Secrets of Echo Park: What You Need to Know

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 spending the day; scroll through to see where to go and what to do.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

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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.

Insider Tip: 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.

Echo Park Lake
751 Echo Park Ave.


photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

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.

photo: Alissa Walker via Flickr

Another gem on the southern edge of Echo Park and part of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Vista Hermosa Park 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.

Vista Hermosa Park
100 N. Toluca St.

photo: IK’s World Trip via Flickr


Enjoy the walking culture of the neighborhood. Sunset Boulevard and Echo Park Avenue are a perfect place to start; 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 Street Stairs. Here, work out the kid’s unending supply of energy. They aren’t too steep and there are lots of opportunities along the way for rests in the form of park benches and shaded alcoves. If you make it to the top, you’ll be treated to outstanding views of Downtown on a clear day.

Baxter Street Stairs
2080 Avon St.
Los Angeles, CA

photo: via Bab Baker Marionette Theater

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater is a Los Angeles institution, and for good reason. Not only is the location a Los Angeles Historical Landmark, but the Theater is also home to over 2,000 intricately designed puppets and marionettes. Throughout the year, the staff puts on over 200 shows for children of all ages. Their Holiday Spectacular and Halloween Hootenanny are not to be missed. Shows run weekly and children two and under are free.

The Bob Baker Marionette Theater
1345 W 1st St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 250-9995

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

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 offseason you can tour the stadium and go down on the field and behind the scenes.

Dodger Stadium
1000 Vin Scully Ave.

photo: Vienna T. via Yelp


So where does the unique name ‘Button Mash’ come from? Button mashing is what you do when you are furiously playing video games. And, ask any family what their two favorite past times are and you’ll likely get eating and playing video games. This place mixes both awesome Asian fusion inspired food and dozens of old school arcade games. Parents will love reminiscing over Donkey Kong and the kids will love playing just about any game in the joint. Just be sure to come on the early side, either for lunch or an early dinner, as the crowd gets more adult the later it gets.

Button Mash
1391 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 250-9903

photo: via 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 the deep dish, your trip to EP is the perfect moment. Thin crust bistro pizzas are also available along with pasta, 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.

Masa of Echo Park
1800 W Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 989-1558

Part of the Echo Park community since the 1960s and continues to serve up homemade meals that aim to please. The menu is huge and the portions even bigger, so it’s okay to share. The a la carte menu is perfect for picky eaters because they can choose from dozens of combinations. Order cottage cheese, chicken nuggets and jello and no one will bat an eye. Just be sure to save room for dessert. Let the kids walk up the to the dessert counter and check out made from scratch, larger than life, pies, cakes, and pastries.

Brite Spot Diner
1918 W Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 484-9800

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 beaten. Check out their website for menu and weekly offerings.

The Park
1400 Sunset Blvd.

photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith

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.

El Compadre
1449 Sunset Blvd.

The neighborhood’s go-to, it’s a Mexican diner of sorts. The menu is chock full of 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.

El Rodeo
1721 Sunset Blvd.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

Coffee & Sweets

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 a 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.

Valerie of Echo Park
1665 Echo Park Ave.

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!)

Kien Giang Bakery
1471 Echo Park Ave.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith

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.

Chango Coffee
1559 Echo Park Ave.

photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith


Walking to Stories Books and Café is like discovering an oasis on the busy streets of Echo Park. Cozy up with your kiddos in a quiet corner for your own private reading hour – there’s a huge selection of new kid favorites and old classics. Check their calendar for family-friendly events like poetry readings, live music, and film screenings. Hungry? They serve up a lot more than the standard cup of joe. Hungry tots will love the grilled cheese and tomato soup, or the wide variety of freshly baked goods. Parental fare includes fig and goat cheese tartines, grilled veggie wraps, and more.

Stories Books and Cafe
1716 Sunset Blvd.

photo: Holly C. via Yelp

Grub on homemade eats and treats from mom and pop vendors and take home some of the freshest veggie and fruits around. The Echo Park Farmer’s Market takes place every Friday at Logan Street and Sunset Boulevard and is a hub for families of all shapes and sizes. Taste test local honey or have a fresh coconut milk right from the fruit. Whatever path you choose will be the ultimate adventure.

Echo Park Farmer’s Market
1125 Logan St
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(323) 463-3171

Coined the convenience store for time travelers, 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.

Echo Park Time Travel Mart
1714 Sunset Blvd.

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.

Alternate Universe
1498 Sunset Blvd.

Wind Down

Get your om on at Yogala, where kids classes are held at the same time as the adult classes so you can both get your own little slice of Zen. If you have a smaller child in tow, there are mommy and me classes available as well. They aren’t always posted on the site, so it’s best to call the day of and find out what’s going on. And if you don’t have time to take a class, you can always stop by to check out their boutique full of handmade items from local vendors. The offerings change monthly, so there’s always something new to be found.

1840 Echo Park Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 375-4505

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

—LeTania Kirkland Smith & Christina Montoya Fielder


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