Fight your typical beach boredom with the odd sights of Venice Beach and Boardwalk. Kids will love the street performers: painted men dancing like robots, rapping acrobats, psychics and weird folks hawking wares. If that’s not enough to entertain your child, head to the beach where they can see giant walls of graffiti, spirited basketball games and skateboarders galore.

Atmosphere: Let’s face it: the reason you’re visiting isn’t really for the beach. Venice Boardwalk is well worth seeing for its bizarre cast of characters and in-your-face drama. It’s also pretty grungy and packed in the summer. Keep small children in a stroller along the boardwalk, and keep a close eye on them on the beach. Crowds form quickly and any manner of stuff (perhaps from nearby marijuana dispensaries) might be lying on the ground.

Parking and Entrance: Parking can be expensive along the beach, up to $25 a day in the summer. There are oceanfront city parking lots in several places, as well as private lots off Pacific Ave. A reliable area to park would be off Venice Blvd. at the south end of Venice Beach, either in the city lot at Oceanfront or the private lot off Pacific. You can also sometimes find free street parking in the canals, in between Venice Blvd. and Washington. You’ll be farther from the beach but kids will love the boats and ducks in the canals.

Nice Walks and Views: Every step on Venice Boardwalk has a “view,” from amazing HDR photography and one-of-a-kind paintings to little handmade gifts. To calm the baby down, walk south from the end of the boardwalk (Venice Blvd.) along oceanfront houses or east to the canals.

Activities for Toddlers: Show your toddler it’s okay to draw on the walls at the Venice Art Walls, where graffiti is permitted with a permit. Also, on weekends off Brooks Ave., kids can dance to the Venice Beach Drum Circle.

Bathrooms: Bathrooms are located all along Venice Beach and Boardwalk. From the south end, walk a few minutes in and you’ll see them. Cleanliness is often an issue here, so hold babies and toddlers and monitor small children. Bring the hand sanitizer too.

Perks for Parents: Live out your dream of working out at Muscle Beach or just stare at the sweaty men lifting crazy weights. There are also real handball courts here and plenty of places to rent bikes or skates for the boardwalk, if the kids are old enough.

Where to Stay with Kids: While Venice Beach is an interesting place to visit, staying near the beach can be party central. For a slightly safer, quieter alternative, find a hotel in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey or close to other highlights of your trip.

Baby-friendly Restaurants: You’ll struggle to find a clean, inexpensive restaurant here. For a walk-up option, eat at Jody Maroni’s, a chain sausage stand on the south end. Pizza, burger and ice cream joints abound, but with varying levels of sanitation.

What Else to Do: Once you’ve had enough of Venice (and its popular bohemian coffee-shop boulevard, Abbot Kinney), take in the rest of kid-friendly Los Angeles at Santa Monica Pier or the L.A. Zoo.

Photo by vanessastories