You could spend a solid year sniffing out cool spots for travelers in Venice, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu — scores of hotels, hundreds of restaurants and bars, more than 30 miles of coastline. But you're new to the scene, or you haven't visited in a while, and who has a year anyway?

We offer the seventh installment of our yearlong series of Southern California close-ups — 11 micro-itineraries that will lead you to fresh fruit, ancient art, pub darts, magic, gymnastics, Venus on roller skates and J. Paul Getty on how to be rich. (You can find our six previous destination micro-itineraries for Los Angeles and Orange counties at They'll work for you or for your out-of-town guests.

1. Veni, Vidi, Venice.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

That's a loose Latin paraphrase for: "I came, I saw and, boy, are we a long way from Burbank." Venice lies just south of Santa Monica and left of the American mainstream — artsy, edgy, defiant and occasionally downright dissolute. Check out Ocean Front Walk on a weekend morning and bring a fistful of dollar bills to tip the street musicians, magicians and all-around characters. Don't miss the mural of Venus on roller skates, near Speedway and Windward Avenue. (Maybe you've already seen it, in the Steve Martin movie "L.A. Story.") See too the careening teens at the Venice Skate Park, the cyclists on the meandering beach bike path, and the serious pick-up games on the basketball courts. There will be something to amuse you and something to offend you. (Perhaps the cheeky young man seeking contributions for penis-reduction surgery?) Venice-lovers embrace it as the weirdness capital of Southern California, if not North America. Others take one look at the grit and graffiti and ask: What's so special about beachfront urban blight and cheap sunglasses? Before you pass judgment, inspect the canals just south of South Venice Boulevard and survey the ambitious restaurants, galleries and shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. After you check into the playful but grown-up-oriented Hotel Erwin — where singing a song at the front desk may get you an upgrade — you can get a drink at the rooftop bar. It doesn't have a pool, but step across Pacific Avenue to Mao's Kitchen for a $9 bowl of noodle soup almost large enough to swim in.

2. Sweet swimming on a tight budget.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

For a memorable pool or a base camp for a beach day with the kids, head to 415 Pacific Coast Highway. There, by wide, sandy Santa Monica beach, William Randolph Hearst in the late 1920s built a vast mansion for his mistress, actress Marion Davies. These days, only the big marble-edged pool and guesthouse remain, joined by a sleek complex of changing rooms, fitness equipment and special-event spaces that was completed in 2009. It's known as the Annenberg Community Beach House. It's run by the city of Santa Monica, and it's probably the best-looking municipal pool you've ever seen. Though much of the 5-acre facility operates year round, the pool opens only in summer, accepting walk-up guests and reservations (up to three days in advance), its water (4 to 8 feet deep) heated to 80-85 degrees. Lots of moms and tots. There's a cafe, a cool little playground, a summer-only fitness room (which costs extra), beach volleyball, beach tennis, a pair of beach soccer fields and rentable space for parties. A day of pool access (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) costs $10 for adults and $4 for kids 1-17). On most Mondays, that price drops to $1 for adults and kids and the pool stays open until 8 p.m. Because demand can be high, you should show up around 8:30 a.m. with a towel and swimsuit. Pay the $8-$10 to park your car all day, or park your bike free at one of the racks. Then head for breakfast at the neighboring Back on the Beach Cafe (8 a.m.-8 p.m.). When the pool admission window opens at 9:30, you buy your passes, and when the pool opens at 10, you're ready.

3. Pier people, parallel bars and prawns.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

You can't overlook the Santa Monica Pier. It starts where Colorado Avenue stops, it dates to 1909 and its Pacific Park amusement zone includes the world's first solar-powered Ferris wheel. You'll find plenty of junk food, several restaurants, free live music on Thursday nights in summer and abundant people-watching at all hours. This is Southern California's Coney Island. You'll also notice the bike trail that runs past the pier — it goes north to Temescal Canyon, south to Washington Boulevard in Venice — 8 1/2 miles in all. If you don't mind navigating around Marina del Rey, you can rejoin the beach and pedal to Torrance, about 18 miles south of the Santa Monica Pier. The Spokes 'n Stuff Bicycle Shop (1715 Ocean Front Walk) is ready with rentals at $22 a day for a grown-up's bike. But before you roll anywhere, stroll over to Muscle Beach, just south of the pier, where dozens of regulars perform gymnastic feats of strength, grace and daring on rings, ropes and parallel bars. Once upon a time, Jack LaLanne hung out here. Ask nicely, and they'll literally show you the ropes. Then head a few blocks north to 1355 Ocean Ave. for seafood at BP Oysterette. (The initials stand for Blue Plate, not British Petroleum.) Then bed down for the night just a block away, behind the blue Art Deco facade of the historic but relatively affordable Georgian Hotel (1415 Ocean Ave.).

4. Retail, produce, magic, beer and darts.

(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

You know that Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade isn't as trendy as it was 20 years ago. You understand that Santa Monica Place, a mall that reopened at the south end of the promenade after a major rehab in 2010, generates more retail heat these days. So you do both, because pedestrianism is next to godliness, because the promenade's street performers are good and plentiful, because a serious farmers market sets up at Arizona and 3rd on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and because there are plenty of distinctive non-national enterprises nearby. Hennessey + Ingalls Art & Architecture Bookstore at 214 Wilshire Blvd., for instance. Or Magicopolis (1418 4th St.) with its weekend magic shows. And don't forget Ye Olde King's Head pub (116 Santa Monica Blvd.) with its British beers, twin dartboards and devoted expats.

5. Let's face it, you're cheap.

(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times )

Just a block off the Third Street Promenade, at 1436 2nd St., is Hostelling International Santa Monica, a 260-bed haven built in 1990 for frugal, youngish travelers, and later upgraded. Don't expect a pool or much privacy; all hostel options involve shared bathrooms, from the nine private rooms (most $159 a night) to the $36 dorm-room beds. Especially for younger travelers without children, the place has an agreeable global collegiate buzz.

6. Then again, you may be rich.

(Casa Del Mar )