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Monday, June 5, 2017

Biking the Venice/Santa Monica Bike Paths

If you are heading to the Venice/Santa Monica area of California, there is one thing you absolutely have to do.  Okay, maybe two if you count eating at Cha Cha Chicken but really, you have to do this one thing:  Rent bicycles and bike the Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Paths.  A nice breeze, a beautiful bike path, some fantastic sights and people watching for slow-flat-easy-biking-miles.  It is everything you expect as you cruise along the beach stopping at some of the famous sites along the way.

Get off your bike and stop at a bar for a drink, a shop for a souvenir.  Get back on and stop again somewhere else and do it all again.  This is not a serious trail for cyclists but instead, a nice leisurely way to see the area.   We rode from Santa Monica and down through Venice before making our way back before dark. Whatever way you do it, just promise me if you are in the Venice area, you will rent these insanely fun bikes. 

Bike Baskets on the Hulu Bikes 

Like most cities and/or touristy areas, The Santa Monica/Venice area has a bike rental service (the Santa Monica Bike Share) with various bike and bike stands conveniently placed all over the city.  In this area, they bikes are called "Breeze Bikes presented by Hulu".  You will be among the army of tourists riding the same bright green Hulu bike around the bike path.  It works like your standard bike rental, buy a monthly membership or pay for usage by the hour.

Picking up Hulu bikes at one of the stations

Maps of the various Hulu stations 

The best deal we found was for the student discount for just 7$ a month.  You need an .edu email but you do not need to confirm anything so technically you could just make one right up (sorry Breeze Bikes).   A student pass that would allow me 90 minutes on the bike each day for $7 a month, the cheapest option for spending two days riding bikes along Venice Beach.  

Using the app, locate a nearby stand with the number of bikes you need (we set out in a group of four).  Grab your bike and casually ride down the boardwalk and again, use the app to find a lockup point near your destination.  Locking your bike at the rack will stop your timer immediately- the best way to conserve your 90 minutes of riding.  Locking the bike to any plain bike rack will dig into your 90 minute time span.  If you go over your 90 minutes, you will be pro-rated for your time over the allotted 90-minute plan.  

To actually activate your bikes, you walk to your rack, insert your membership ID and pin you set up when signing up, and off you go on your bike.  All bikes come with a u-lock (this is how you lock them in each station) and have a basket for your belongings.  A few gears are all you need to cruise along the flat path as you pass some of this area's most popular sites like the Santa Monica Pier and Muscle Beach.  

More info on How It Works and Frequently Asked Questions. 

Biking along the bike path

Bike gang along the bike path

According to KC and her room mates who all have this 7$ membership, this is one of their favorite activities to do on a weekend or when friends are in town. Keep in mind, these bikes do have "networks" that you are restricted to leave the bikes within. We basically rode the bikes from one end to the other, staying and locking the bikes up within the network (important if you do not want to get charged an additional fee). 

The bikes come with baskets for your belongings, bells to tell walkers to get out of the way, and kickstands to stand up the bikes around the town.  The path various from multi-use to bikers only so just beware of others around you.  Note:  You will feel like you are a part of some funny gang as you all bike along in your matching green hulu bikes along the path.   

Passing the Santa Monica Pier

The actual name of the trail is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, also known as The Strand.   The bike path does extend well past Santa Monica and Venice Beach but for the purpose of renting Hulu bikes and staying within the zone, we are just talking about one small section.  The Santa Monica and Venice Beach paths connect with the Santa Monica Bike Path and covers 3 miles while the Venice Bike Path covers 1.4 miles.  On one side of the path, you have the beautiful wide sandy beaches of California (some of the best in LA!).  I was BLOWN away by just how big these beaches are.   

Famous Sites Along the Way  On the Venice section, on the other side opposite the beach, you have shops, restaurants and of course, the ever packed Ocean Front Walk where you will find a vendor for just about anything (even Medical Marijuana cards). You will also pass Muscle Beach where you can see the body builders and other athletes working out right on the beach.  On the Santa Monica section, the bike path runs along the beach and past the famous Santa Monica Pier. There are stands by the pier and here you can find food, refreshments, carnival activities and thrill rides as well on the pier.  You will also notice some fun, funky, and colorful houses lining the boardwalk with the most fantastic spiral staircases.  

Biking through the streets of Venice

Don't be afraid to leave the bike path and venture into Venice to see the street art and venture into other shops and restaurants along the way.  We took a detour through town to grab a snack, see other parts of Venice and just cruise around on our bikes on a beautiful California day. No bike ride is complete without a stop at a fantastic little taco truck for some California Street Tacos.  This was just a quick food stop before heading to the main attraction, Cha Cha Chicken. 

Street Art in Venice 

Street Art in Venice

Flower truck in Venice

Street art in Venice

Bike Break at the Taco Truck

Delicious Street Tacos

Succulents at one of the shops in Venice

Views biking through Venice

Off roading along the bike path
Must Visit Spots in Venice Beach
  • Salt and Straw (amazing exotic gourmet ice cream flavors).   
  • Cha Cha Chicken (amazing jerk/Caribbean food, BYOB)
  • Hinano Cafe (dive bar, fantastic cheap burgers with chips, cash only)
  • The Venice Canals (technically bikers aren't allowed so park your bike and walk these adorable canals that flow through the residential areas).  
Must Visit Spots in Santa Monica
  • JINYA Ramen (HUGE bowls of ramen, different varieties and great apps).   
  • Hot Dog On A Stick (because corn dogs and lemonade...)
  • Santa Monica Pier (fun to walk around.  Rides, restaurants and various vendors)
  • The Bungalow (while it can have long lines, it is a trendy bar in this very cool "house").  

Venice Canals

The Canals were such a fun feature of Venice.  The district is noteworthy for its man-made canals built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his Venice of America plan. Kinney sought to recreate the appearance and feel of Venice, Italy, in Southern California. The canals have since been renovated and re-opened. The existing canals were not part of the original Venice Canals built by Abbott Kinney. You can walk across the along the canals, soaking up the sunshine and the beautiful gardens along the canal. 

Lunch at Hinano

Hiinano was the ultimate cash-only shavings-on-the-floor dive bar.  There are about 5 things on the menu but everyone comes for the burger.  A burger, chips, and an array of pickled peppers for less than $10.  Pair it with a local beer on tap and you are all set.  The burgers are cooked right there behind the bar on a stove top and was one of the best simple burgers I have had in a long time. 

Burger at Hinano 

Cha Cha Chicken Caribbean Cuisine 

Cha Cha Chicken

Cha Cha Chicken had an amazing variety of Caribbean cuisine at a great price.  We got the wings, the cha cha chicken and the coconut chicken.  It is also BYOB so make sure you bring along a bottle of wine or your favorite 6-pack.  Find a seat (inside or out) and place your order at the window.  Open up a beer and wait for some amazing fried chicken to be delivered to your table.  Does it get much better than that?

Cha Cha Chicken

Outdoor Seating at Cha Cha Chicken

Coconut Fried Chicken at Cha Cha Chicken
I loved biking through Venice so much that on my last day in the LA area, I got my Hulu bike and did it all again.  A lot of sight seeing mixed in with some water views and exercise.  A perfect Katie Wanders Weekend if you ask me.  

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