Stroll down Abbott Kinney Blvd. in Venice if you’re looking for an adorable street lined with cute shops inside of old houses, organic eateries and an eclectic mix of interesting characters. I saw a store dedicated to selling lemonade, a handful of smoke shops, ate all-natural gelato at this eatery and saw some precious dog clothes and accessories at this house that was painted green.
The street itself is only a couple of blocks and makes for a great afternoon adventure. The clothing boutiques are expensive, but you can find a ton of knick knacks (bowls, mini-pumpkins, candles) that aren’t too expensive.
I dropped by this shop to smell their non-synthetic perfumes. For the most part, I did not like most of their products. They had a really strange “base” smell. And when I finally found one I sort of liked, it turned out to be more than $300. So, it’s an interesting place, but be prepared to shell out a ton of money if you buy anything.
Travel Tip: Aside from one coffee shop, this street really “starts” on Venice Blvd. You’ll want to go to where Abbot Kinney meets Venice to start your visit. You can make a nice day trip by walking down each side of the street so you don’t miss anything.
Laguna Beach is gorgeous. I visited downtown Laguna Beach yesterday and did not want to leave. It was filled with adorable shops and is what I imagine any idyllic beach town should be like. It’s also steps away from the ocean. And it was just perfect.
I went into a pretty good sushi restaurant (I would have kicked myself if I left the West Coast without eating Japanese food) and then headed into an cupcake shop decorated like what any 8-year-old girl dreams about her bedroom should look like–pink with lots of dainty white furniture and fixtures.
It was a nice relaxing day and so far, Laguna Beach and Santa Monica have been the most gorgeous towns I’ve visited. Just as an aside, Laguna Beach is also home to Ocean Avenue which made me think of this song.
I’ll update this post until I leave beautiful SoCal. Get ready for my advice…
1. Bring cash. If you have a car, many of the lots only take cash.
2. Protected left-hand turns are short. I’m talkin’ 30 seconds.
3. Each part of the city is very distinct. Hollywood is not like Beverly Hills. Santa Monica is not like Venice Beach.
4. Hollywood is sketch. Sure, the Dolby Theatre where the Oscars are held is nice as is the mall it’s inside of; but other than that, Hollywood is sleazy.
5. Give yourself plenty of time to account for traffic. What you’ve heard is true. It will probably take you at least 20 minutes more than whatever your GPS is telling you.
6. Some of the gas stations in California (specifically Arco, although I’m not sure if there are others) will only let you pay at the pump if you use a debit card. Otherwise, you have to go into the kiosk and tell the clerk how much gas you plan on putting in your car so they can charge you. Inconvenient to the max.
7. L.A. is a HUGE city. Be prepared for long drives. Plan on seeing the different parts of it in “chunks” (downtown, Venice Beach/Santa Monica, UCLA/Westwood, Hollywood/Beverly Hills). Be sure to look at the map and plan accordingly.
Well, Venice Beach was pretty much like every sleazy boardwalk I’ve ever stepped foot on. Think Ocean City, Atlantic City, etc. But it was more artistic. That is one thing I love about California; there’s art everywhere. I saw a model of Starry Night on a wall and a slew of “interesting” characters. One man was roller blading while playing an electric guitar, another was performing brake dancing tricks on a bike and a whole group was performing a handful of Micheal Jackson hits. It’s in stark contrast to the wealth and class that Santa Monica exudes.
But it’s more fun. The board walk is lively for sure. Artists selling a variety of products line the streets and musicians are everywhere. I stopped to each some fish and chips and a fight broke out across the board walk on a basketball court. I was worried about it spreading to where I was, but one of the guys in it left before that happened. Phew.
That’s when I decided to head back to Santa Monica. It’s a long walk, but worth it to see that transition from crowded and serene to crowded and crazy.
Since I’ve been in California, it seems as if a Sheryl Crow song should be playing in the background. And Santa Monica was one of those places. I started my Santa Monica adventure by visiting the 3rd Street Promenade–a large street filled with shops, restaurants and street performers (my personal favorite). I saw an electric violinist, break dancers, a rock band dressed like zombies performing “Thriller,” another rock band playing “Heart-Shaped Box” and a handful of acoustic guitarists and singers.
I stopped at a free-standing shop and bought gelato that was quite tasty. The street is pretty, but really small and ends in yet another one of Cali’s outdoor malls. There was a striking Louis Vuitton window display and the True Religion store was filled with old Singer sewing machines in the window.
I finished up my Santa Monica journey by taking a long ferris wheel ride on the pier, just a few blocks away from the mall. And I got to share my ride with two others who were in Bikram yoga training with Bikram Chodhury himself. One guy was from Montana and the woman he was traveling with was from Australia (the third one I’ve met so far!). They told me how people in their training program, who ranged from one man who weighed 300 pounds to a woman in her 70s, had used Bikram yoga to overcome their struggles with diabetes, drug/sex addiction and a slew of other issues. After I got off the ride, I promised the man I’d do a yoga challenge. So it looks like I’ll have to! He suggested Bikram, but I’m thinking I’ll go with Baptiste instead. 😉
It was stunning. The road hugs the coast, and you get as close to beach as you can without your feet actually touching sand. I’ve dreamed about driving down that road for years (thank you, Hollywood), and it was just what I expected.
Dream it. Do it.
I got to drive on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH to locals/those in-the-know) to get to the Getty Villa. Just like the Getty Center, tickets were free (!). And it was very pretty. Although it wasn’t as pretty as the Getty Center (it’s hard to top), it’s still worth a visit.
It’s set up like a European villa complete with an amphitheater, outdoor courtyard, two fountains and a ton of museum pieces. The outdoor exhibits reminded me of buildings I’ve visited in Italy and Spain. The museum’s indoor exhibits included glass pieces and Pompeii. Of what I remember, I really liked seeing various glass pieces–including a ton of glass perfume vials. I loved seeing an Andy Warhol of Pompeii’s mountain exploding.
It was smaller and easier to navigate than the Getty Center. I’d recommend it if you have an extra hour or two in Malibu.