In our 10K steps series, we've asked writers for the best places to get in your steps while enjoying city sights, favorite routes and some secret detours. In this one James March takes us around the colorful and chaotic streets and boulevards of Venice Beach.

Los Angeles’ coast stretches 75 miles, but little of that sun-kissed shore is as iconic, colorful or strange as Venice Beach.

Flanked by Santa Monica to the north and Marina Del Ray to the south, Venice’s waterfront is one of the most eclectic and iconoclastic public spaces in California and has been officially part of LA since 1926. But there’s far more to Venice than just its chaotic boardwalk. From languid canals to sleek skateparks, a wander around this bizarre corner of LA is an assault on the senses like no other and all are welcome in Venice’s potpourri of hippies, misfits, performers, artists and beatniks.

The best way to soak it all in is via a looped walk, so here’s how to follow my favorite route.

Where to start: The Venice Sign

You’ll see the famous Venice Sign again later this evening (in a much brighter fashion), but it’s also a good starting point for our walk. Industrial-chic breakfast spot Eggslut is around the corner if you need a bit of pre-walk fuel with one of their (unsurprisingly) egg-heavy sandwiches. Otherwise, head east on Pacific Avenue before turning north on S Venice Blvd and joining the Venice Canals towpath.

Meander the Venice Canals

Comfortably the most peaceful corner of Venice, these saltbush-fringed canals look nothing like the rest of the neighborhood. Or LA, for that matter. With arcing white bridges, a soft color palette, swaying palms and handsome water reflections, the canals are wonderfully photogenic and don’t be surprised if you feel a pang of jealousy toward those living here.

Each waterside house is different, with the big-windowed Scandi-style modernist apartments the most seductive (in this writer’s opinion). There’s little wind here too, compared to the beach, which only adds to the joyous serenity. Watch for cormorants, herons and other birdlife splashing down as you stroll.

The walk

Exit the canals and stroll north on S Venice Blvd. Walk for around 10 minutes, past the Abbot Kinney Memorial Branch Library and turn left on Abbot Kinney Blvd. Abbot Kinney himself was the 19th-century founder of the canals (he successfully changed the name of this area from Ocean Park to Venice in 1911, due to his fascination with the Italian lagoon city) and now this popular street is named after him.

Rainbow gay flag crosswalk in Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice, Los Angeles
Abbot Kinney Boulevard is packed with great dining and shopping options © bonandbon / Shutterstock

Stop for quality coffee on Abbot Kinney

Affluent Abbot Kinney Blvd perhaps more closely resembles other LA neighborhoods du jour like Silverlake or Brentwood, though there are some nods to its coastal location, like the pseudo wooden beach shack hosting a Ray-Ban outlet (check out turquoise Goodr cabin further down the street for more affordable shades). Speaking of shops, there are plenty of ways to empty your wallet here, from overpriced smoothies to myriad retro clothing stores.

But this sophisticated stroll is also splashed with cool murals and some excellent restaurants and coffee stops, with the airy Intelligentsia the pick of the bunch. Natural light pours down on its wood-paneled central station as organic blends are poured to the sound of bouncy jazz beats (though prepare for the occasional patience-testing line).

The walk

Reasonably-priced tacos can be grabbed at family-owned Tacos Por Favor on the corner of Electric Avenue and Hampton Drive, otherwise continue north along Hampton and past the iconic Golds Gym (Arnold Schwarzenegger still pumps iron there from time to time allegedly, though you’ll need to be up at the crack of dawn to catch him). Make a zig-zagging path to Navy St, before eventually emerging onto the northern end of the Venice boardwalk.

Hit the boardwalk

Cannabis smoke drifts, drums thump, neon bikes glimmer, handheld stereos blast, low-flying helicopters hum, people shout, others sing and hot dog stands hiss. Your senses aren’t so much assaulted in Venice’s epicenter as bludgeoned. The boardwalk is kitschy and trashy but always compelling.

With the sun a little stronger and everyone feeling a little looser, mid-afternoon is the best time to experience the boisterous boardwalk where people watching never felt so exhilarating. Duck into Small World Books for a slice of cerebral calm, and only use the beach’s public restrooms if it's really necessary.

The walk

Make the leisurely walk south at your own pace and stop at any vendor that catches your eye (there are over 200 to choose from). People here are always willing to chat and chances are you’ll meet some curiously dressed characters who may or may not tell you their life story. Sidewalk Cafe is a breezy spot for a cold afternoon beer and it’s also adjacent to the skate park, which is our next port of call.

Skateboarder skateboarding in Venice Beach skate park Los Angeles, California
Soak up the fun-and-friendly atmosphere at the skatepark © arkanto / Shutterstock

Admire some serious skating skills

When LA’s soft late-afternoon light hits Venice’s sunken skatepark a sublime scene forms, with talented local skaters turned to gliding silhouettes fringed by tall skinny palms. The vibes are always good, with tourists and friends watching and applauding the flicks and tricks on show.

The sound of the nearby waves breaking is amplified here, and the genial encouragement alongside the funky beats from the roller skating dance plaza behind makes the atmosphere fun, especially when there’s back-and-forth banter between skaters and their friends behind the rails.

The walk

It’s not far from LA’s lapping shores here, so maybe go for a quick paddle in the Pacific while you have the chance. Head back down to the boardwalk and stop by at the famous Muscle Beach where you might catch an adonis or two working on their bench press.

Arnold, the original Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno and many more have trained here during bodybuilding’s 1970s golden era. Though these days it's the relentless clack of couples playing paddle tennis from the courts behind that’s more popular. Stroll past the restaurants and bars of Windward Avenue and take a right at the Venice Sign where you’ll head inside the Hotel Erwin.

A view of the sunset from the rooftop of the Hotel Erwin, Venice Beach, LA
Grab a drink and watch the sunset from the roof of the Hotel Erwin at the end of your walk © James March

Soak in sunset rooftop views

Surprisingly, there’s only one place in Venice with a rooftop patio, and this is it. Lined by blood orange parasols, the Hotel Erwin’s 7th-floor deck is huge and stretches the entire length of the hotel. And on a clear day the views are genuinely panoramic, with downtown’s hazy skyscrapers visible and the high craggy Malibu Hills stretching east to Hollywood and beyond.

If you time this walk right, you’ll catch a golden sunset settling over the lights of Santa Monica Pier. Many of the sofas will be reserved, but the bar and the high tables on the left-hand side are available to all comers.

The walk

You can order food at the Erwin or take the elevator back down to Windward Avenue below for more gastro options (the smoky mezcal served at the Del Monte Speakeasy inside Townhouse is a favorite of mine). But since you’re here and night has fallen, don’t forget to cross over Pacific Avenue and take a photo of the Venice Sign now that it’s all lit up and strung out in its green, white and red glory.

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