Exploring Venice Beach Promenade and Canals

Mark and Matt strolling the promenade

Venice is a great place to hang out in the L.A. area and that is what we did one day a year ago while visiting our son and daughter-in-law. Although I am a California native and grew up in Southern California, I had never visited Venice. So I was looking forward to exploring this popular beachside town. We started out with the 2-1/2 mile ocean front pedestrian walk, a fun place where people shop, eat, skate board, bike and Segway. Vendors sell crafts in booths and artists showcase their creations along the sidewalk. The sound of live music adds much to the atmosphere.

A little piano music along the Venice promenade
An artist making name plates shaped like surfboards. We got two for our grandsons

The shop I thought the most interesting was “Titan,” which mainly sells two kinds of things – hats and large transformer models. It was fun to take photos next to several of the metal “monsters.” They were pretty creepy looking!

Transformers at Titan
Trying on hats at the Titan store

In 1905, Mr. Abbott Kinney, developed this area calling it “Venice of America.” It became a resort beach town with a pier and carnival attractions. He also developed the Venice Canals which are a short walk from the beach. By the time the depression hit, the amusement industry wasn’t doing well. Then oil was discovered and the beach was transformed into a drilling field. Pretty soon it wasn’t the lovely beach town any more but polluted with oil waste and called the “Slum of the Sea.” Drilling continued in earnest through 1932 but then dropped off. By the 1990’s the beach oilfield was finally depleted and the derricks torn down. Once again Venice became a tourist Mecca.

Matt debates getting a hat

Venice is also known as a home for bodybuilders and has been called
“Muscle Beach.” One area along the promenade is still set up with workout machines and weights. It was here that Arnold Schwarzenegger (actor, famous body builder, former California governor) came in the late 1960’s after immigrating to America. I watched a video that Arnold did from several years ago talking about his days in Venice. Although he and other body builders liked working out at nearby Gold’s Gym, they often came to Muscle Beach because it was a great place to get a tan to look good for competitions. He reported that they would work out on the machines and then run over to the ocean and jump in the waves to cool off. Although the body building area didn’t look as big or dramatic as I imagined, it was still interesting to see this historic sight. Mark loves him from his old athletic days when he was a budding weight lifter himself and used to read some of Arnold’s books. Plus, I am a bit of an Arnold and Terminator movies fan.

Muscle Beach Gym where the public can get a day, month or year pass to work out

It was like stepping back in time to see the beautiful Venice Canals, a picturesque area. It was also much more peaceful than the promenade and beach area. People have charming homes along the canals and this is one area of L.A. that I think would be neat to live, especially since I love being near water. I would keep a kayak or canoe docked near my cottage and take to the water from time to time.

Today there are six main canals, four that run east to west and two north to south. When Mr. Kinney first developed them they were modeled after Venice, Italy. Gondolas piloted by gondoliers traveled the waterways with more canals than remain today. At first people called this “Kinney’s Folly” as they didn’t think he could make much from the beach marshland. But he succeeded in selling plots of land for homes and drawing many visitors. By the 1920’s when cars had become popular, the canals were seen as outdated and filled in for paved roads.

Venice Canal Association best dressed home contest

Thankfully, in 1993 the canals were restored with walk ways and bridges renovated, a six million dollar project.

One of the lovely canal bridges decked out with flags of the world

I have always been intrigued by the little libraries that have become popular in recent years and are located in front of homes or businesses. If I lived here I would also have a little library like we found on a floating dock. People could easily paddle their craft up and check out a book.

Matt checks out a little library along one of the canals
Hoping for world peace, health and prosperity? Leave a wish on this bridge

As we walked back from the canals we came upon this delightful residence. The owner had decorated her shrubbery and palm trees with hand knitted “socks.” We visited a little admiring her handiwork.

There are plenty of intriguing eateries in the Venice and Santa Monica area. We finished off our exploring with dinner at the adorable and tasty little Caribbean cafe called “Cha Cha Chicken.”

Thanks for coming along with us as we explored Venice. Stay tuned for another post exploring the Beverly Hills and Hollywood area.

6 thoughts on “Exploring Venice Beach Promenade and Canals”

  1. Such a fun day! Love cruising Venice. Learned a lot here by the way. Didn’t know Venice was a big oil field, but I googled some photos and its pretty shocking to see. You hear a lot about how dangerous and unsavory Venice once was, now it is very expensive and popular place to live. Also surprised the canals were once paved over and since restored. Glad the time was put in to renovate the area

    1. Hey Matt, one of the things I really enjoy about doing the blog is how much I learn when researching places we have been. I was so surprised to see old photos of the oil fields in Venice. I would never have expected it and what a change today!

  2. Thanks, Beth, for the trip to Venice on this cold rainy day in Chico. When we visited there, the canals did not exist. That looks like a lovely area.

    1. Thanks for commenting Judy! It was interesting to read that the canals were not there when you visited. I am glad they renovated them because they are a beautiful and unique sight today!

  3. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law live a mile away and we have often house sat for them or visited with them. So we are very familiar with the area and love biking and walking there.’

    Ilona

    1. Great to hear from you Ilona and thanks for the comment. It is always interesting to hear from people that are familiar with the areas I am writing about. Gives a new perspective!

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