LA’s boho enclave is ripe for exploration on wheels
1 - Venice Canals
Start your tour of this quirky Los Angeles neighbourhood with a stroll along its tidal canals, which were inspired by Venice in Italy. Now a historic residential district, located south of Santa Monica, they were built in 1905 by New Jersey-born developer Abbot Kinney, as part of his vision to create a “Venice of America”. At the time, visitors would come for gondola rides, amusements, a rollercoaster and freakshows, much like those in New York’s Coney Island.
Today, there are only six canals left – four running east-west, two north-south – with little wooden bridges that take you from one side to the other. After decades of neglect, the canals were cleaned up in the 1990s and have now become a desirable place to live. The low-rise buildings exhibit an array of architectural styles, from colonial villas to yellow modernist cubes, and instead of cars, locals have rowing boats, kayaks and pedalos moored on the water.
2 - The Boardwalk
The “micro-mobility” trend has taken off in LA and there is no better place than flat, pedestrian-friendly Venice to try it out. As you walk around, you’ll notice dockless electric scooters left standing by palm trees, walls and lampposts for anyone to take. There are three brands – Bird, Lime and Jump, the last of which is operated by Uber. (You need a US driver’s licence for Jump, however.) To rent one, download the associated app, create an account, put in your credit card details and scan the QR code on the scooter to activate it. You can also use the app to locate scooters nearby (they have built-in GPS trackers).
Stick to bike lanes but by starting on the 2.5km seaside Boardwalk, you can practise zooming along without fear of cars getting in the way. The stretch has a hippy vibe with lots of souvenir stores, ice cream parlours, marijuana dispensaries, tattoo shops and street performers. There’s also Muscle Beach, where you can watch ripped locals working out in the sun. Price: US$0.15 a minute plus US$1 to unlock (Jump is free to unlock). bird.co, jump.com, li.me
3 - The Skatepark
Scoot over to the famous Venice Skatepark to observe the skills of local boarders as they perform stunts on the undulating dips and swells of concrete lagoons and bowls. They always draw large crowds, who gather to take photos and admire the bravery of the younger kids who seem to take to it so naturally.
Back in the early 1970s, college graduate Frank Nasworthy, who had moved into town to surf, noticed that skateboard wheels were made of hard steel or clay composite, which limited what riders could do. Recognising there was room for improvement, he began selling softer, grippier polyurethane wheels that had been developed by a friend’s father for roller skaters. Alongside the rise of the legendary Z-Boys surfer-skaters (documented in the film Dogtown and Z-Boys), his Cadillac wheels became hugely popular, giving birth to a new wave of skating culture.
4 - Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Cut down Westminster Avenue on your scooter and you’ll come to Abbot Kinney Boulevard. One of the trendiest streets in the entire city, it’s lined with shops such as Le Labo for perfume, Marine Layer for casual apparel, Aviator Nation, which sells locally made 1970s-style hoodies and tracksuits, Four Sigmatic for superfoods, Will for leather goods and Med Men, which is an upmarket cannabis dispensary designed like an Apple Store.
There is also lots of street art to enjoy, as well as a fantastic ice cream shop called Salt and Straw that always has a queue out of the door – gourmet flavours served include avocado and Oaxacan chocolate fudge, and honey lavender. Before continuing all the way east down Abbot Kinney, stop off at Blue Bottle Coffee at number 1,103 for an iced coffee made by serious brewing experts. bluebottlecoffee.com
5 - Gjelina restaurant
Finish with a meal at Gjelina (1,429 Abbot Kinney) – if it’s busy you can put your name down and they’ll text when a spot becomes available (it will be worth a short wait). The inventive menu – frequently described as “New American cuisine” – changes but there is always an abundance of charcuterie, cheeses, unusual salads at US$15 (the snow pea, radish, mint and mandaquat – a cross between a mandarin and a kumquat – with tahini dressing is glorious), plant-based small plates (US$12) and superb Italian-style pizzas (US$15-20). If you’re lucky enough to come across the roasted Japanese sweet potatoes with jalapeno yoghurt and scallions (spring onions) then order them; likewise the nettle spaghetti cacio e pepe. Open daily 8am-12am. gjelina.com