During my teen years, I visited Venice, Italy, and loved the canals and narrow alleyways between majestic historic buildings.
I was surprised to find out that California had its own Venice with canals and alleyways, but with a totally different vibe.
Venice was established as a resort town in 1905 by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney, but it was annexed by the city of Los Angeles in 1925.
This town has a split personality. When you start walking the long stretch of the boardwalk on the beach, you are transformed into a festive, almost circus-like, atmosphere.
Street performers are everywhere trying to attract the attention of the troves of people walking by. On the weekend and holidays, you can barely squeeze in between the masses.
All along the promenade, you will find shops, snack bars, and restaurants. There are also dedicated areas for skaters, a bike lane, and an outdoor gym.
If you go inland a few blocks you are transferred into a serene atmosphere with canals, bridges, boats, and ducks. This block of homes and canals is why the city is called Venice.
Walking along the canals is a feast for the eyes with expensive homes kept up in mint condition and beautiful gardens and fountains.
It is an eerie transformation between the hustle and bustle of the waterfront and the tranquility of the canals.
Back on the beach and looking north, you can see the Santa Monica Pier with its popular carnival rides. You can actually walk or bike from Venice Beach to Santa Monica to enjoy the rides or go shopping.
If you decide to walk, it will take about 90 minutes, unless you stop along the way to admire the parks and beaches.
The south end connects to Marina Del Rey, another popular beach area in Los Angeles.
In Marina Del Rey you can find Mothers Beach, a secluded inland beach away from the high surf. A favorite destination for families with small children.
When you get hungry, you have a large selection of restaurants and snack shacks. My favorite for a sit-down meal is “The Sidewalk Café” – an open-air café with views of the sidewalk and beach. The food is very good and reasonably priced.
For light meals or snacks, you can try “Funnel Cakes”, “Cold Stone Creamery” or “Rey’s Pizza”.
Venice Beach and several cities to the north and south are connected via a long two-and-a-half-mile bike trail.
This trail runs along the beach, starting from Marina Del Rey in the south, passes through Venice Beach, Santa Monica, and ends at Malibu.
If you don’t have your own bike, you can rent one at the many rental places along the way.
On a recent visit, we walked from Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier, then rented bikes to go back to Venice.
You can take a side trip to the Venice Canals in Venice Beach to extend your ride and admire the houses and beautiful landscaping.