Venice Beach is a colorful menagerie of California beach city sights and sounds. It’s been called everything from eclectic and beautiful to weird and wild. But one thing it can’t be called is boring.
I recently snuck away to the village and stayed a couple nights at the Inn at Venice Beach, a charming 43-room boutique hotel, located a block from the ocean.
Decorated with contemporary California flair, the inn offers bright rooms and attentive services in the heart of town. My second-floor room featured a balcony, comfy queen bed, luxurious bathrobe, free local calls, coffeemaker, bottled water, office desk and free high-speed Internet.
The inn also offers a hearty complementary breakfast buffet, served next to a three-story, atrium-styled patio. With a large trickling fountain, classic lampposts, iron furniture, brick flooring, stucco walls and balconies hanging overhead, the courtyard is reminiscent of an outdoor European cafe.
But the hotel’s best feature is its proximity to the beach. From my room, I could smell the salt water and feel the cool ocean breeze.
One of the town’s most unique features are the canals, which I discovered while walking behind the hotel. Originally dug in 1904, the waterways were the idea of Abbot Kinney, a tobacco mogul who wanted to create a copy of Venice, Italy.
In 1929, most of the canals were filled to make room for the automobile. Today the remaining channels intersect a neighborhood of expensive homes.
Another Venice highlight is Muscle Beach, where bodybuilders from around the world pump iron in an outdoor arena. This is where Arnold Schwarzenegger gained fame.
On the boardwalk next to Muscle Beach are hundreds of shops specializing in things such as incense, tattoos, t-shirts, jewelry and body piercing. In front of the shops, visitors can see and hear a walking carnival of artists, musicians, singers, jugglers, acrobats, mimes, comics, magicians, prophets, daredevils and more.
For sports people, the beach offers great ocean-front basketball, handball, shuffleboard, paddle tennis, volleyball, biking and rollerblading.
And then there is the food.
The area has numerous restaurants to choose from, but when I’m in the mood for a classy dinner with fantastic views, I like Café del Rey, located about a mile from the boardwalk.
During my stay, a friend joined me at the eatery for an incredible steak and seafood dinner.
While overlooking a yacht-filled harbor, we started with a tasty Dungeness crab cake, followed by Caesar salad with hearts of Romaine, garlic croutons and shaved Reggiano cheese. For the main course I dove into a Black Spaghetti with juicy chunks of prawns, calamari, lobster, bay scallops, peppers, mushrooms and a garlic soy sauce. My friend devoured filet mignon with onion and potato gratin, fava beans and carrots in a red wine sauce.
The Inn at Venice Beach is located at 327 Washington Blvd, Venice. For more info and reservations, call (800) 828-0688 or visit www.innatvenicebeach.com. Café del Rey is located at 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. For reservations, call (310) 823-6395 or visit www.cafedelreymarina.com.