There are, certainly, lots of options when it comes to Venice. No student should leave CMC without a stop at its Muscle Beach or a stroll along the fabulously eccentric boardwalk — or the canals inspired by its Italian counterpart. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the laid-back, creative (though decisively gentrified and at times shockingly expensive) stylings of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, which may just be the “Coolest Block in America.”
What to know: Abbott Kinney Boulevard lies a few blocks inland from Ocean Front Walk, with the majority of retail outlets, restaurants and other businesses fixed firmly between Main Street and East Washington Boulevard. No matter where you decide to eat, shop or explore, leave an hour or more to wander the street and pop in and out of the creative boutiques and storefronts on your way.
Where to eat: If you plan far enough in advance, you might be able to nab a table for brunch at Gjelina, a perpetually-crowded restaurant with incredible options from brunch to through dinner. The wood-fired pizzas are tasty, substantial and truly some of the best in L.A., and the small plates on the menu can accommodate a number of tastes. Take note that the restaurant politely refuses substitutions or modifications– even Victoria Beckham herself couldn’t sway the chef. If the prices or the lines seem ridiculous, grab a light breakfast or a sandwich at GTA, the takeout counter next to the restaurant.
If you want a sit-down meal but not a scene, try Joe’s up the road. The market-driven restaurant (that’s farmers market for you Econ folks) offers prix fixes and dinner tastings in the evening hours, but brunch is casual and quiet. Not only can you get quality pancakes, eggs and bacon for a scant $1-2 more than at your local IHOP, but enjoy bottomless mimosas for $14 on the weekend to complement entrees that range from crab hash to flatiron steak.
What to do: People watch. Abbot Kinney draws a relatively diverse crowd on the weekends, and you’re more likely to see your favorite television star here than on the Walk of Fame. The street, in fact, seems built for a stroll. There are galleries, design stores and even a “compassionate collective” for those of you who are so inclined.
What to buy: Unfortunately, many of the offerings at shops along the strip bode better for window shopping than for serious spending. However, interspersed with the likes of Jack Spade and Steven Alan are quirky home goods and gift stores (Huset is a favorite for Scandinavian finds), beautiful stationery shops and even some of the New Age holdouts that help the area maintain its distinct dynamic.