Venice Beach vs Santa Monica
On our “free day” we spent about half a day between Venice Beach and Santa Monica. First we took a bus from downtown LA and made our way into the heart of Venice. Venice Beach is quite well known for its unique unregulated funkiness. It is also well known for the canals, muscle beach, it’s skateboard park, sidewalk vendors, which are all basically tied together by a neat oceanfront promenade. Interestingly enough, when Venice was annexed as part of LA in the 1920s, LA decided to pave over many of the canals to make Venice fit in more with the rest of the city, amongst other reasons. However, now those very same canals (or the ones are left anyways) are a real draw for locals and tourists. They also really reinforce the unique image of Venice.
I had a lot of fun exploring Venice Beach, I think what I liked most about it was the eclectic mixed used vibe it gave off. You have a diverse range of vendors built up along the beach, situated right next to neat home that vary in architectural styling. As for the people, the fact that you don’t know what to expect kind of helps you expect the unexpected, but really you can see anyone- from someone famous, to a random guy wearing a speedo working out at muscle beach. The other thing I really liked about Venice Beach was walking along the canals. Even though the canals weren’t in the most pristine condition, I felt a kind of romantic innocence as I strolled along them…
After checking out the Venice Beach area, most of us wandered along the promenade to make our way to Santa Monica. Santa Monica is an independent city, meaning it is actually not part of Los Angeles at all. There was a point in between Venice Beach and Santa Monica where we immediately noticed that we were in a different place. Things were all of a sudden pushed back from the walk way, the buildings were much more homogenized, cars became a predominate part of the landscape (roads were now separating the buildings from the beach), and it was very clear that there was a higher level of regulation going on. An example of this is the downtown and 3rd street shopping promenade. At one end you can find all the high end stores right next to the parking facility, whereas at the other end of the promenade you can find all the stores targeting a younger demographic clustered together. In terms of regulated planning this layout makes a lot of sense. The people who are most likely to be shopping at the high end stores are also the people who are probably more likely to be driving, more so than teenagers, and therefore it makes sense to have those stores that target those people closer to the parking structure.
Even though Santa Monica was vey different from Santa Monica, there were things I liked there. I would have to say the outdoor shopping promenade, which previous functioned as a street with vehicle traffic and has now been shut down for pedestrian traffic only, was pretty interesting and works well in that type of climate. The other thing I really liked was the Santa Monica pier, because for me it really stood out as its own unique entity amongst the semi-generic/semi-pseudo wealthy landscapes that dominate the rest of the city.