A gondola ride in Venice... Sounds like an overpriced tourist trap, I know. We almost didn't do it after we asked the price, but luckily came back later thinking this might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that we'd be filled with regret when back in Los Angeles. Boy, were we glad we did!
You can get started behind the Bauer Hotel, near St. Mark's Square. The gondoliers hang out there, waiting for customers. Our timing was perfect. The sun setting cast a beautiful light on the water and pastel-colored building around us. Our photographs were amazing!
Our gondolier was friendly, informative, and funny. Although he didn't "sing" for us, he gave us so much interesting historical information about the city, that we felt like we were getting a private tour guide in addition to the beautiful ride. He also gave each of our children (11 and 14) a chance to stand, hold the oar, and steer the gondola!
Although the Grand Canal is gorgeous, the best part is going down narrow canals and seeing everyday people's apartments and homes. Even seeing the Opera House and imagining that people actually go to the Opera by boat is amazing!
If you don't like doing tourist things--get over it this once! You will not regret or forget a gondola ride through Venice's breathtaking canals.