If there’s anywhere in Cali that exemplifies the Golden State of Mind, it’s Venice, where creativity and laid-back attitudes reign. That said, there’s more to do in Venice Beach than people-watching on the promenade. As evidence, we present the trend-focused Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the epicenter of a lively artistic community offering boutiques, restaurants, bars, food trucks, and more. Here are some of our top picks for where to go.
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INTELLIGENTSIA COFFEE: Coffee snobs will find little to thumb their noses at here, where baristas go to lengths to ensure you get your cup exactly as you like it. (It takes about six months of training to become a full-fledged barista here, so these guys really know what they're doing.) If you've got time and are feeling adventurous, head back to the slow bar, which has a weekly changing menu conceived by one of the shop's baristas.
FIRST FRIDAYS: Get a taste of what Venice is really about at this monthly block party. Every first Friday of the month from 6-10 p.m., locals gather for food, shopping, and music, so you can explore the street's shops and galleries after dark. Don't miss the late-night treats from the food trucks lining Abbot Kinney.
THE OTHEROOM: Grab a wine or microbrew at this stylish watering hole, which features exposed brick walls, pressed-tin ceilings, and epic front windows. Fair warning: the lines tend to be long on the weekend, so go on a weekday or be prepared for a wait.
MOON JUICE: The juices here are (as advertised) out of this world, and available in inventive flavors like gingered lemon, beet aid, and cilantro celery punch -- all 100 percent organic. Don't miss their Moon Milk, which is made from raw almonds and alkaline water in varieties like vanilla fig, banana walnut, and milk chip. It's just a few blocks from Abbot Kinney, but it's worth a quick walk.
TASTING KITCHEN: This farm-to-table restaurant changes its menu frequently to adjust to the seasonality of the ingredients on the menu. You can't go wrong with any of the market-driven dishes, and adventurous drinkers should ask about the rotating artisanal cocktail list. If you can't get a reservation, try to snag a spot at the first-come, first-serve communal table.
Niles Harrison/Niles Harrison
LEMONADE: Cafeteria-style dining has never been so chic as it is at Lemonade. Grab a tray and hit the eatery's comfort food buffet, which features a rotating menu of 20 different marketplace salads, eight pot roasts, and a variety of soups and sandwiches. Then, of course, there's the to-die-for lemonade, which arrives in flavors as diverse as peach ginger, watermelon rosemary, and blueberry mint.
SKYLARK: This charming boutique has a definitely Western flair, as evidenced by its rustic decor. The shop offers a pitch-perfect selection of local designers, established brands and amazing vintage finds -- all at affordable prices.
CASALINDA: This colorful Mexican restaurant is a favorite among Venice locals for its inexpensive, utterly authentic dishes -- from tacos and tamales to quesadillas and guacamole. Wash it all down with a glass of horchata or watermelon juice.
GOSSAMER: This mother-daughter-owned boutique stocks on-trend looks with a distinctly feminine sensibility. The racks include clothing by local designers as well as more recognizable brands like Hudson and Joie.