Home to Bohemian Southern California, Venice has long attracted the creative and the eccentric, making it the perfect dwelling for flip-flop wearing artist-surfer-skate-boarder types.
A rarity in Los Angeles, this socially diverse neighborhood — sandwiched between Santa Monica to the north and Marina del Rey to the south — was originally designed as an ocean-facing resort in 1905 by Abbot Kinney, a real estate developer whose name lives on in Venice’s downtown shopping and residential district, Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
To the west is the area known as Venice Beach, which includes Muscle Beach, handball courts, paddle tennis courts, basketball courts, a skate dancing plaza, beach volleyball courts, a bike trail, and the businesses and residences that have their addresses on Ocean Front Walk, a circuslike boardwalk parallel to the beach that features a varied mix of street performers, fortunetellers and vendors.
In mid-July, Hotel Erwin, run by San Francisco-based boutique hotel company Joie de Vivre, opened a 119-room, ocean-facing property at the site of the former Marina Pacific Hotel. And on Oct. 3, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks dedicated a new, $3.5 million skate park adjacent to Venice Beach Recreation Center.
At last, a boutique hotel in Venice
Despite its racial, economic and social diversity, the one thing Venice has lacked is a nice hotel. Sure, there are very affordable hostels and luxurious beach house rentals, but not a lot in between. Now, things have changed.
Completely gutted and renovated per Joie de Vivre’s standard of relaxed luxury, Hotel Erwin is in a perfect location. Just 200 feet from the beach (and a short walk from Abbott Kinney Boulevard), the hotel overlooks bench-pressers on Muscle Beach, musicians performing on the boardwalk and Rip Cronk’s 20-foot tall mural of Jim Morrison on Speedway Street.
The first thing you notice when you enter the hotel is its cool, bright color palette and pop-style furnishings. A range of low and high art by artists such as Larry Bell, and arty photographs of graffiti, famous rock stars and Venice locals can be found throughout the hotel.
The rooms — many of which feature ocean or boardwalk views — have many modern perks, such as high-definition, flat-screen TVs with technology hubs, iPod docking stations, laptop-size safes and complimentary wireless Internet access.
Although the hotel does not offer 24-hour room service, it does have two dining venues. Located on the first floor near the front desk is Hash, a 44-seat restaurant that serves breakfast — with a menu of Bloody Marys — and dinner.
Run by Gordon Ramsay-trained chef Micah Fields, the kitchen offers in-house specialties like Wagyu beef burgers ($16) and grilled Kurobota pork chops ($23).
On the roof of the hotel is High, a 98-person capacity outdoor rooftop terrace, the highest in Venice. In addition to 360-degree views from Catalina Island to the Hollywood sign, the lounge also offers a full bar and a light-snack menu. High is the perfect place in Venice to watch the sunset, but get there early.
A new skate park
On Oct. 3, professional and amateur skaters celebrated the much-anticipated opening of the Venice Beach Skate Plaza.
The new, 16,000-square-foot skate facility is considered one of the most challenging arenas to ride. Highlights of the in-ground concrete park include bowls, ramps, rails, platforms and steps, along with a plaza, walls, fencing, walkways and landscaping.
IF YOU GO
WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Erwin, 1697 Pacific Ave., Los Angeles 90291
Contact: (310) 452-1111 www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/losangeles/erwin
Price: Rates are $159 to $279, depending on the room type
WHERE TO SKATE: Venice Beach Skate Plaza is located on the beach just north of the graffiti walls off Windward Avenue. For more information, visit www.lacity.org/council/cd11.
Bargain: Venice’s best organic produce
Free to browse
Open from 7 to 11 a.m. Fridays, the Venice Farmers Market, at the corner of Venice Boulevard and Venice Way, is filled with produce, flowers, locally made gourmet foods — and locals. The market, which usually gets crowded by midmorning, is a nice excursion from the beach, about a five-minute walk from the boardwalk. For more information, visit www.venicefarmersmarket.com.
Splurge: Stay-and-Skate on Venice Beach
Starting at $499 per night
Through Dec. 30, the Hotel Erwin is offering a “Stay-and-Skate” package to celebrate the highly anticipated opening of the skate park on the Venice Beach boardwalk. When you book the penthouse — aka “The Dogtown Suite,” a tribute to Venice’s hometown skateboard team the Z-boys — guests will also receive a voucher for a free skateboard rental from Venice Originals; knee and elbow pads; a six pack of Dogtown Pale Ale; and a copy of “Lords of Dogtown,” about the birth of skateboarding in 1970s Venice. For more information, visit www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/losangeles/erwin.
Life by numbers
90291: Zip code of Venice
1905: The year in which real estate developer Abbot Kinney founded Venice
2: Number of years Jim Morrison lived in Venice Beach