News articles and travel guides have borrowed the tagline “walk Europe in Southern California” to entice travelers and sightseers to find reprieve from the bustle of Venice Beach and the beachside crowds down the Venice Canal Walkways. This iconic residential neighborhood walk offers continual views of the placid canal and a peek into the life of a luxury homeowner in one of the country’s most expensive cities.
More than 100 years ago, developer and tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney birthed a mad idea to construct a “Venice of America” down to the details, including canals, gondolas, and imported Italian gondoliers. He had several miles of canals dug to drain the marshes for his residential area and had them spruced up to replicate those that weave through Italy’s city of Venice. Though the full-fledged experiment failed, especially after the Supreme Court ruled in 1924 to fill in some canals to make more roads in the area, there were some canals preserved that retain a nostalgic charm.
Guided tours of the Venice Canals and the Venice Boardwalk are available year-round and offer a much deeper understanding of the surrounding history and how this planned neighborhood came to be.
The wide variety of architectural styles among the canal’s houses juxtaposes sharply with the lazy scents of lavender and rosemary drifting through the air, and the kayaks, canoes, and other sometimes old-timey watercraft tied up outside. Ducks swim lazily along the canal, and tangled boughs of coniferous trees droop over the walkway, many of which have been decorated by the homeowners to delight meanderers.
There are a number of pedestrian bridges that leap over the canal, connecting different parts of the walkway. It delights a traveler to note that no two are the same. Though guide books will offer suggested itineraries, aimless wanders continue to prove to be the best way to soak in the architecture, the reprieve from the noisy city, and your company.