I loved this place. We were there in September and it was baking hot, was really nice to walk along the beach and people watch. Yes there are hippes, drugs and it's not exactly clean, but people saying that the shops are run down are missing the point of the place. We ate at a mexican cantina place, i can't remember the name, but the tacos were amazing. Great beer too. Lots of music, random old hippes doing yoga, fun atmosphere and I can honestly say I didn't feel at all unsafe like some people are saying on here. I can see why it may not be everybody's cup of tea, but as a big Camden (London) fan I found it similar in a lot of ways. Some people don't like Camden because it has people that aren't the same as them and has lots of pubs and drugs around, but for those that know it and appreciate it, it's great. Camden vs London's West End, Venice Beach vs Hollywood. That's how I'd compare it.
If you're visiting LA as part of a road trip (like we were) I'd definitely say it's worth having a stop at Venice Beach.
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