One of our favorite hidden LA gems is the Venice canals, and we love the chance to explore this sweet residential are before cruising Abbot Kinney Boulevard for excellent food and unusual shopping.
Wandering the canal streets provides a glimpse back at LA’s pioneering days when entrepreneur Abbot Kinney re-created Venice’s canal system as part of the amusement park along the beach at Ocean Park. It’s hard to believe that real gondolas once ferried tourists around three times more canals than exist today. In fact, as you can read in this excellent synopsis of the area’s history, fires destroyed Abbot Kinney’s original network of canals and the six that remain today were actually built by a second developer. Today, the area is replete with clever architecture and neat gardens and we can’t help thinking it would be a cool place to live. Walking along the canals and crossing the bridges is an experience not to be found anywhere else in LA, and kids get a kick out of traipsing around an area designed before cars were prevalent. Just having a dock and a boat is pretty appealing, right? (It’s important to be mindful that this is a neighborhood now and no longer a true tourist destination).
Start your tour either in the car or on foot at the intersection of 28th Ave and Dell Ave. Head north on Dell, the only street that allows cars to cross bridges built over the canal. There are more streets to explore by bike or on foot, so it’s probably best to find a spot somewhere on Ocean Ave; there’s no parking on the streets that run through the canals themselves. It would take hours to actually hit every bridge and walkway, so set a leisurely pace and wander as long as everyone stays interested.
Just a few blocks east is Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a once sleepy neighborhood street that has become wildly popular in the past ten years due to rapid gentrification of the surrounding area. Here you’ll quickly find everything from a meal to a haircut — with restaurants and cafes, clothing stores, art and design galleries, Abbot Kinney is now a bustling food and retail destination. Although residents feel it has been commercialized, it’s a far cry from mall culture and provides plenty of visual, gastronomic and retail stimulation. The prices have climbed, and there are fancier buildings cropping up among the low-slung bungalow look of the original structures but the creative local denizens make this a unique place to spend a few hours. With plenty of adorable kid shops and some of the best food in town, you’ll be glad you visited. And you’ll surely head back to spend more time soon.
Some of our favorite spots include Gjelina (now with a Take Away counter), Lemonade at the corner of Venice and Abbot Kinney, N’ice Cream Homemade Gelato and Sorbet, Trim hair salon, Tom’s, and ever-trendy clothing stores LF and Aviator Nation at Santa Clara Ave. If you take to Venice, return on the first Friday of each month for food and music festivals — there are two events this weekend, alone. Click here for details.