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From the resident musicians and roving hippies of the boardwalk to the boho boutiques and farm-to-table cafés of Abbot Kinney Boulevard, Venice is not easily defined—which is what makes this creative-minded neighborhood so fun to explore.

Considering all of the dreamers who flock here today, it makes sense that Venice was a turn-of-the-20th-century fantasy that never quite came to be. Abbot Kinney, a wealthy Los Angeles businessman, envisioned this little piece of real estate as a romantic replica of Venice, Italy. He developed an incredible 16 miles of canals, floated gondolas on them, and built scaled-down versions of the Doge’s Palace and other Venetian landmarks.

Ever since Kinney first planned his project, it was plagued by ongoing engineering problems and drifted into disrepair. Today only a few small canals and bridges remain. Some canals were rebuilt in 1996, but they don’t reflect the old-world connection quite as well as they could (although they are still fun to wander around). On nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard there’s a wealth of fashion, design, and home decor shops and chic cafés—plus great people-watching.

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