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California's Hidden Gems: The Venice Canals

California's Hidden Gems: The Venice Canals

Venice, California may be best known for its vibrant beach, but its historic Venice Canals are equally worth visiting. Here's why. Team


2 min read

February 28, 2024

If you’ve only been to the Venice Beach Boardwalk, you probably wonder how this neighborhood in Los Angeles has any association with the famous tourist destination in Italy. Venice, Italy, has miles of canals sweeping through the heart of the city, romantic gondola rides, and pedestrian walkways. That was the inspiration for Abbot Kinney's Venice of America. 

After traveling from the East Coast to San Francisco, Kinney found his way to what is now known as Venice Beach, California. Inspired to bring the Mediterranean’s Venice to California, Kinney changed the city's landscape forever. On July 4, 1905, the seven original canals stretched across two miles and attracted some 40 to 50,000 visitors on the opening day.

Venice Canals are a popular attraction for tourists and locals alike, offering a peaceful and scenic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city

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History of the Venice Canals

Development and Design

The Venice Canals were built in 1905 by Abbot Kinney, a developer who wanted to create a replica of Venice, Italy, in California. Kinney's vision was to create a network of canals, complete with gondolas, bridges, and beautiful houses. They were designed to drain the marshes and wetlands that existed in the area.

The canals were a huge success, attracting visitors from all over the world. Kinney's Venice of America was a popular tourist destination, and the canals were and still are a major attraction. But Kinney’s dream for the city didn’t end there.

He is also responsible for the giant roller coaster that once adorned the shores, the columned Italian façades near the Pacific Ocean, and the idea to hang letters spelling out Venice. Because of the popularity of the Venice Beach canals, copycats soon sprang up south of Kinney’s development. Called the Short Line canals, these six structures connected to the original Vince of America through the Grand Canal, and by 1910, homes were for sale along these man-made rivers.

Located in the Venice Beach neighborhood of Los Angeles, the canals were built as part of a larger plan to create a "Venice of America."

Decline and Restoration

Though the Venice Canals in Los Angeles were beloved in their hayday, as cars became more popular, Venice of America became less practical. By 1929, Venice was absorbed into Los Angeles, and the California Supreme Court ruled to fill in Kinney’s canals to create roadways. This change was to be funded by a levied property assessment, and since the six canals south of Kinney’s did not have a high enough population to finance paved roads, they are the only ones that remain today. 

By the 1950s, Venice had become known as the "slum by the sea." The canals were in a state of disrepair, and the area was considered undesirable. It wasn't until the 1990s that the city funded a restoration project. In 1993, the canals underwent a $6 million renovation that drained them to remove "80 years of muck" from the waters and restored sidewalks and pedestrian bridges. Today, the Venice Canals are a popular tourist attraction. They are a prime example of California's hidden gems.

By the 1920s, the city of Los Angeles had absorbed Venice, and the canals were seen as a nuisance.

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