since you will be walking a lot.
- Bring some dollar bills in case you decide to tip the street performers.
- On any day trip I usually bring a backpack with the following:
- Camera, extra battery, selfie stick, tripod, any other photography equipment
- Water, snacks, lunch
- Light sweater
Where to park:
There is free street parking near the Venice canals.
First stop: The Venice Canals
Since you are parking nearby anyways, it’s worth taking a stroll through the Venice Beach canals.
The original canals were built in 1905 and were built to recreate the look of the Venice, Italy canals. Most of the canals were eventually filled in to create roads, and the remaining left uncared for. The area was in poor condition for many years until rebuilt in 1993. The current canals are now an expensive area lined with multi-million dollar houses.
After your tour through the canals head west toward the ocean until you end up on Ocean Front Walk. This is the path that continues along the beach through Venice, and into Santa Monica. Once you hit this point turn right, and you will be on the Venice Beach Boardwalk.
Next stop: The Venice Boardwalk
The Venice boardwalk is an absolute must at least once in your life. Here are the spots along the boardwalk that are worth taking a look at:
Muscle Beach. You may have heard about the famous gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out. You can literally watch muscle men (and women) during their workout at this outdoor gym directly on the boardwalk. If you want, you can pay $10 for a day pass and join them.
Graffiti Art Walls. This is a great spot to get some cool looking photos! You can find them on the beach shortly after Muscle Beach. Just look for the walls and palm trees that have graffiti on them! You can appreciate the art walls for free, but if you actually want to paint you need a permit.
Skate Park. A little further north of the Art Walls is the Skate Park. Not much to see here unless you are into skateboarding, but it’s still worth taking a look at!
Street Performers & Artists. As you continue walking the boardwalk you will notice a lot of local artists selling their items. If you get lucky you may also come across a good street performer. If you find a large group of people gathering try to take a look and see if the performance is worth watching. This is where your dollar bills come in handy in case you want to tip them.
Venice Pride Lifeguard Tower. For an Instagram-worthy photo head over to the Venice Pride Lifeguard Tower. When you reach Brooks Avenue on the boardwalk look left and you should be able to find this rainbow-colored tower. Take a moment to relax and enjoy the beach. This might also be a good time to eat your lunch!
Next Stop: Bicycle Rentals
Since most of the action on the boardwalk is nearing the end, it’s time to decide if you want to walk the rest of Venice Beach to Santa Monica or rent bicycles. You can see the Santa Monica pier at this point, and it may look close but it is about a 2-mile walk.
Another great option is to rent a “Bird”, which is an electric scooter, and scoot your way to the pier!
On the Venice Beach Boardwalk, you can rent beach cruiser bicycles. Make sure to ask for a bike lock since you will need to lock it once you reach the Santa Monica Pier.
Once you are ready to ride or scoot, just continue north on the designated bike path towards the Santa Monica Pier. You will know you are on the bike path since there should be many other bikes, and the path itself looks like a street with the painted lines. Be cautious of pedestrians!
Next Stop: Santa Monica Pier
A trip to Los Angeles is not complete without a stop at the iconic Santa Monica Pier. It is on my Southern California Bucket List Challenge after all. This is the final point on the famous Route 66 and home to the only over-water Ferris wheel in California.
Right before the pier along the bike path, there are several places to lock up your bicycles. Find a spot and head on up to the pier. If you rented a Bird scooter, you can end your ride and drop it. You can find another one once you are ready to leave.
Take a moment to take in the scenery and snap a few photos!
Towards the beginning of the pier is the Route 66 sign, if you are patient you can try to get a photo at the sign. There are usually tons of people in this spot.
On the left side of the pier is Pacific Park, which is free to enter but you pay for each individual ride. The Ferris wheel is my recommendation since it offers the best views, plus it’s so iconic how could you not?! The ticket prices are currently $8 per person.
Read more: The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List
This might be a good time to take a lunch break if you haven’t already. The Pier has several food options from seafood to burgers!
Once you have seen enough of the pier remember to head back to return your rental bicycles before the rental time is up. After you return your bikes head on over to the last stop on the itinerary!
Last Stop: Venice Sign
Head back towards the beginning of the Venice boardwalk and once you reach Windward Avenue, take a left. One block up you will see the VENICE sign hanging over the street. This is a classic Instagram-worthy shot, but it might take you a few tries! Use the crosswalks to get different angles of the sign until you get one shot that you like.
This itinerary should give you a good overview of both Venice and Santa Monica. If you are not too tired hang out on the beach and wait for the sunset!
I hope you enjoy this day trip from Venice Beach to Santa Monica!
Is there anything you would like to know more about? Have you been to these places and have a place to recommend that I didn’t mention? Let me know your comments!