Weekend Escape: Venice Beach, CA

We recently celebrated seven years of marriage with our first baby-free getaway up the coast in Venice Beach, CA. We spent two nights in this peaceful, modern guest house, graciously hosted last minute by a sweet family of three, equipped with two beach cruisers, and walking and biking distance to everything. We spent our weekend cruising the town, exploring new spots, drinking good coffee, eating good food, lounging about, and not changing a single diaper.

Attempting to sleep in to a reasonable hour was apparently a fools errand. But the upside to having your internal clock hijacked by your baby's sunrise schedule is the ability to get up and out before what feels like the rest of the world has even woken up. Experiencing a place in those quiet morning hours has become a favorite for us while traveling.

Less than a block from our weekend abode, our first morning began with coffee and croissants at Superba Food + Bread. A bright, open space with a California cozy vibe, menagerie of pastries, and mural of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours to boot.

Abbot Kinney Blvd. - a famous, trendy stretch of shops and restaurants we're always fond of visiting when in L.A., was a quick bike ride away. We cruised over, grabbed a couple of Iced New Orleans from Blue Bottle Coffee, and wandered the boulevard before the heat and Saturday crowds emerged.

blue bottle coffee abbot kinney venice beach california
 Palm Tree Mural Street Art Abbot Kinney Venice Beach California
 Abbot Kinney Venice Beach California
 Abbot Kinney Street Art Venice Beach California
 Abbot Kinney Venice Beach California
 Abbot Kinney Street Art Venice Beach California
 Venice Beach California Skate Park

The oceanfront Venice Beach Skatepark sits in the heart of Venice Beach and draws a consistent, and eclectic, crowd. We joined the rail of onlookers to watch the variety of skaters and skill levels - a dad teaching his son, old and young dudes, and one badass woman, as some would say, shredding the gnar.

 Venice Beach California Skate Park
 Venice Beach California Skate Park
 Venice Beach California Skate Park
 Venice Beach California

We plopped ourselves on the beach for some much needed lounging, a.k.a. not chasing a toddler around.

 Venice Beach California Lifeguard
 Venice Beach California
 Venice Beach California
 Venice Beach California Collected Stories Lydia Davis
 Venice Beach California
 Venice Beach California
 Venice Beach California

Once we soaked up our share of sunshine, we headed back to Abbot Kinney for lunch at the beautifully designed, plant filled The Butcher's Daughter where we shared a delicious surfer's breakfast and biscuits and jam. Roaming in and out of shops, afternoon donuts from Blue Star, and (more) coffee from Intelligentsia followed. On our ride back "home" to rest and wash up, we stopped in the always inspiring General Store, a long admired handmade and vintage goods shop.

 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 General Store Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 The Unlikely Florist Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 The Unlikely Florist Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 The Unlikely Florist Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California

Back to Abbot Kinney once again, we grabbed a pizza to go at the industrial modern Gjelina Take Away. Parked out front was The Unlikely Florist where two guys arranged bright bouquets from local farmers market cuts out of their VW van.

 Gjelina Take Away Abbot Kinney Venice Beach, CA
 Gjelina Take Away Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 Gjelina Take Away Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 Gjelina Take Away Pizza Abbot Kinney Venice Beach Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California

We biked over to the Venice Canals, imagined and built in 1905 by namesake to the boulevard, Abbot Kinney. His idea was to re-create the Venice experience, gondolas and all, right here in Southern California. Though that original endeavor failed, the canals remain a novelty and perfect place for an evening stroll or "picnic" dinner.

While we didn't visit Venice during our Italy trip two years ago (maybe I'll actually get around to blogging that someday), eating pizza at golden hour on a canal with old boats and waterfront homes was a close second to our Italian experience.

 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California / Gjelina Take Away
 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals Sunset Bicycle Ride Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals Sunset Bicycle Ride Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals Sunset Bicycle Ride Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California
 Venice Beach Canals at Sunset Los Angeles California
 Bougainvillea Venice Beach Canals Sunset Los Angeles California
 Venice Bach Canals Sunset Los Angeles California
 venice skatepark sunset venice beach california
 venice canals sunset venice beach california
 santa monica beach pier palisades park

Before hitting the road on our final morning, we cruised the (obviously) scenic boardwalk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. Our destination was Sidecar Doughnuts. As avid donut enthusiasts, we're still drooling over those delights.

 Venice Beach Sign
 santa monica pier boardwalk beach cruiser
 santa monica beach pier palisades park
 santa monica pier boardwalk beach cruiser
 Santa Monica Sidecar Donuts
 Santa Monica Sidecar Doughnuts
 Santa Monica Sidecar Doughnuts
 santa monica beach pier palisades park
 santa monica muscle beach

As our last hurrah, we stopped by the famous Muscle Beach, literally a gymnast and bodybuilder playground. I could manage about 30 seconds of hanging and swinging from the rings. Luke, on the other hand, was much more daring and went for the monkey bars - 8 feet apart and 9 feet high. He gave a solid three tries before the bars got the best of him and tore one of his raw hands open. He sucked it up and washed it off like the tough Kansas boy he is.

 Santa Monica Muscle Beach Monkey Bars
 Santa Monica Muscle Beach Monkey Bars
 Santa Monica Muscle Beach Monkey Bars
 Santa Monica Muscle Beach Fail
 Santa Monica Muscle Beach

We packed up our weekend and returned to parenthood a little more married, a little more rested, a little more caffeinated, and a lot more grateful - for each other and sacred time away, for living in such a darn beautiful place, for going home to our sweet baby girl, and for the loving grandma who cared for her while we indulged.

Now to make this a monthly occurrence . . . a girl can dream.

 Santa Monica Muscle Beach