This is Concierge Confidential, a series in which we learn about a city’s best-kept secrets from people who specialize in exactly that: long-serving concierges from the best hotels in town.
For Leah Edwards, hospitality was initially just supposed to be a stop-gap job. Growing up in Orange County, the California native graduated from business school in 2007 — right when the great recession was hitting the job market the hardest. After a month of living at home with no prospects, despite her shiny new degree, Edwards was scanning Craigslist and noticed a listing for a reservations agent at the Oceana Santa Monica. Immediately landing the gig, Edwards quickly worked her way up, and inevitably fell in love with hospitality in the process.
Eventually serving as both the General Manager and Corporate Director of Revenue for Oceana, these days, Edwards is thriving in more of a hybrid role at a smaller, boutique property. The corporate route wasn’t as appealing for this people-person in the end, and this past summer she took on the role of opening one of the West Side’s trendiest new properties, Venice V. The beachfront guesthouse is a renovated historical building with loads of exposed brick that boasts ocean views from every single room. It’s managed by Proper Hotels as part of The Collective, a group of “independent, design-driven, boutique hotels.”
With fifteen years of experience under her belt, Edwards serves as the GM and de facto Concierge, helping guide guests through all the nooks and crannies of her property’s sometimes gritty, sometimes artsy and decidedly sporty neighborhood. Hotel experience aside, Edwards also lived in Venice herself from 2013-2018, so she’s already an expert on the neighborhood. “I like to call myself ‘Human Siri,’” Edwards says with a laugh. “When people come, a lot of them are not very specific with what they want. When they ask ‘what’s a restaurant you recommend,’ you need to dive deeper and ask about what cuisine and vibe they want. I credit this to me having lived in Venice, and also all over the west side, but I can sort of suggest anything.”
There’s so much to see and do in this historic neighborhood — below, check out everything you could possibly need to know about Venice, and its latest stylish hotel.
What’s the best thing you can only do in Venice?
Visit the canals. Abbot Kinney, who one of the main streets is named after, was a real person. And when he founded Venice, he made it “the Venice of the West.” Venice, Italy, was his favorite place in Europe, and he basically wanted to recreate that. So with the canals, specifically, you have a time capsule of history from the founding of the city still there. A lot of them have been drained and made into streets and all that, but for the ones that are still there, it’s so beautiful to walk up and down. Venice is so eclectic and gritty and artsy and all that, but then you go to the canals, and you’re in a completely different space. You’re transported into a completely different area than what you would typically think of Venice. Venice doesn’t necessarily have a museum to go to, or anything like that, but there are so many nooks and crannies that you can send people to. I love doing that.
Where can I get a cup of coffee near the hotel and go for a good walk?
Groundwork Coffee is our number-one go-to, and it’s as close as can be, directly adjacent to the lobby. Grab a latte and cruise up the boardwalk toward Santa Monica or go up Westminster to hit up Abbot Kinney.
Late night spot where I can get into a bit of trouble? (But not too much trouble!)
Townhouse on Windward is a Venice staple and a must see. It has a speakeasy downstairs and amazing craft cocktails upstairs with a pool table and little nooks to sneak away to.
Best cheap eats in town?
La Isla Bonita is a family-owned and -run food truck that most days you can find parked on Rose Ave. Fantastic ceviche, tacos, and quesadillas.
What’s the easiest way to get around town, in terms of transportation?
I would take one of our Venice V Solé Bicycles and explore the canals, stop off an Abbot Kinney to grab a bite and shop, come back down to the boardwalk to bike up to Santa Monica and end with a sunset cocktail along the coast. We now have six bikes, and Solé is a Venice company that’s literally down the street from us. They have little baskets on the back, and they have our insignia on it.
What’s a unique feature your hotel offers that I won’t find elsewhere?
The oceanfront penthouses. We have rooftop, unobstructed oceanfront views directly on the beach. Nowhere else in Venice has this. Even in Santa Monica, there’s often buildings or other things blocking the view. Outside of the penthouses, each and every room on property has some form of a view of the ocean from the room. The east-facing rooms, the north-facing rooms, and the south-facing rooms. You can see the ocean from every single room.
The building’s history is also a huge part of the property. It was built in 1915 as the Waldorf hotel, and it was home to a lot of the Hollywood elite back then, like Charlie Chaplin and Clara Bow. It kind of transformed over the years, but there was still a rich history to it. Sylvester Stallone filmed a movie in one of the penthouses, Bruce Willis filmed a movie here, Jim Morrison stayed here. There’s even a little Hell’s Angels history sprinkled in there.
What’s a cool architectural site that’s not mobbed with tourists?
Our building. It’s been through the wringer with different types of people, but when the owner bought it six years ago, he wanted to bring back a lot of that history. Penthouse 4 is the Morrison Penthouse. Penthouse 2 is the Chaplin Penthouse. All of the tiling on the outside of the building is the original tiling. A lot of the exposed brick in the rooms that you see and the high ceilings, that’s all from the original building. So kind of similar to the canals, you’re getting a little time capsule of what was here before, it’s just modernized.
Best place for a sunset cocktail?
Perhaps the best seat in the house is at The Waterfront Venice where you get a front row view to the spectacular sunsets we get here in Venice.
Where should I go in the area for a day spent outside?
Head to Muscle Beach. Arnold Schwarzenegger made it popular and it’s a mainstay on the boardwalk that everyone goes to see whenever they come to Venice.
Where’s a good spot to snap an Instagram-worthy photo?
It could be a little cliché, but there is a rainbow colored lifeguard station in front of the hotel and if angled correctly, on a clear day, you’ll get a shot of the beach, the coast and up to Malibu.
What’s the one thing everyone should remember to pack when visiting?
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