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Highland Park Bowl
Photograph: Wonho Frank Lee

Things to do in Highland Park

Explore the Northeast L.A. neighborhood's mix of new hangouts and old institutions with these things to do in Highland Park

Michael Juliano
Edited by
Michael Juliano
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Take a walk along York or Figueroa and you can’t go a block without bumping into a slick coffee shop or an exposed-ceiling gastropub. But there are far more things to do in Highland Park, including plenty that predate the Northeast L.A. ’hood’s distinction as one of the city’s hippest. Explore both aspects of the area, from a steampunk-esque bowling alley to off-the-beaten-path museums and a landmark house tour, with these things to do in Highland Park.

Things to do in Highland Park

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Highland Park
  • price 2 of 4

Formerly a cherished music venue called Mr. T’s Bowl, the 1933 Group took over the space in 2015 and transformed it into a gorgeous, steampunk-esque bowling alley and bar. The details here are meticulous, from chandeliers made out of repurposed pinsetters to old bowling banners that line the alley’s eight lanes. Bowlers can wait out their turn on leather Chesterfield sofas and order from a menu boasting Neapolitan-style pizzas, craft cocktails and a rotating selection of local beers.

  • Shopping
  • Chocolate and candy
  • Highland Park
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Get lost in aisles stocked with hundreds of varieties of root beer and vintage soda, from old-fashioned cream sodas to ginger beer made with real ginger oil. Just browsing the bins of hard-to-find vintage candy in nostalgic wrapping evokes delicious childhood memories (sans stomach aches and sticky fingers).

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  • Things to do
  • Highland Park
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Nothing says childhood entertainment quite like a puppet show, and this nearly six-decade-old marionette theater delivers, big-time. Though the namesake Bob Baker has passed and the theater has moved from Westlake to Highland Park, its charms have stayed in tact: The kitsch factor is high here—original puppets, cheesy old songs and sorbet-colored decor—but that only adds to the legendary vibe. A variety of holiday-themed performances are especially big hits around Halloween and Christmas.

  • Movie theaters
  • Multiplex
  • Highland Park
  • price 1 of 4

For one of the best deals in town, catch the $6 showings of new film releases on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and $7 bargain matinees, daily before 6pm. Just don’t expect an art-house audience—especially in the G-rated flicks, the kids can get a bit rowdy.

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Highland Park

Cruise up Figueroa and eventually you’ll come across this 22-foot-tall burly man perched on a rooftop, giant yellow bucket in hand. Oh yeah, and he has the head of an anthropomorphized chicken—wattles, comb, beak and all. Chicken Boy started his life atop a Downtown fried chicken shack in the ’60s. Like many other Muffler Men at the time, this outdoor ad was fabricated by International Fiberglass in Venice and then chicken-ified by its owner. Chicken Boy was dismantled in 1984 and sent into storage, until art director Amy Inouye revived him atop her Highland Park design studio in 2007.

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  • Bars
  • Highland Park
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Though it arrived well after L.A.’s initial burst of arcade bars, Brooklyn’s Barcade brand has brought craft beer and old-school arcade cabinets to Highland Park. The retro-inspired spot has over 70 arcade and pinball games in rotation, from Frogger to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Windjammers.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Highland Park

Though York Boulevard’s rent-raising gentrification can be a hot-button issue, this colorful park seems like an objectively positive but of fallout. The park—really a playground—sits on a third of an acre that was once a gas station, hence the “self serve” Highland Park sign at the entrance. After a $3 million renovation, the space now boasts the coolest kid-friendly space in Northeast L.A. thanks to its snake slide and tree stump-themed playground.

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  • Attractions
  • Wildlife centers
  • Montecito Heights

Temporarily closed. Park trails remain open.

Escape from the gridlock on the 110 at this hillside santuary for wildlife and quiet-seeking humans alike. The Audubon Center sits within the larger 282-acre Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, where it hosts night hikes, nature walks and opportunities to spot more than 140 species of birds.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Mount Washington

Founded in 1907 by legendary activist Charles F. Lummis, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian now lives on as the Autry’s satellite Mt. Washington campus, just south of Highland Park. The Spanish castle atop the hill was constructed a few years later and continues to house ceramics and other artifacts that constitute the second largest collection of Native American objects in the United States. The 1994 Northridge earthquake jeopardized the structural integrity of the building, and so in the face of potential multi-million dolar renovations, much of the collection will eventually be moved to an off-site facility in Burbank, which is currently under construction. In other words: visit this treasure while it’s still an operational museum.

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  • Things to do
  • Montecito Heights
  • price 1 of 4

It may not be Colonial Williamsburg, but L.A.’s own living history museum chronicles the development of the region from 1850, when California achieved statehood, to 1950. Situated just south of Highland Park, this collection of five homes, a barn, a train depot and a former church—all built before 1900—form a miniature community that provides a glimpse into day-to-day life during the Victorian era in L.A. The museum’s many on-theme events are a highlight, too.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Highland Park

The over-achieving Charles Fletcher Lummis founded the Southwest Museum and was an editor at the L.A. Times, and he still managed to design this house (the name of which means “the Sycamore” in Spanish) on the banks of the Arroyo Seco, just south of Highland Park. Its exterior is made almost entirely from river rock and the interior is heavily influenced by Pueblo Indian dwellings. The hand-crafted wood details once hosted bohemian parties around the turn of the 20th century, but today you’ll only see weekend tours there.

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