Cities go through transformations—that’s nothing new, but the Venice, California transformation over the last couple of decades has been astounding. Where Venice was once primarily known as a hippie enclave of free spirits, it’s now become a hipster’s paradise filled with incredible restaurants, upscale boutiques and the coolest big businesses (Google came to town in 2011).

Yes, Venice still has an edge to it—Muscle Beach and the zany, artist-heavy boardwalk are still integral to the city’s character. But mixed in with that aspect is a new sophistication that is, in part, responsible for the surge of homebuyers heading to Venice. In response to the chic retail on Abbot Kinney and the amazing dining scene at places like Gjelina and The Tasting Kitchen, Venice is officially one of the hottest neighborhoods in L.A.

Residents say that despite the growth of the city in both culture and high-end home sales, Venice is still a warm, community-minded neighborhood. Its laid back “vibe” is bolstered by the offbeat charm that’s embedded in the very foundation of the city, which could be why so many entertainment industry professionals and celebrities also call it home. Even with the crowds on the boardwalk and the typical coastal parking woes, there’s a leisurely pace here that provides a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood.

The “nobody walks in LA” myth is shattered completely in this community, where you’ll find a high number of walkers and bikers milling around town. In fact, Venice scored a 77 Walk Score and 78 Bike Score as the 16th most walkable neighborhood in L.A.—considering there are close to 100 neighborhoods around L.A., that’s pretty impressive. And for many in the homebuying market, that’s just one more reason to look at Venice.

Interested homebuyers will find most listings in the range of $1,400,000 to $4,500,000, depending on location. Some of the most sought-after areas to own are along the coveted Venice Canals—and of course, along the beachfront.

See: The Venice Canals. Originally built by developer Abbot Kinney in 1905, the canals were meant to recreate the canals of Italy—and after a major renovation in 1993, they are now one of the most beautiful sights of the city. It truly feels like an escape into tranquility as you stroll over the quaint bridges and take in the gorgeous, historic surroundings.

Do: Go to the boardwalk. Yes, it will be flooded with tourists, but it is also filled with colorful personalities and free entertainment that is just plain fun to behold. While there, you can grab an ice cream cone, have a drink at the Sidewalk Café and take a walk along the beach. This little pocket of Venice is really the epitome of free-spirited California and some smiles and laughter are guaranteed.

Eat: For the pure experience—and to see what all the fuss is about—go to Gjelina on famed Abbot Kinney Blvd. The farm-fresh restaurant has been featured in Elle magazine, Food and Wine, and a host of other top publications, including Vogue which ran a two-page spread on handsome Gjelina chef, Travis Lett. Some favorites include the Mushroom, Goat Cheese, Fontina & Truffle Oil Pizza, the Fettuccine with Lamb Sausage and the must-have Butterscotch Pot de Crème for dessert.

Stay: If you want to be in the heart of Venice, stay at the Hotel Erwin. This “kitschy” hotel features oversized modern guest rooms with décor that reflects Venice’s eclectic character. Services and amenities include a rooftop lounge, fitness center, spa services, complimentary Wi-Fi and the Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails for breakfast and dinner. Bonus Info: Hotel Erwin won Trip Advisor’s 2013 Certificate of Excellence.

Is Venice, California a hometown-match for you? What’s your dream California neighborhood?