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.
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.
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.
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.