Silver Lake has comfortably maintained its position as the Eastside’s trendiest neighborhood thanks to a wealth of boutique shops and an ever-growing dining scene that makes room for both chic outdoor patios to an old-school tiki bar.
Most of the best things to do in Silver Lake are situated along Sunset Boulevard, with Sunset Junction (where the street splits with Santa Monica Boulevard) being the closest thing the neighborhood has to a walkable center. But you’ll find plenty to do elsewhere, whether on a charming stretch of Silver Lake Boulevard or tucked among the scenic hills and namesake reservoir.
While you won’t find any major museums or landmark attractions, that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of eclectic culture. Catch a show at the Satellite, go shopping along Sunset Junction, take a stair hike between hillside houses or roll out a blanket in front of the Silver Lake Reservoir—there are plenty of worthwhile things to do in Silver Lake.
Things to do in Silver Lake
Though you can’t get inside of this man-made, decomissioned reservoir, its public perimeter has two dog parks, a basketball court, playground and field for the kiddies, along with a 2.2-mile trail around its entirety. It’s also home to Silver Lake Meadow, a soft, grassy knoll overlooking the water where visitors can lounge and picnic (though no pups are allowed here).
Every customer here gets the same treatment from an enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff who excel at helping you find the perfect wine. You’ll always discover something new; the selection—smartly chosen and constantly changing—is mostly small-production domestic and French with a smattering of natural European wines. Swing by on Mondays and Thursdays for in-store tastings.
This neighborhood market—hosted Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings at Sunset Triangle Plaza—is the place to see and be seen while you peruse produce. The shoppers here have style, as evidenced by the many (rather pricey) vintage clothing racks and jewelry stands dominating a corner of the market. There are also used books and records for sale, fresh flowers, a lot of crystals, dried sage and other hip hippie wares. Of course, there’s a ton of good food, too.
This sprawling dive, formerly known as Spaceland, remains the area’s leading shrine to all things indie. The sound isn’t great and parking is a combat sport, but the venue hosts great lineups as well as an upstairs lounge with a less-crowded bar and a photo booth (that actually works, on good nights!). The Monday night program, which features free monthly residencies for buzzy local bands on their way up, is always worth a look.
Featured on the cover art of Figure 8, this swirling mural became an unofficial memorial to Elliott Smith after the singer-songwriter’s death. Following some bouts with tagging, the wall has been looking pretty good, with remembrance messages still popping up on the mural’s tight red, white and dark blue stripes. In 2016, the a large swirling section of the mural was removed from the building’s exterior and relocated inside as part of the now-shuttered Bar Angeles. The space has since been converted into lauded Filipino spot Ma’am Sir; though the interior mural still exists, it’s currently covered by a woven fixture.
Sunset Junction, named for the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards, is home to Silver Lake’s walkable, trendy shopping district. The street is lined with some of the neighborhood’s best boutiques and is anchored by Intelligentsia, where you’re sure to spot beautiful people having very important discussions on its gorgeous tiled patio.
There are dozens of public, outdoor stairways scattered around Silver Lake’s verdant hillsides. Though some homeowners have tried to prevent open access, make no mistake, these sets of stairs are for public use. There’s an exhaustive guide in author Charles Fleming’s Secret Stairs, but you can get a preview of the stairway network with this 2.5-mile hike, featuring the Music Box Steps of Laurel and Hardy fame as well as the rainbow Micheltorena Stairs.
Though architect Richard Neutra’s original live-work space burned down in the ’60s, his son oversaw the careful reconstruction of an updated version. Today, this glass-walled paragon of modern design overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir is an active part of L.A.’s design community and home to occasional art installations. Each Saturday, students in Cal Poly Pomona’s architecture program lead half-hour tours.
D.W. Griffith built El Cid in 1905 and, 10 years later, screened his controversial hit film Birth of a Nation here. Made over into a recreation of a 16th-century Spanish tavern in 1961, El Cid today features flamenco dance dinner theater on Saturdays, with other shows throughout the week.
This curious exhibit is often touted as a shrine to the man who inspired the Indiana Jones films. While stepping through this kitschy museum isn’t quite as swashbuckling as that association implies, it is a fascinating trip through Biblical ephemera from 20th-century explorer A.F. Futterer’s search for the Ark of the Covenant. Two-hour tours are offered daily by appointment only.
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