On the Boardwalk: Scenes from Santa Monica to Venice Beach

Santa Monica Beach, California

Scenes from Santa Monica and Venice Beach, California

When you think of California, what comes to mind?

Is it San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge? Is it the rugged landscapes of Joshua Tree or Yosemite National Parks? Is it the LA Lakers or San Francisco 49ers? The Hollywood sign or the endless vineyards of Napa Valley?

For us, when we think of California, we think of the beach.

Tall palm trees, boardwalks, wooden piers, surfing and the sparkling Pacific Ocean. Of course, Hollywood has played a big role in our perceptions of the Los Angeles coast. From ‘Beverly Hills 90210′ to ‘Lords of Dogtown’ to ‘Californication’, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect prior to visiting Santa Monica for the first time.

And our perceptions were not too far off.

Venice Beach Boardwalk, California

Although we were given a long list of things to see and do in Los Angeles, we ended up spending most of our time strolling up and down the Santa Monica and Venice Beach boardwalks.

The most popular thing to do along this stretch of beach is to rent bikes or roller blades and cruise the legendary boardwalk. A never ending flow of cyclists, skateboarders, runners and walkers travel up and down this strip, creating the perfect people watching environment.

It’s an interesting place, to say the least.

On the one end, you have the famous Santa Monica pier with its amusement park and family friendly atmosphere. On the other end, you’ve got Venice Beach with its funky shops and artistic, hipster vibe. In between, you’ll find continuous beach filled with surfers and volleyball players, grassy parks and outdoor beach cafes.

Dare I say, “it’s got a little something for everyone”.

Santa Monica State Beach Park, California

Santa Monica Beach, California

Santa Monica Beach, Californai

Just south of the pier is a stretch of beach that acts as an outdoor jungle gym. It’s actually the original location of Muscle Beach, which was later moved to Muscle Beach Venice.

This is where fitness junkies, acrobats and gymnasts come to bend, twist and swing on a variety of public workout equipment, including parallel bars, ropes and rings (pictured below).  If you’re looking for a place to people watch, this is it. Some of these people are quite talented!

Rings at Santa Monica Beach, California

Santa Monica Beach, California

Entertainer, Santa Monica Boardwalk, California

Skateboarder, Santa Monica Boardwalk, California

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach Boardwalk

We continued south and eventually reached the bustling Venice Beach strip, loaded with tattoo parlors, tacky tourist shops, street performers and hipster restaurants.

It’s everything you’d expect it to be – the air is filled with the fresh scent of pot, leathery tanned hippies sell weird artwork and handmade jewelry, musicians sing out of tune, buskers swallow swords and fire, merchants sell cheap sun glasses and crappy t-shirts. It’s borderline sketchy, but that’s its appeal.

Sure, the whole atmosphere is played up for the tourist dollar. But it’s California. It’s Dogtown. The home of surfers, skateboarders, musicians, actors and athletes. It’s the land of cool and trendy.

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach, California

Venice Beach Skate Park, California

This kid was rocking the skate park. He couldn’t have been older than 12 years old!

Venice Beach, California

 Sweet – that’s just the painting I was looking for!

Venice Beach, California

 The Venice Beach Freak Show – need I say more?

Venice Beach, California

Let’s not forget about our “Hollywood encounter”!

We stopped at a kid’s park so Baby B could go on the swings and burn off some energy. Nicole found shade under a palm tree and sat on the grass. Beside her was a group of people celebrating something, a birthday we presume.

Nicole gave me weird look, followed by a head nod. She was trying to tell me something but I could not decipher the code.

Sitting about 5 feet beside her was someone familiar, a face she recognized. It was Canadian-born New Zealand actor Anna Paquin – lead actress Sookie Stackhouse in the hit HBO series “True Blood“. At first Nicole wasn’t sure if it was actually her, but then we saw her twin babies and husband Stephen Moyer, co-star of True Blood (Bill Compton).

Okay, so they’re not Brad and Angelina, but True Blood is one of our favourite HBO shows, so it was pretty cool to see them hanging out with friends and family at the beach park, just like normal people – just like us.

Santa Monica Beach, California

Contrary to some of the feedback we received prior to this trip, we really enjoyed our time in Santa Monica. It was nice to have a 5-day trip that didn’t have us change time zones or spend a lot of time traveling.

And because we redeemed our Aeroplan Miles for our flights, it ended up being a very cost effective trip. For whatever reason, we used to bank our Aeroplan miles and not redeem them, saving them for the proverbial “rainy day”. But over the past few years, we’ve made it a goal to cash in our miles and enjoy the rewards from our loyalty.

To learn more about the program, you can visit Aeroplan’s website: https://www.aeroplan.com/

Or, you can read these posts:

Have you visited the Santa Monica and/or Venice Beach boardwalk?


Disclosure – Aeroplan is one of our travel partners, however expressed opinions are entirely our own. We are long-time supporters and users of the Aeroplan rewards program.

About Traveling Canucks

Cam and Nicole Wears are newbie parents living in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. A passion for travel and outdoor adventure has taken them to over 70 countries on 6 continents in the past 10 years. Learn more about their story here. Follow them on Instagram and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.