Chad Myers Photograph

Venice Beach, California

Located about an hour northwest of Los Angeles rests arguably the hippiest beach in the world, well at least this country. I am talking of course about the 60's area counterculture hangout, and modern day paradise for people who believe in having a good time, but also adding to the world through art and revolutionary thinking. Go to Venice Beach and you will feel enlightened, you will feel free. On this 1/2 mile strip of beach, and the same distance in boardwalk, you will find one of the most condense areas in the US in terms of art and ideas. What my friends in more important than that?

No Venice Beach is not filled with art galleries and debate centers. You won't find any Van Goghs, and politicians do not stop here regularly. The art and the ideas are where they belong, on the street and amongst the people. What you will find are detailed sand sculptures, spraypainted masterpieces, gigantic murals, and intricate tattoo artists. You will find people there simply for the purpose of communicating their ideas, and are willing to speak with you about the issues, not just preach to you. Another reason I love this side of life on the beach, of course, is because the issue most talked about is the legalization of marijuana. I did downplay the galleries here to an extent, but let me tell you there are some very good ones. The Julie Rico Gallery showcases some very interesting psychedelic paintings and sculptures, and Collectics Antiques and Collectibles is a large mix of consignment shops, antiques, bookstores and museum. To view and learn more about Venice Beach artists go to veniceartists.com.

Getting away from those two areas of the beach there are many other things to do. A very outdoorsy, athletic type of people frequents this beach, and you can virtually find anything you want to do here in a physical sense. First off there is the beach and ocean. You can catch some rays, run or walk along the beach or even go surfing (you can rent a board nearby if you don't have one). People are constantly biking, rollerblading and skateboarding up and down the boardwalk. Rentals are easy to come by and fairly inexpensive. Of course Venice Beach is also home to the famous Muscle Beach. For a few dollars you can lift weights among the monsters that come here or just sit back and people watch. The complex also contains a large outdoor basketball facility where courts are almost always available. Court one hosts nightly battle between some extremely good basketball players. The courts were featured in the movie "White Men Can't Jump". A short walk to the North and you can ride rides on Santa Monica Pier. As you can see, although Venice is known for it's counterculture type atmosphere, it really does offer entertainment for people of every walk of life.

The food here is also phenomenal. I suggest eating at The Sidewalk Café where you can get a good meal and still won't miss any of the action. Café Collage is also very good and was recently voted in the top 10 of L.A.'s best cafes. Space Age Café and Cyber Java are also worth visiting if you want a good cup of coffee and either good conversation are an internet connection ready for use. I love all these places, but for myself I usually choose to just get some food out on the boardwalk and eat on the beach. You can find huge slices of pizza for under $1.50, or delicious shishkabobs for under $2.00. It makes me hungry just thinking about it. After eating you may want to go shop, and you'll find a very diverse and hip assortment of clothing boutiques, head shops, craft stores, skate shops, bookstores and various other stores. Religion and culture of every type is represented here, and the prices are pretty affordable. The boardwalk is also lined with people who set up stands selling about anything you want. So bring your wallet, enjoy, and don't be afraid to bargain.

No I haven't been to every little crevice of America, but I have traveled extensively and I would honestly say that Venice Beach is my favorite 1-mile radius area in the whole country. There is simple no more diverse place as far as food, shopping, physical activities, and good people with good ideas in the U.S. Revolutionaries of the 60's realized this and we have been realizing it ever since. Jim Morrison slept on rooftops here for a summer and the infamous meeting with Ray Manzarak in which The Doors was formed took place on this very beach. Find virtually any rocker, living and not comatose, from the 60's and 70's and I'll bet they've spent time in Venice Beach. Now it is simply the best time to be had in the L.A. area. That's just my opinion of course, but that's all that matters in this article. As for my favorite things here, that would have to be the "Tribute To Starry Night" mural, the guitar strumming-roller skating-rock n roller Harry Perry, the weekend 100+ people bongo circles that form at dusk, and of course the people. If you get bored with all the things mentioned above and need to re-energize, simple go to the beach, drape a blanket over your head and....I'll let you finish that one.

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