The boardwalk at Venice Beach in Los Angeles California is a bit of a zoo so you don’t expect to find a tranquil and charming neighbourhood a mere few blocks away. The Venice Beach Canal walkway though is a quiet neighbourhood of pastel coloured houses, green shimmering water, quacking ducks and chirping birds. Not a sign for medical marijuana in sight.
Venice Beach was established by an American tobacco tycoon, Abbott Kinney, in 1905 who wanted to bring the beauty and culture of Venice in Italy to its namesake in Southern California. He also wanted to create an amusement park and pier similar to that of neighbouring Santa Monica. Hey, beauty and culture in California could mean roller coasters and candy floss.
The original canals were much bigger and created in marshy swampland. Poor water circulation and the advent of cars meant this vision of Italian charm quickly became outdated and unhygienic. The few canals remaining were filled up by 1928 to create roads. The canals that are now left were an afterthought. Theories on why they weren’t filled in vary. Perhaps it was the advent of the Great Depression or the bankruptcy of the contractor who was supposed to fill in all the canals.
I loved the diversity of the housing stock. Anything from cute little early 20th century cottages to exceptional modernist pieces sit by side colour coordinating with their pastel prettiness.
There are pretty little white bridges that criss-cross across the canal connecting the walkways located on both sides. The houses all have individual touches and pretty little gardens. We saw a lot of barbecues because this is after all sunny southern California.
These houses now costs millions of dollars. On the front many of the houses have small boats, kayaks etc. There are spaces behind the houses where the cars are kept. So unlike Venice in Italy, Venice Beach is car-friendly.
The Venice Canal District was placed on the Register of Historic Places in 1982. It wasn’t, however, until the 1990’s that the houses and canals achieved the desirability and charm that it has today.
Although the majority of Abbott Kinney’s vision may have been erased, what remains is delightful. His name also lives on today in the nearby Abbott Kinney boulevard which is a very cool place with its small boutiques, art galleries, coffee houses and restaurants.
Visiting Venice Beach Canal Walkway:
The Venice Canal Walkway is pedestrianised so you will need to park nearby or walk over from the beach. We parked on South Venice Boulevard which has a large car park. You can cross over to Carroll Canal which is the first canal you find. Then just get lost as you criss-cross the bridges and examine whatever catches your eye. We were looking for the 25th Avenue entrance but saw this one first.