The Canals of Venice

Genie Davis November 23, 2013 No Comments


Take your tots over the bridges of the Venice Canals

As nice as it would be to take the little ones to Venice, Italy, there are alternatives to experiencing the feeling of those grand canals and waterways in the U.S. Sure, there are the manufactured faux canals at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, and I’m not knocking the fun to be had there, while stripe-shirted gondoliers croon. But there’s a different kind of experience looking at the canals and bridges to be had by land in Venice, California.

Little kids are going to love the arched bridges, flower-filled resident gardens, and quiet paths around this little-known attraction just a few blocks from the sea. Parents can gawk at the million dollar homes lining the banks, but the kids will be cheering the black swan paddle and yellow duckie paddle boats moored outside. And yes, there are a few gondolas tethered, too. Part of the charm of the area is that it appears so suddenly, just off of streets with perfectly ordinary looking bungalow style homes a few blocks from the beach. All of a sudden you’ve entered  a kind of fairy land, certainly a realm of something much more extraordinary than the suburban beach feel of the properties surrounding the area. That in and of itself creates a sensation of surprise and wonder you’d be hard put to find for free elsewhere.



Interesting flora and fauna abound along the Venice Canals

Wealthy developer Abbot Kinney,  a mover and shaker a hundred years ago, had a vision of a European-style seaside town back in 1905, and based on that, he created these canals. They were one part of a grand plan to drain marsh land and create a tourist extravaganza including a swimming pool, a long pier, and a blocks-long arcade, some of whose arches still stand a block from the beach.  His vision was vast and there were originally many more canals than those that remain, many paved over to accommodate LA’s growing need for roads by the mid-1920′s.  Luckily these few still remain, and have now become a beautiful walk. Pre-1990 they’d crumbled, and the homes along the banks had fallen into disrepair. Their resurgence is most welcome.

While the waterside paths make a fun series of interlocking squares to stroll, you’ll get a fuller sense of Abbot Kinney’s vision from the arching bridges that cross over the waterways. While hardly any cars go by, these are meant to be driven over, so do walk your tots across these bridges, but hold onto their hands.



The waterways are tranquil

Once you’ve strolled the canals, you’ll probably be hungry. The kids will enjoy a stop on Abbot Kinney’s namesake boulevard for thin crust pizza at the slightly odd Gjelina (some of the pizza toppings will not be kid-friendly, and the noise level can be high. Ask for seating in the garden), or head to the Canal Club for some Japanese slash Mexican cuisine. Along with the sushi and fusion food, you’ll find another master planners dream  – Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision of colorful paper globe lights and umbrellas suspended from the ceiling, now augmented with three dimensional clouds and  a thatched roof. We think  Wright and Kinney are both visionaries who would’ve enjoyed each others company and ideas. The decor will charm the kids and so will fun foods like coconut shrimp or sushi pizza.  Friendly waiters will be happy to accommodate special diets or small children’s appetites, and the noise level is just zany enough to handle any childish queries or tussles without being overwhelming. Still not your thing? Head toward Santa Monica to the Rose Cafe during daylight hours – they close at night. Sandwiches, pastries, and salads in a big and open space that’s exceedingly child friendly. Here too the outdoor space is delightful. If you’d like a sandwich to go – and head out on to wide, flat Venice Beach itself, you can find a wide variety of healthy choices at the Rose Cafe’s take out end, or at the big and crowded Whole Foods Market on Lincoln Blvd.

Next you’re going to need to take the kids on a stroll down the Venice boardwalk. Street vendors and sunglass shops, a fortune telling machine, ice cream and fruit juice stands, and a long pier to take a walk on, even if it’s not the pier that Abbot Kinney envisioned.  A fun spot to people watch, and catch street performers from musicians to jugglers. You’ll have to grab a soft serve ice cream for the kids and walk out on the pier and wait for the sunset for a true look at the Southern California coast that inspired a dreamer entrepreneur’s vision of grand canals.



Black swan boat on the Venice Canal

This neighborhood is easy to miss, but also very easy to explore. Once you’ve parked off Venice Blvd., walk toward 25th Street, and head toward the west. Turn a corner and you’ll find five canals, approximately 1/4 mile in length each.  You can easily take a two hour stroll through the area with a toddler in hand; older children or parents with kids still in strollers can spend a pleasant hour at least walking at a faster pace. Stop and smell the roses, admire the modern glass look of some homes, the story book character of others.  A variety of unusual trees and shrubs, a laughing Buddha in a garden, an arbor or two, starkly modern glass fronted homes – all interesting to observe. The residents don’t seem to mind looky-loos.



avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

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