Echo Park is a gem of a neighborhood situated between Downtown LA and Silverlake. While most may think of its high hipness quotient, it is also home to lots of young families, creative energy and unique things to see and do with your tribe. With beautiful green parks, quirky stores, classic street murals, great food and rich history this spot feels like a village all its own. EP is definitely worth a day trip; here’s where to go and what to do.

ep-potteryphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Play

Echo Park Lake
One of the EP’s most prominent features is Echo Park lake just south of Sunset Boulevard. This historic spot was renovated a few years ago and the lake is stocked with trout, peddle boats and an up-to-date playground for all ages. Honestly, you could spend hours just exploring the lake. Take a walk around the lake and stop to visit with the ducks.But don’t get too close—these city fowl sometimes snap.  Stop by the boathouse where the family can jump on a peddle boat for a sail around the lake and get a quality coffee and snack in the cafe. After your ride definitely hit the playground where your littles can send that last burst of energy into the ether.  Be sure to come back in the summer when the lake is bursting with lotus blossoms and the neighborhood hosts the annual Lotus Festival—a celebration of Asian art and culture.

Good to know: Street parking is available around the lake. There are also metered lots just north of the lake with entrances at Echo Park Ave and Lemoyne.

751 Echo Park Ave.

eplakephoto: Echo Park Lake by LeTania Kirkland Smith

Elysian Park
If it’s a green refuge your and the family are looking for, definitely make the trek up to Elysian Park. This beautiful space on the North East edge of Echo Park boasts grassy hills, hiking trails and several playgrounds. If you enter the park off of Stadium Way near the Grace Simons Lodge you’ll find a wonderfully gated playground that keeps mini explorers in where you want them to be. Afterward, if you feel like exploring, take a hike. There’s a trailhead off of Stadium Way not far from the playground. You can also enter from Academy Road (between Morton Ave and Stadium Way), which will lead you to gorgeous downtown views. Afterward settle down to a picnic on one of the many grassy spots.

26846405550_6d861d9bb5_ophoto: Alissa Walker via Flickr

Vista Hermosa Park
Another gem on the southern edge of Echo Park is Vista Hermosa Park. Part of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy this beauty has mellow walking trails that lead to grassy areas, a creek and an amazing vista of downtown. The park also has a nature inspired play area that seems to grow right out of the ground with a concrete slide, a large climbing tortoise and a snake made from stone that emerges from the ground and winds throughout the space. Be sure to check their website for guided hikes and other ranger led outings.

100 N. Toluca St.
213-250-1100
Online: lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=672

312460333_626acd107c_zphoto: IK’s World Trip via Flickr

Explore

Take a Walking Tour
Enjoy the walking culture of the neighborhood. Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue are a perfect place to start your walk; just pick a direction on either street and start exploring. As you walk around, absorb the murals (old and new) along with the unique architecture from the early 20th Century to the modern era. As you walk around you may even discover one of EP’s hidden staircases. The Baxter Steps (At Baxter and Avon Streets) are a doozy but once you reach the top the gorgeous view of the Hollywood Sign and beyond are well worth it.

NYT2008120112470159Cphoto: Bab Baker Marionette Theater

Bob Baker Marionette Theater
If you haven’t been to the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, a visit in Echo Park is the perfect moment to make it happen. This is a hallmark LA institution and full of talented performers who make the marionettes come alive. The theater performs yearly classics as well as new and original pieces throughout the season. Check their website for the schedule.

1345 W. 1st St.
213-250-9995
Online: bobbakermarionettetheater.com

dodgermuseumphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Dodger Stadium
Sure, the neighborhood is full of hidden gems but let’s not forget about the greatest attraction of all: Dodger Stadium sits right on the edge of Elysian Park. Baseball season isn’t far off. Even if the whole family isn’t baseball crazy, sitting in the stands, and enjoying Dodger Dogs and those classic Carnation Chocolate Malts is something every Angeleno of every age should experience. Plus, if you really have a baseball fanatic, in the off season you can tour the stadium and go down on the field and behind the scenes.

1000 Vin Scully Ave.
866-363-4377
Online: losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/la/ballpark/index.jsp

ophoto: Vienna T. via Yelp

Eat

The Park
The Park is a neighborhood spot with good food and relaxed vibes, and it’ll make you feel like a native. The Park has classic American offerings with a twist along with pasta, and internationally inspired dishes.  Sit in the dining room and gaze at the local art on the walls or enjoy the patio on warm days and nights. Plus, they have themed nights that give you a reason to come back and try new things. Drop in on Wednesday for $6 Burger Night (beef, turkey and a delicious house-made veggie burger are available) or Sunday for their weekly BBQ menu. Just look at that menu (above) for prices and kid-friendly food that can’t be beat. Check out their website for menu and weekly offerings.

1400 Sunset Blvd.
213-482-9209
Online: thepark1400sunset.com

masaphoto: Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park
If the family is looking for tasty comfort food, Masa of Echo Park is your spot. Snag a seat on the “living room” couch if it’s open. Owners, Rhonda Reynolds and Rob Rowe hail from Chicago and brought their beloved Chicago deep dish pizza with them. If you have yet to try deep dish, your trip to EP is the perfect moment. Thin crust bistro pizzas are also available along with pastas, salads and paninis served on Masa’s house-made Cuban bread (in homage to the Cuban restaurant that was once housed in the building). The mix of foods is a perfect gustatory representation of the neighborhood. Check their website for menu details.

1800 Sunset Blvd.
213-989-1558
Online: masaofechopark.com

elcompadrephoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

El Compadre
If you’re craving Mexican food, you’ve got to stop at one of the neighborhood’s old staples. Walk across Sunset Boulevard and peek at the local shops and vintage stores along the way. El Compadre is known to draw in locals, the post-Dodger game crowd and families. It’s truly an experience stepping into the dining room complete with generous leather booths, dimmed lights and a mariachi trio. Enjoy classics like fajitas, chile rellenos and a variety of tasty enchiladas. And, of course, there are the endless baskets of house-made chips.

1449 Sunset Blvd.
213-250-4505
Online: elcompadrerestaurant.com

Brite Spot
Step into Brite Spot for a bit of revamped classic. Originally an old school diner, Brite Spot’s polished up the menu but kept its campy diner decor intact. You can still get classics like bacon and eggs and a burger, but you can also cozy up to a Brussel and Bacon hash and Cheezy Mac with orchiette pasta. There are lots of options for carnivores, vegetarians and picky littles alike. And be sure to have dessert. The pie case is a wonder.

1918 Sunset Blvd.
213-484-9800
Online: britespotdiner.com

El Rodeo
El Rodeo is the neighborhood’s go-to Mexican diner of sorts. Pop in for a quick but tasty meal. The  menu is chock full with easy options like burritos and quesadillas along with the more elaborate classic plates. Order at the counter, fill up at the salsa bar, settle down and take in a bit of a soccer match on one of the screens. Plus, the staff is incredibly kind and accommodating, even when your kids seem to always get more food on the floor than in their mouth.

1721 Sunset Blvd.
213-483-8311
Online: rodeomexicangrill.com

Button Mashphoto: Owen T. via Yelp

Button Mash
This spot is one of the new additions in the neighborhood but has become a fast favorite. Don’t let the name confuse you. Button Mash refers to the mini-arcade that is included in the dining experience. With classics games like Mario Bros and Millipede alongside a host of pinball machines, there is entertainment for the whole family. But this isn’t an arcade where the food is an afterthought. You’ll even be back on date night for the menu, which is full of modern Asian-American fusion picks like Spam Fried Rice, Spicy Korean Pork Belly Sandwiches Vietnamese Egg Rolls and Mac and Cheese and Bacon.  When you come with the kids, come early before the hipster bar crowd arrives.

1391 Sunset Blvd.
213-250-9903
Online: buttonmashla.com

valeriepgphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Coffee & Sweets

Valerie of Echo Park
The Echo Park location of the Grand Central Market fave is an inviting “modern tea house” tucked into the heart of the neighborhood. The cafe offers a breakfast and lunch menu as well as a host of pastries. Kids love the tea sandwiches, toast with house made jam, and savory hand pies, while you’ll fill up on superb salads.  But then it’s time for the ultimate treat: the best petit fours (perfect kid sized cakes with grown up flavor that will entrance the whole family) in town.  The zucchini bread and chocolate chip cookies are also spectacular. Have a seat on the patio where green plants hang overhead and watch the traffic go by, while you relax and indulge.

1665 Echo Park Ave.
213-250-9365
Online: valerieconfections.com

Kien Giang Bakery
If you want to experience a true Echo Park original take a walk up to Kien Giang Bakery. The bakery specializes in MoonCakes, which are traditionally eaten during the Autumn Festival but they also serve up a variety of layer cakes, pastries and breads. While you’re there, definitely try the Vietnamese Sandwich combo that comes with chips or cake. (Get the cake!)

1471 Echo Park Ave.
213-250-0159
Online: kgbakery.com

changophoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Chango Coffee
Chango is one of the original coffee houses in Echo Park. Stop in for a coffee or tea for yourself and a hot chocolate for your little explorers. Chango also has delicious bagels from the incomparable Brooklyn Bagels and lots of pastries (vegan and gluten free options available). There are also light bites like breakfast burritos and sandwiches with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options.

1559 Echo Park Ave.
213-977-9161
Online: changoechopark.com

storiesbooksphoto: LeTania Kirkland Smith

Shop

Stories Books & Cafe
If there is an indie bookstore nearby, we just have to support it. Stories Books and Cafe opened up to the neighborhood several years ago and offers a broad selection of new and used books. Let your young readers have a seat on a bench and peruse the kids section that is full of favorites and beautifully illustrated rare finds. Get comfortable, order a coffee a treat and enjoy a story break.

1716 Sunset Blvd.
213-413-3733
Online: storiesla.com

TIme Travel at the Time Travel Martphoto: Syd B. via Yelp

Echo Park Time Travel Mart
The Time Travel Mart coins itself the convenience store for time travelers. Your explorers will have a ball walking through this store that is full of toys and trinkets from a variety of eras. You may not quite understand what you’ve stepped into but we guarantee you’ll have a hard time pulling your little one out. From silly putty to robot milk there is a something to intrigue every member of your family.  It’s the perfect place to stock up on one of a kind gifts.

1714 Sunset Blvd.
213-413-3388
Online: timetravelmart.com

Alternate Universe
Once you leave the Time Travel Mart walk west and enter the Alternate Universe. This local shop is an ode to pop culture and is full of toys, games and comic books. The walls are lined with action figures from the past and present.  Be ready to spend some time here; the store is filled with tables where the kids can sit and peruse. The staff is friendly and will gladly answer questions from your gamer/comic fanatic in the making.

1498 Sunset Blvd.
213-537-0992
Online: facebook.com/altversela

Do you have any favorite hidden haunts in Echo Park we missed?  Let us know in the comment section!

—LeTania Kirkland Smith