On the cusp of the pandemic, we took an epic trip to Australia and LA. We caught up with family and friends and made plenty of unique and unusual discoveries. I couldn’t wait to tell you about them! Then, lockdown happened. Suddenly sharing aspirational photos of holidays felt inappropriate. Travel in itself became a taboo subject. So off I went and filed them away for later. Over two years later as it would turn out! In fact, I’ve only just started feeling comfortable talking about travel abroad. There’s even a part of me that feels guilty encouraging it, especially considering the climate crisis, none of us have the luxury to ignore.
Fortunately, we can still armchair travel. It’s sustainable after all! And to be fair, we are all experts at it by now. So today, dearest readers and followers of Ellie & Co, as we all navigate how we’ll live and travel in future, let’s pay a virtual visit to a hidden corner of Los Angeles, for a tour of a special place we discovered two years ago in January 2020: the Venice of America. Follow me…
What and Where are the Venice Canals?
The Venice Canals community is a magical hidden neighbourhood in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles. It consists of three blocks set around six man-made canals: Grand and Eastern canals run north-south; Carroll, Linnie, Howland and Sherman stretch east-west and is officially known as the Venice Canal Historic District.
Discovering this serene sanctuary, it’s hard to believe you’re just a few minutes’ walk east of Venice’s crowded boardwalks and traffic, or mile-long Abbot Kinney Boulevard with its shops, restaurants and galleries.
It’s an easy place to explore on foot and you can easily spend an entire morning or afternoon exploring, weaving your way around, along the quiet pathways and over the arching wooden pedestrian bridges.
Side notes: You can also explore the neighbourhood by boat, as long as it doesn’t have a motor and you enter via the launch ramp at Venice Boulevard. Find more details, here. We drive and park up in the lot at the end of Venice Boulevard, walk south on the boardwalk to 25th Avenue, then cut into the canals. At 25th Avenue you can see a sign for the canals, as well as a walkway that leads you directly into the area.
History of the Venice Canals
It all started once upon a time in America, when they attempted to recreate the canals and the old world charm of Mediterranean Venice. The man behind this crazy idea was of course, Mr Abbot Kinney, a millionaire developer, who founded the whole area of Venice as a seaside town in 1905. Before 1929, the entire area between Abbot Kinney, Pacific and Venice boulevards consisted of Kinney’s man-made canals. In the city’s earliest years, visitors to Venice of America would arrive by streetcar or railroad and travel through the city by footpath.
At one point, there were even gondoliers brought in to row tourists for a fee while singing in Italian – and a miniature railroad that circled the development. Imagine! Residents could also travel through the waterways with their own canoes and boats. Then came the car culture and by the 1930s, these canals became an outdated attraction and most were filled in to make roads. By 1940, the remaining canals had fallen into disrepair and the sidewalks were condemned by the city.
the Venice Canals today
Although no gondoliers are waiting to row you around and sing to you in Italian – or miniature railroad to ride on exists – sigh – thankfully after being neglect for so long, the area found its renaissance in the 1990s. Since then, with its renovated canals and waterways has grown up to become one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in LA. It’s no wonder, with its turn-of-the-century cottages with offbeat gardens of herbs and palm trees, pallazo-style villas and stylish contemporary homes, which are now some of the most expensive property in the city. In 1985, you could buy one for around $150,000, now you need well over a million. Yikes.
I love the fact that almost every house has a dock, complete with its own boat. Imagine if you lived here and you could just walk outside your door, get in your gondola, and travel down the waterway to the neighbour’s house?Especially if it’s a pink flamingo! Cool, eh?
Although I could walk around the Venice Canals Historic District forever, taking in all the little details and imagining that I live here, before we know it, it’s time to head to Abbot Kinney Boulevard for lunch.
Here, we find two curiosities. The first: a mysterious ‘peep hole box’ art installation, by Robin Murez. Peek inside and we’re transported back in time, to when the street we’re standing on and a nearby area called Windward Circle was a canal and a lagoon with an 80-ft high diving platform, giant swing, and a rollercoaster…
The second: a shop which feels like you’re hanging out in a cool beach shack. I quickly bookmark it, should I ever find myself in the position of having to furnish a little Venice Beach shack and getting into the ‘beach bum’ vibe.. It’s called Tumbleweed & Dandelion at number 1502 is where you might imagine all the sun-bleached Californians come to decorate their surf shacks… It’s a little pricey to be honest, like everything around here, but worth it for inspiration.
That’s all everyone. I hope you enjoyed your trip around hidden LA and the Canals of Venice. Thanks for reading!