Scenes of Venice Beach, California are popular in the movies or on TV shows. Images of rollerbladers in bikinis, vendors selling everything from sunglasses to incense, sidewalk cafes, weight-lifters, and bicyclists all come to mind. But there is a more serene part of Venice that tourists seldom see: the Venice Canals.
In 1905, when tobacco baron Abbot Kinney’s dream of Venice became a reality, there were sixteen miles of canals winding throughout the area. By 1929 most of the canals had been paved over in the belief that Los Angeles needed less quaintness and more roads for the ever-increasing automobile culture.
Fortunately, six canals that were not part of the major waterway still exist today and are easily accessible by foot. Nestled between Venice Boulevard on the north and Washington Boulevard on the south, just to the east of Pacific Avenue, the canals afford a peaceful interlude of walking and viewing pleasure on the pathways alongside the water.
For the architectural buff the walk is a smorgasbord of building styles. Roman villas, French chateaus, Victorian mansions, Cape Cod hideaways, and avant garde glass houses live side-by-side with unpretentious beach cottages. Real estate is pricey with most listings anywhere from one to three million dollars.
The animal and bird population is just as diverse as the architecture. At any time of day there are dogs walking their humans and cats warming themselves in the sunny spots. Joggers with their iPods and mothers with their babies in strollers share the walkways. Ducks are the most prolific, gliding smoothly on the surface of the canals or blocking traffic as they waddle along the paths. Egrets wade majestically through the shallow water on the banks. Pelicans, like the bad boys of the neighborhood, suddenly crash into the water, breaking the serenity of the moment.
Having been neglected for decades and fallen into disrepair, the canals were totally renovated in 1992 with new walkways and embankments. The whole area is now beautifully landscaped with an abundance of flowers, trees, and other plants on the public pathways and in private patios.
Picturesque white footbridges which cross the canals allow a little extra exercise as they can be quite steep. Small boats tied up along the shore are reminders that at one time the canals were actually used for transportation.
The Venice Canals are extremely photogenic, so don’t forget your camera. If you are driving, there is a public parking lot close to Dell Avenue and South Venice Boulevard. For those who favor public transportation, the Culver City Bus line #1 or the MTA lines #33 and #333 stop nearby.
(All photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)