Known for its bohemian spirit, Venice is a buzzing beach town with upscale commercial and residential pockets. Free-spirited Venice Boardwalk is the site of funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. There’s also a skate park and Muscle Beach outdoor gym. Abbot Kinney Boulevard features foodie hot spots, stylish boutiques and coffee bars. Venice, California is a picturesque enclave of canals is surrounded by modernist homes.
Venice, originally called “Venice of America,” was founded by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a beach resort town. He and his partner Francis Ryan had bought two miles of oceanfront property south of Santa Monica in 1891. They built a resort town on the north end of the property, called Ocean Park, which was soon annexed to Santa Monica. After Ryan died, Kinney and his new partners continued building south of Navy Street. After the partnership dissolved in 1904, Kinney, who had won the marshy land on the south end of the property in a coin flip with his former partners, began to build a seaside resort like its namesake in Italy.
When Venice of America opened on July 4, 1905, Kinney had dug several miles of canals to drain the marshes for his residential area, built a 1,200-foot long pleasure pier with an auditorium, ship restaurant, and dance hall, constructed a hot salt-water plunge, and built a block-long arcaded business street with Venetian architecture. Tourists, mostly arriving on the “Red Cars” of the Pacific Electric Railway from Los Angeles and Santa Monica, then rode Venice’s miniature railroad and gondolas to tour the town. But the biggest attraction was Venice’s mile-long gently sloping beach.
Muscle Beach Venice
In 1987, the City of Los Angeles officially dedicated "Muscle Beach Venice" with the added word of "Venice" in the title to distinguish it from the original "Muscle Beach" in Santa Monica. Muscle Beach Venice brings athletes from a variety of disciplines like outdoor wrestling and even circus performers, the beach park at Santa Monica came to be known as the place-to-be for celebrities, actors, stunt people and of course, bodybuilders.
Located steps from the sand on Venice Beach Boardwalk, Muscle Beach Gym is one of the treasures of Venice. Once the home gym of bodybuilders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, the newly outfitted facility still serves the community as the only outdoor weight room around. There are plenty of bumpers for all your Power and Olympic lifting needs and most of the bars are straight. If you are into pumping iron or just want to see a piece of living history, then stop by Muscle Beach Gym and let it become your new flex.
Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Los Angeles is a shopper’s paradise, and for shopaholics Abbot Kinney is a must. Located a few blocks from Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney Blvd. is a vibrant collection of boutiques, salons, galleries, restaurants and bars that attracts visitors from all over L.A. and beyond. In its first-ever "Style Bible" issue, GQ Magazine named Abbot Kinney “The Coolest Block in America.”
Celebrities, foodies, local artists and bohemians mingle at top-chef eateries and neighborhood haunts alike. Abbot Kinney is a local community mainstay that attracts international tourists. Cutting-edge design easily mixes with quirky style. Abbot Kinney Boulevard is an expression of the celebrated Venice arts community. The street's lined with the gamut of International flagship stores and boho-beach chic boutiques, the best of rare and vintage discoveries, stylists, salons, health and fitness choices to nurture the mind-body-soul. The street's nightlife draws the hip, edgy and celeb-sophisticated from all over LA and beyond.
Venice Beach Canals
Built in 1905 by developer Abbot Kinney as part of his “Venice of America” plan, the Venice Canal Historic District is famous for its man-made canals, which evoked the canals of Venice, Italy and likewise featured gondola rides. The Venice Beach canals originally covered the entire area between Abbot Kinney, Pacific Ave., and Venice Blvd. Because of the growing popularity of automobiles, most of the canals were filled in 1929 to create streets like Windward Ave. and Market St. The remaining canals fell into disrepair for decades, until they reopened in 1993 after a multimillion-dollar restoration. The residential district surrounding the remaining canals was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Many of the old houses have been renovated, while large, modern homes have also been built. Visitors can walk along the canals in the area located within South Venice Blvd., Pacific, Ocean Ave. and Washington Blvd.
The World famous Venice Beach Boardwalk is not to be missed. Stretching about one a half miles along the manicured sands of the Pacific Ocean, the boardwalk is a large part of what makes Venice unique. On the west side of the “walk” are hundreds of street vendors and performers. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken glass walking. Mimes to musicians, jugglers to jesters and everything in between make up the human landscape. You can have your fortune read, get a temporary tattoo or have your name written on a grain of rice. If souvenirs is what you are after then the boardwalk is the place to go. The Westside offers unique arts and crafts, odds and ends and one of kinds only obtainable here. Paintings, photos, rocks of various sorts and sculptures are among the popular offerings. On the Eastside are the storefronts of the boardwalk; here you will find every sort of t-shirt under the sun. In addition, there are tattoo and piercing stores, skate and surf shops, medical marijuana dispensaries and more. You can buy sunglasses, vaporizers, beer and shoes. This is all in addition to the large selection of restaurants, juice spots and bars.