From the resident musicians and roving hippies of the boardwalk, to the hipster 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 true. 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. Some canals were rebuilt in 1996, but they don’t reflect the old-world connection quite as well as they could.

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. On nearby Abbot Kinney Boulevard there’s a wealth of design and home decor shops and chic cafés—plus great people-watching.