Thursday, February 11, 2010

Venice Beach

Some people may have thought I was a bit odd when I decided I HAD to take my three year olds to Venice Beach. After all, it doesn’t exactly have the same classic family feel as the Santa Monica Pier just a couple miles down the road. But I live in South Orange County, the Land of Homogeneity. There isn’t a lot of variety in our neck of the woods. Everyone sort of looks the same, dresses the same and acts the same. I love where I live and have met a lot of great people but I want my kids to understand that this great world of ours is filled with all different walks of life. And you can find some of the most unique at Venice Beach.

Lucky for me, my brother lives within walking distance of this bizarre little strand of sand. So we piled into the car and headed on down to see Uncle Chris. We walked down past the marina filled with opulent yachts and strolled past yuppies that appeared to be texting each other while sitting at the same table at an outdoor cafe. We drooled at beach front homes with views that most of us can only dream about. The kids played under the pier  and chased seagulls.

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Then the scenery slowly began to change. Same spectacular beach front, just a different group of people. Multi-million dollar homes were replaced by knock off sunglass shops, tshirt stores, and “storefronts” promoting that green plant that is legal to smoke in CA with a valid medical prescription.It was a place where performers walked on glass for money and men sold bunnies out of their jackets. A beach where skate boarding and  graffiti were actually encouraged.   It was odd. It was eclectic. And my kids loved it.

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A man dressed in a turban, hemp clothing, and the oddest roller skates I have ever seen was serenading passer-byers on his electric guitar. Guys were shooting hoops on the very court Woody Harrelson taught America that white men could in fact jump. Old tan men in speedos were working out alongside buffed out pretty boys on a little portion of  the strand dubbed “Muscle Beach”. It was the carnival of eclecticism that tourists have come to expect from Venice Beach.

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I really do believe it is important to see America for what it really is- a wide variety of individuals enjoying the freedom to be whoever they want to be. Most people seem to fit into one mold or another but there will always be individuals who strive to break it, and I want my kids to know those people too.

Just a block from the beach begin the canals. Their quiet beauty is a nice contrast to the flamboyance of the beach. Pathways skirt the canals and provide a wonderful place to take a stroll. Kayaks cruise silently past well manicured homes and under quaint little bridges. During the holidays the neighborhoods surrounding the canals come alive with brilliant lights and festive paddle boat parades. Eventually you drift back out of the canal district and into reality. Venice was an interesting urban hike, and it was definitely one I am glad I let my children experience.

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10 comments:

Bre said...

Love Venice Beach!
I could people watch for hours.

Amy @ The Q Family said...

We biked to Venice beach during our visit to LA. Too bad we didn't have much time to spend more time there. But I definitely love the mix of different type of people.

BenLand said...

great pics ...as usual :)

thank God there for those unique people...they keep life interesting..

Terri said...

Very beautiful!

Dorothy said...

I really need a travel blog...I am loving yours so much. I used to live in Calif. years ago, not sure if I made it out to Venice Beach but your pictures really make me want to go.

Lorraine said...

You struck a chord with me on this one. We grew up near Santa Monica and visited Venice often. To see a profile of it today, like you describe, and hear that it has all of the wonderful aspects that it had in the 70s is really fun to read. Thanks for this post. I'd never seen the canals up close - what cool shots.

debi9kids said...

Ok, so I guess this is just a dumb east coast thing, but I seriously had NO idea that any of your beaches were like this. LOL
What a fun place to people watch and LOVE the canals.
Beautiful shots Shar!

DEBI said...

This place is practically in my own backyard, but I haven't managed to take the kids yet. Thanks for the reminder of all it has to offer!

Lora said...

Great insider tips, Sharlene!

Carolina said...

Free, live beach entertainment sounds perfect for kids. I've been wanting to check out those canals. Again, putting it on my list.