Venice Beach is one of Los Angeles County’s most popular tourist destinations. The scenic beach town welcomes more than 10 million visitors annually. Locals and visitors alike flock to Venice throughout the year to participate in some of the city’s most unique holiday traditions.
Start the Year with the Penguin Swim
Since 1960, brave residents have waded into the freezing waters off Venice Beach to ring in the new year. Known as the Penguin Swim, attendees can choose between taking a refreshing dip at the shoreline, or competing in a 500-yard race. The fastest finishers are crowned as royalty for the day, but everyone who dares the chilly dive can feel proud.
While most participants are locals, the event has been known to attract curious visitors from across the globe. There are also plenty of last-minute signups, as beachgoers become intrigued by the throng of bathing suit clad participants standing around in 50 degree weather.
Registration opens at 11 in the morning and the fun begins at noon sharp. Participants can enjoy hot beverages and pastries provided by the swim’s sponsor, Southern California Aquatics. A small donation is encouraged.
Easter Spring Egg Hunt
Like many other Southern California beach towns, Venice hosts its own Easter egg hunt. The tradition dates back to the early 20th-century and has always attracted a large crowd.
The Easter egg hunt runs from 10:30am to 12:00pm, and gives the youngest children a fair head start. Tens of thousands of candy-filled eggs are up for grabs. Peter Cottontail oversees the action and passes out candy and prizes.
Families can also enjoy a number of kid-friendly activities like face-painting. The local fire brigade is usually in attendance and their shiny truck is always a crowd pleaser.
Fourth of July Weekend
Venice has the special distinction of sharing its birthday with the nation. This makes the Fourth of July an especially significant event. The city celebrates all weekend long with live music events, parades, and of course, bodybuilding competitions on the famed Muscle Beach.
Restaurants and clubs host special events, while DJs keep the party going late into the night. The Fourth is celebrated with a dazzling firework display from the Marina del Rey harbor, a short walk from the Venice Boardwalk.
Halloween on the Pier
On October 31st, 2021, witches, goblins, superheroes, and the odd pirate congregated on Venice Beach to enjoy the first annual Halloween Party on the Pier.
The Venice Neighborhood Council and a coalition of local organizations spearheaded the event, which featured concerts, costume contests, and prizes. The coordinators hope the pier party will be a welcomed addition to Venice’s calendar of holiday focused events.
On the Thursday before Halloween, the Council also screened spooky films during its weekly Movies at the Sea event.
After touring the other pop-up Halloween events at the nearby Santa Monica pier, families can download the Venice Halloween map and find the best route for trick-or-treating.
Venice Holiday Sign Lighting
Instead of a run-of-the-mill tree lighting, Venice brings in the holiday spirit in a completely unique way.
The iconic lighted Venice sign has hung across Windward at Pacific Avenue since 2007, when the Venice Sign Restoration Project replaced the original, which vanished in 1955.
The glowing landmark is the centerpiece of Venice’s Christmas celebrations. In early December, the lights flash in red, green, and white to mark the coming of the holiday season. The sign lighting party also includes a free concert and holiday themed photo booth.
Each year, the city invites a mystery celebrity guest to turn the light switch. In past years, this honor has been bestowed upon actor Robert Downey Jr., television actress Linda Cardellini, and pop singer P!nk.
The Venice Holiday Sign Lighting and Block Party, now in its tenth year running, is just the first of several light-themed events in the city. Homes in the historic Venice Canal District bring out their best and brightest light decorations to compete for the Best Dressed title. Each of the city’s six canals are also decorated to the nines with festive lights, ornaments, and Christmas greenery.
The Holiday Boat Parade, a tradition spanning more than three decades, takes the show to the water. Locals use balloons, costumes, and fairy lights to turn their small water crafts into a floating parade. The festive boats against the backdrop of the lavishly decorated homes and canal bridges create a memorable holiday scene.