If you’ve ever wanted to experience a city through an audio tour – all on your own time, right from your phone – you should check out the app called Detour. This adventure was a walking tour of Venice Beach complete with a full history of founder Abbot Kinney, the original Venice of America, and the arts district it is today.
Detour is free from the app store, and specific tours cost about $5. Tours are available in several large cities and use your phone’s GPS to guide you through unique and interesting parts of the city. Using your earphones, you can experience the tour guide leading you through small alleyways, across busy streets, and into small areas of the city you never knew existed. I took the tour called Venice: Abbot Kinney’s Impossible Dream, which begins right on the Venice Beach boardwalk and leads you around to the small canals that still exist in the residential part of the city. The tour took about 40 minutes and was roughly 2-3 miles.
I learned such cool things from this tour. Abbot Kinney came to this swampy area of Southern California in 1904 and had dreams to turn the beachy area into a town for arts and education, modeling Venice, Italy. Kinney developed and built attractions and eateries basing the architecture on Italian designs complete with colonnades and canals. Many of the streets that exist today were once canals that were built through the city, to take visitors on gondola trips as an authentic Italian experience. There were once amusement attractions, a roller coaster, a lagoon, and a midway in Venice that has all since vanished and been replaced with city streets, buildings, and boardwalks. According to the audio tour, the reason for Kinney’s dream disappearing was the boom of automobiles. No one wanted to travel on foot or gondola when cars were gaining popularity. So, eventually, the canals were replaced with paved roads. At certain points in the tour, you can look at your phone to see how the place originally looked in the early 20th century, courtesy of archive photographs from the era. This was probably my favorite part of this tour: to be able to see, hear, experience the way the city was a century ago.
The tour pointed out original buildings, showed us where the historic attractions once were, and detailed the life of Kinney himself. It also showcased today’s modern street art, murals, and architecture. We rounded corners and walked along some of the remaining canals where now homes reside, ending the tour on one of the bridges overlooking the canals.
After the tour, we walked the boardwalk to see the classic Muscle Beach, shops, music and more. We grabbed lunch at the Sidewalk Café, then visited the small bookstore behind the restaurant called Small World Books. The boardwalk was bustling with vendors and performers and it was a great day to explore the area.
The Detour app is so fun and such a creative way to explore cities. There are several more audio tours in LA that Detour offers and I am eager to check out! Stay tuned for more fun posts on these tours.