Over the summer of 2017 I took a long trip around various parts of the Mediterranean, with a stop for a few days in Venice, Italy. While there, I remember thinking “I wonder what that other Venice in LA County is like?” So I knew I’d have to go and find out at some point.
A month or so ago I decided to book a trip to Los Angeles over President’s Day weekend because airfare is cheap this time of year on a total whim. First stop after landing at LAX? Venice… California.
From LAX I took a Lyft ride to an area near the Venice boardwalk. If you’re not familiar this boardwalk it’s your typical tourist trap, but also features some silly Venetian themed buildings, a really nice beach, and a popular skate park. As an aside it’s nothing like the boardwalk in Santa Cruz with rides and such. This is all retail, buskers, and hucksters.
If we’re being honest my favorite part about the area around Venice Beach are all the enormous street art murals. The one featuring Saint Mark as “the patron saint of Venice” got a solid laugh out of me since it’s both technically true (about Venice, Italy) and also not the kind of thing you expect to see in spray paint on the side of a three story building.
While around the boardwalk I kept noticing I was walking through camera shots of people filming what appeared to be b-roll footage. Later, I found myself walking behind two heavily tattoos guys pretending to be hella hardcore while lip-syncing to some agonizingly dull soft rock, the kind of music so bland Matchbox 20 would listen to as a lullaby. So yeah, all signs point to me winding up in the background of some terrible music video. Fame at last! How can I cash in on this?
Next up I had to seek out Venice’s canals, because what’s the point of calling a place Venice if it doesn’t have canals? Well it turns out these canals bare little resemblance to the ones I visited in Italy. For one, it’s a very small residential neighborhood — you won’t find any restaurants, let alone Italian restaurants. Second, the canals are laid out in a rectangular grid rather than haphazardly since they’re all manmade. Third, virtual nothing’s made of brick, even the sidewalks are cement rather than cobblestone. Oh and fourth — there are cars. So aside from a few boats (but no gondolas!) it’s really more of a typical suburban neighborhood with an admittedly neat water feature.
In the gallery above you’ll see some of the more whimsical things I came across in Venice’s canals including a pink flamingo themed home complete with a matching rowboat, a Little Free Library primarily accessible via boat, and a tree filled with mid-century hanging lamps.
As a side note the canals aren’t well marked, but if you follow Google Maps the area isn’t too hard to find on your own.
My recommendations: Skip the Venice boardwalk tourist trap unless you’re interested in skateboarding. The beach might be a less crowded alternative to other SoCal beaches, but then again it’s February so take that with a grain of salt. The canals are a fun half hour or so if you’re interested in a weird part of California’s history.