Tucked between Santa Monica, Venice and Culver city is Mar Vista — a vibrant residential neighborhood on the Westside that has a life all its own. While most of the action is located a few short blocks on Venice Blvd. between Centinela and Inglewood, you’ll find there is loads to do. Whether you want a chill outdoor day at the famers market followed by the playground or you’re ready to hit the bowling lanes and grab a great lunch, we’re positive you’ll fall in love with this sea-view hood like we have.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

Mar Vista Recreation Center
If you’re looking for a place where the littles can get out their energy right away, make the easy stop at the Mar Vista Recreation Center. A large park complete with a playground, soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts and even a pool that opens during the summer!

If your bundles of energy love sand and swings you are in luck so bring buckets and shovels. The play structure has good climbing options and fun slides. Thoughtful trees offer loads of shade so bring a blanket and snacks.

Mar Vista Recreation Center
11430 Woodbine Ave.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

Santa Monica Airport
If you have a future pilot on your hands, the Santa Monica airport is a must-stop. This is where you can learn the importance of air navigation to the city of Angels. The airport was originally named Clover Field (recognize that 10 Freeway exit?) and was home to the Douglas Aircraft Company.

The first aerial circumnavigation of the Earth was accomplished by the Army in a custom Douglas World Cruiser, which took off from Clover Field on St. Patrick’s Day in 1924. Jump to 2018 and you can sit on the observation deck (open Mon. through Fri. from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.) and watch planes land, take off and hear the roar of the engines all while getting some great photos. Want even more history? Visit the Museum of Flying located right next door where you can check out vintage planes and learn about the great California History in Aviation. The museum is open Fri. through Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Santa Monica Airport
3233 Donald Douglas Loop S.
Online: smgov.net/departments/airport

The Mar Vista Branch Library
Near the main strip on Venice Blvd. and close to lots of shops and restaurants is the Mar Vista Branch Library. A great stop when the family needs a quiet moment with some books or a respite from the heat. There is also a family room that is complete with toys for toddlers and comfy reading areas. The branch hosts Toddler Story Time on Wed. at 11:00 a.m. If you want to check out all the events, you can also check the brach schedule of events here.

Mar Vista Branch Library
12006 Venice Blvd.
Online: lapl.org/branches/mar-vista

photo: Theresa L. via yelp

For some good, wholesome fun, make your way to Bowlero on Venice Blvd. for a bowl-tastic experience. This national chain is known for making a trip to the lanes even livelier and their first Southern California outpost in Mar Vista is no exception. Be prepared for black-lit lanes, pumping music, a full arcade and food (plus a full bar) that blows your traditional bowling alley fare out of the water. From avocado hummus and salads to gourmet burgers everyone will be fed and happy even if they strike out.

Note: Anyone under 21 must be accompanied by an adult at all times and littles under 15 are not permitted on Fri. and Sat. after 9 p.m. Never fear, you’ll all be wiped out by then anyway.

12125 Venice Blvd.
Online: bowlero.com

photo: Light on Lotus

Light on Lotus Yoga Studio
For a moment of mindfullness, make your way to Light on Lotus Yoga. This studio offers a vibrant, inspiring setting complete with Yogi graffiti with words like “Peace” and “Tiny Om” scrawled on the walls. LOL specializes in a “transformative Lotus Flow’ that feels like dancing.

There are two types of Lotus Littles classes. One is for littles from 2-4 years who are accompanied by an adult. The other is for little yogis ages 5-9 for who can be dropped off. The toddler variety is on Sun. at 9 a.m. for 45 minutes and the older set is Sun. at 11 a.m. for 45 minutes. As if the class was’t appealing enough, you can also combine a morning yoga sesh with the Mar Vista Farmers Market (see more details below). And if you and your partner can switch off, maybe one of you can get in a little yoga time for yourself!

Light on Lotus
3807 Grand View Blvd.
Online: lightonlotus.com

photo: Shirley K. via yelp

Mar Vista Farmers Market
Every Sun., rain or shine, the Mar Vista Farmers Market takes place on Grand View Ave. from 9-2 p.m. This market is a gem of the community where you’ll find lots of people walking, biking and strolling to take in the great array of fresh produce, prepared food and live music.

If the amazing produce and goodies weren’t enough, the market features a free, weekly kid’s craft workshop. And if you end up being there on the last Sun. of the month, don’t miss the face painting and a kid’s vegan cooking workshop with Chef Acooba Scott.

Mar Vista Farmers Market
3826 Grand View Blvd.
Online: marvistafarmersmarket.org

photo: Aidan R. via yelp

Time Travel Mart
Coined the convenience store for time travelers, explorers will have a ball walking through this store that is full of toys and trinkets from a variety of eras. You may not quite understand what you’ve stepped into at first but we guarantee you’ll have a hard time pulling yourself out. From silly putty to robot milk there is a something to intrigue every member of your family and is the perfect place to stock up on one-of-a-kind gifts.

Time Travel Mart
12515 Venice Blvd.
Online: timetravelmart.com

If your mini-movers are fascinated with anything on wheels be sure to visit Bikerowave on Venice Blvd. This volunteer-run, bike repair collective is a great place to witness community in action. The Bikerowave isn’t a bike store but a place to get educated on bike repair and bike building. Volunteers are on hand to provide you the tools and information to get empowered and make your own wheels run.

Workshop rates are $4 per half hour or $7 per hour. While your little ones may not be quite ready to build a bike or fix a flat, this is a good place to get inspired. Open Mon. through Thurs. 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., Sat. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sun. from 12:00 p.m. to 3 p.m.

12255 Venice Blvd.
Online: bikerowave.org

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

L.A. Brakeless
If you want to explore a more traditional bike shop, head across the street to L.A. Brakeless. Whether you’re in the market or just checking out possible new gear, this is a great place to take in  your options of high quality wheels including fixed gear, road bikes, single-speed, road and beach bikes. L.A. Brakeless also helps customers build customized bikes (on a variety of budgets), fix up an old bike or find one ready to go. If nothing else, the colorful array of bikes combined with the lovely mural out front are reason enough to visit.

L.A. Brakeless
12220 Venice Blvd.
Online: labrakeless.com

Sam Johnson’s Bookshop
Brick and mortar bookstores are enjoying a resurgence, and that is great news, especially for must-visits like Sam Johnson’s Bookshop. Expect to get lost in a world of highly-curated, vintage books. There is also a children’s section where you’ll find some new gems that will change up the nightly book routine.

Sam Johnson’s Bookshop
12310 Venice Blvd.
Online: samjohnsons.com


photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

Rustic Kitchen
If you want quality food with an environment that is just casual enough, Rustic Kitchen is the place. You can sit down and order or walk to the counter and take away for a picnic at the rec center (which isn’t that far). But if you feel like chilling tableside, go for it.

Rustic Kitchen has a great kid’s menu that features their signature mac n cheese. While you wait, and maybe sip on a glass of wine from their extensive list, be sure to order the avocado fries served with a spicy dipping sauce. And for the main course, don’t miss out on their fish n chips, cobb salads or comfort food staples like chicken pot pie and burgers. And lest we forget, they have great vegetarian options as well.

Rustic Kitchen
3523 S. Centinela Blvd.
Online: rustickitchen.la

photo: Kat C. via yelp

Mitsuwa Marketplace
If you’re in the market for specialty Japanese food and treats Mitsuwa Marketplace is your dream come true. This market is full of hard-to-find items from sweets and treats to essential ingredients for Asian cooking. While you’re there, you’ll definitely build up an appetite so take the time to stop at one of the food stalls. The best part about this stop is it’s not just lunch but an afternoon adventure.

Mitsuwa Marketplace
3760 S. Centinela
Online: yelp.com/biz/mitsuwa-marketplace-los-angeles-3

photo: The MV Grab and Go via yelp

The MV Grab & Go
Brought to you by the chefs of the The Mar Vista, The MV Grab & Go is a casual place to pop in a grab great, high quality food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, without dropping too much cash. This spot specializes in fresh fare like salads and wraps as well as inventive tacos (the lunch and breakfast variety) and “dillas” filled with yummy carnitas, brisket or braised cavalo nero. They also have snacks and fresh cold-pressed juices.

The MV Grab & Go
12226 Venice Blvd.
Online: mvgrabandgo.com

Grand View Market
The Grand View Market is a world it’s own. This deli-meets-bodega not only offers regular entertainment, it has a great selection of cold drinks (including beer) and is a great place to stop in for a sandwich or breakfast. Insider Tip: Order the house made chicken tortilla soup.

Seating is plentiful and wide open and, if you show up on the Wed. night, you can even enjoy open mic night. The market also has shelves stocked with snacks and basic essentials. A cool neighborhood spot that is hang-worthy even if you aren’t from the hood.

Grand View Market
12210 Venice Blvd.
Online: grandviewmarket.com

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

Small Batch
Every neighborhood needs a good ice cream spot and Mar Vista has that covered with Small Batch on Venice Blvd. A creation of Top Chef Michelle Williamson and her husband/business partner, Nick Roberts, this artisanal shop offers freshly made ice cream made in, you guessed it, small batches.

From raspberry sorbet to Horchata Ice cream, everyone in the family is bound to find a flavor that hits the spot. And, never fear, there are sprinkles in a variety of kid-pleasing colors. Head to the back patio to worry less about drips and spills.

Small Batch
12222 Venice Blvd.
Online: smallbatchicecreamery.com

Venice Grind Coffee Company
If you’re more in the mood for coffee and pastries, Venice Grind Coffee Company is just a few doors down from Small Batch. This local spot offers up classic caffine concoctions like strong, black coffee, lattes, and flat whites plus a nice array of pastries. They also have kid-friendly drinks like hot chocolate or cold chocolate milk. Another draw is their back patio where you can stretch out a bit and enjoy that coveted westside weather.

Venice Grind Coffee Company
12224 Venice Blvd.
Online: venicegrind.com

Where are your go-to spots in Mar Vista or the surrounding areas? Let us know in the comments!

—LeTania Kirkland Smith


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