The Guide to Venice Beach for Families

"Future pro winners circle" at Venice Beach Skate Park | Instagram by @heidi_lemmon

Parts of Venice may have gotten fancy. But the neighborhood’s artsy, hippie side is still very much intact - in the people, the colorful murals on the sides of buildings and even residences, and most certainly on the world-famous Venice Boardwalk. Kids and adults alike find Venice easy to love. Here are 12 of the many reasons it’s one of the most desirable places for families to visit and live in Southern California.

Baby hoodie at Aviator Nation | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Aviator Nation



Paige Mycoskie started Aviator Nation in her family’s Venice Beach garage. So if the line of colorful hoodies, t-shirts, and sweats feels very Venice, there’s a good reason. There are now five Aviator Nation stores throughout California. But this is the motherlode. Sizes start at 3-6 months and go up to adult XXL. And while prices aren’t cheap—an adorable violet baby hoodie with horizontal stripe rainbow applique is $84.99—these designs are attention getters. Or as the labels read, in true Venice vernacular: “This garment is rad.”

Blue Star Donuts on Abbot Kinney | Instagram by @marsorbit

Blue Star Donuts



Kids and the young at heart can't resist a treat from gourmet donut purveyor Blue Star Donuts. Sweet tooths queue up for flavors like blueberry bourbon basil, a gorgeous deep purple donut, or maple bacon finished with crispy bits of bacon. The lemon poppyseed, like glazed lemon cake with crispy edges, gets our vote. Have a child who likes to play it safe, culinarily speaking? Glazed buttermilk is the ticket.

Burro Kids in Venice | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Burro Kids - Venice



Burro Kids carries the cutest merch - starfish shaped crayons, “Surf All Day Long” t-shirts, 3-D dog playing cards and more. Even if you don’t have any kids yourself, you’ll find yourself wanting to buy for someone—maybe a niece or neighbor—at this sweet, meticulously arranged boutique. The baby section is in the back, where you’ll find the softest plush animals. And simple gift wrap—tissue and gift bag—is free.

Singalong at The Cow’s End Café | Photo courtesy of Daniel Meyer

The Cow’s End Café



Every Monday and Thursday at 10:30 am, The Cow’s End Café near the Venice Pier—look for the black and red building with the cow behind jutting out on top—hosts a free, half hour sing-a-long upstairs for tots. Mom or dad can sip a latte or enjoy an acai bowl or bagel sandwich, while their kiddo is entertained by a local musician on guitar serving up favorites like Wheels on the Bus and Hokey Pokey.

Huzzah! Toys | Instagram by @mustbelena

Huzzah! Toys



Before you hit the beach, stop by Huzzah! Toys to pick up a colorful, quick to assemble mermaid or pirate kite, or maybe a gigantic racket set, perfect for sand play. The colorful shop specializes in old timey and novelty toys like rubber chickens, whoopee cushions, and pick-up sticks. But they also have the popular new kids from the likes of Calico Critters, Stomp Rocket, and Melissa & Doug. Superb collection of prank items too like hand buzzers and fake boogers for mischief makers of all ages.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Venice | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams - Venice



Judging by the fervor that locals showed when Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams opened on Rose Avenue, you’d think they’d been waiting for years for the sunny Midwest import to arrive. It certainly has become the neighborhood hang. And for good reason: the brambleberry crisp is rich vanilla ribboned with violet jam and loaded with nubbins of streusel. Kids might prefer the sweet cream or salty caramel. Jeni's also offers custom sundaes and ice cream sandwiches.

Photo courtesy of Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals

Perry's

Perry’s has three locations on the Boardwalk that rent everything the entire family needs to hit The Strand in style (and safely). In addition to standard bikes in all sizes, they carry tandem bikes and full size bikes with kid size tagalong bikes attached or trailers. They also have bikes with baby seats, low rider choppers that older kids love, and helmets for the entire family. Have something less aerobic in mind? They’ll hook you up with beach chairs and an umbrella. They even offer something called beach butler service, for those wanting a little extra pampering.

Children's books at Small World Books | Photo by Leslee Komaiko

Small World Books



Among the smoke shops, t-shirt vendors and tattoo studios on the Venice Boardwalk, you would not expect a superb indie bookstore. But Small World Books, which is tucked behind The Sidewalk Café, is exactly that. It has an excellent poetry section. Although the kids section is smallish, there are lots of treasures, like a sweet “One To Ten L.A.” counting board book featuring popular So Cal sights, along with classics from the likes of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl. There is also a young adult section. Gift wrapping is gratis.

Brioche grilled cheese and vegan tomato soup at Superba | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Superba Food + Bread



Named for a street just to the north, Superba Food + Bread is a hip, grown-up restaurant with a distinctly California vibe. But it is one that is super welcoming to kids of all sizes. They have high chairs, and the servers don’t blink when you ask if you can get the terrific skinny French fries (usually dusted with chili flakes and parsley) plain for your picky eater. The menu is wide ranging - there’s pasta, rotisserie chicken, the requisite burger, and for dessert, tempting pastries and oversized cookies. Superba also serves breakfast and a practically all-day weekend brunch (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.) too.

"Future pro winners circle" at Venice Beach Skate Park | Instagram by @heidi_lemmon

Venice Beach Skate Park



Walk towards the Pacific when you leave Small World Books and you will arrive at Venice Beach Skate Park. (Pay special attention when crossing the bike path, which can be reminiscent of the 405, especially on weekend afternoons.) Find a spot along the rail that encloses the park. From there, you can watch some stellar skaters who may have you holding your breath as they soar skyward or practice some crazy, screeching stop. If roller disco is more your thing, you might be treated to a display on the makeshift stage nearby.

Venice Canal Historic District | Photo courtesy of Kostya Danko, Flickr

Venice Canal Historic District



The Venice Canal Historic District is home to some of the richest real estate in all of Los Angeles. It is also storybook picturesque, with its series of canals and arced bridges modeled after Venice, Italy. The homes are a happy mish mash of vintage bungalows and streamlined contemporaries of glass and steel. Some owners have small rowboats tethered in the water in front of their properties. It’s a lovely place to stroll. And if your party includes small children, you can stop for a bit at tiny Linnie Canal Park, popular with the residents.

Photo courtesy of Abbot Kinney Festival, Facebook

Abbot Kinney Festival



Now in its 33rd year, the Abbot Kinney Festival takes place the last Sunday of September. Always a good time, the mile-long festival features hundreds of artisans (who all go through a juried process), live music, and good eats. There are three beer gardens for the 21 and over crowd as well as a sizable Kids Quad where the school age set can ride ponies or a Ferris wheel but also make their own tutu or tie dye, or paint a rock. While the festival is free, rides and activities are ticketed. But the Abbot Kinney Festival Association is actually a non-profit that supports many worthy causes. So if your toddler wants to paint an entire rock family, let them; you’ll be supporting local organizations doing good work.