15 Best Things to Do in East Los Angeles, CA

East Los Angeles, CA

Just a few miles east of Downtown Los Angeles lies the unincorporated community of East Los Angeles, California.

Also called East L.A., the neighborhood has the largest Hispanic population in Los Angeles County.

Because of its rich Latino heritage deeply rooted in the Mexican diaspora in the United States, expect to find historical, cultural, and artistic attractions highlighting Hispanic roots.

Do you want to know more about what this place offers?

Check out this list of the best things to do in East Los Angeles, California.

Admire the Architecture of Our Lady of Solitude

Exterior of the Our Lady of Solitude
Los Angeles, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Constructed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and opened on Christmas Day in 1925, Our Lady of Solitude has architectural, historical, and cultural significance.

Also known as Soledad Church, it humbly sits in the heart of the neighborhood now known as Old Town Maravilla.

Its architecture adds to the essence of the predominantly Hispanic/Latino community it has served since it opened its doors nearly a century ago.

The church perfectly fits in the neighborhood as the community with cultural similarities has developed a tight-knit relationship over the years.

Due to termite damage in 1979, the church's tile-clad cupola and bell tower were removed while the bells were reinstalled near the entrance.

Today, Our Lady of Solitude still holds the annual Guadalupe Procession, the oldest religious procession in Los Angeles that started in 1931.

See the Murals at Ruben Salazar Park

One of the must-visit East LA parks is Ruben Salazar Park, situated along Whittier Boulevard.

Formerly known as Laguna Park, the park was renamed to honor Ruben Salazar, a noted journalist killed during the 1970 Chicano Moratorium.

It is well-known for its vibrant murals that depict various themes like family life, immigration, resistance, scientific advances, and historical figures in the Chicano community.

You can even find Salazar in the mural and a plaque at the park dedicated to its namesake.

The park has many amenities, including a baseball diamond, basketball courts, tennis courts, a children's playground, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, picnic shelters, a community center, a computer lab, and a senior center.

Apart from the murals and facilities, this community hub also offers various programs, making it famous among children, teens, adults, and seniors.

Beat the Summer Heat at City Terrace Park

City Terrace Park is famous for birthday parties and family picnics, especially in the summer.

It features plenty of amenities and activities for kids, teens, and adults to spend quality time with their families.

It has picnic tables, barbecues, children's play areas, splash pads, and a swimming pool to cool off and beat the heat during the hot summer days.

The large park is a great place to play baseball, basketball, and tennis because it has facilities for such sports.

Other amenities include a gymnasium, a community center, a computer lab, a multi-purpose room, and even fitness zones.

Find City Terrace Park along North Hazard Avenue and check out the gymnasium's exterior for the beautiful murals that illustrate Latino culture and history.

Learn Chicano History and Culture at Chicano Resource Center

Established in 1976, the Chicano Resource Center is the perfect place to learn about East Los Angeles and all things Chicano.

Book lovers, history buffs, and art enthusiasts visit this library, museum, and historic attraction.

The resource center houses a vast collection of books, journals, articles, photographs, online databases, videos, microforms, art collections, and other materials.

Many topics here include the Chicano Movement, immigration, art, folklore, and Mexican history and culture.

Chicano Resource Center is on East 3rd Street, beside Belvedere Park Lake.

Unwind at Belvedere Park Lake

Are you looking for somewhere to escape the busy crowds and take a breather in East Los Angeles?

Head off to Belvedere Park Lake, a small park with a peaceful atmosphere ideal for anyone seeking a serene space.

Stroll the paved path around the lake, take your kids to the playground, sit on the grass, eat snacks, and enjoy the charming lake views.

If you're a fitness-conscious person, you can jog here while smelling the outdoorsy scent of the greenery.

While you may encounter kids on scooters here, this spot is also famous for fishing activities.

Located next to the library, Belvedere Park Lake is sandwiched between East 3rd Street and Pomona Freeway.

Join the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival

A car during the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival
Music4mix / Shutterstock.com

Because of its Hispanic heritage, East Los Angeles holds various festivities like Hispanic Heritage Month.

Besides that national celebration, the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival is also one of the most anticipated family-friendly events of the year.

The event started in 1946 and was held in September at various locations, such as Cesar Chavez Avenue and East Los Angeles parks.

A participant at the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival
Music4mix / Shutterstock.com

It features the country's biggest and oldest Hispanic parade, colorful Mexican costumes, dances, and music.

The vibrant festival also boasts delicious traditional food, booths, exciting games, cultural music, and other fun activities and attractions.

A different yearly theme reflecting the Hispanic community's past, present, and future makes the festival more enjoyable.

A woman at the East Los Angeles Mexican Independence Day Parade & Festival
Music4mix / Shutterstock.com

Spend the Day at Belvedere Community Regional Park

You shouldn't miss visiting the East Los Angeles recreation hub for over seven decades.

Spanning 30.94 acres, Belvedere Community Regional Park has various sections that are attractions on their own.

It boasts fields and courts for baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and tennis, making it enticing for kids and teens who want to play such sports.

Keep cool in hot weather by heading to the park's splash pads and public swimming pool in the summertime.

Check out the skate park, one of California's top skate parks visited by teens and adults from all over Los Angeles.

Other amenities include a small theater, a playground, a fitness zone, a community garden, and plenty of trees that provide shade.

Located on East Cesar Chavez Avenue and 1st Street, Belvedere Community Regional Park is truly an oasis offering recreational opportunities for people of all ages.

Explore Whittier Boulevard

No East Los Angeles trip is complete without visiting the iconic 14-mile Whittier Boulevard.

Thousands of protesters marched along this historic boulevard in 1970 to push for Latino civil rights.

For decades, this major thoroughfare through the east side has been a hub of Latino life, culture, and commerce.

Since driving is an age-old culture in this area, you'll see classic cars and lowriders drive up and down the boulevard, especially on weekend nights.

Massive crowds, loud music, a lineup of food trucks and restaurants serving Mexican food, other establishments, and fine architecture will greet you when you step foot on this bustling street.

Also, take a quick photo of the iconic 65-foot Whittier Boulevard Arch on the historic boulevard between Arizona and McDonnell avenues.

Visit Eugene A. Obregon Park

Another must-visit park is Eugene A. Obregon Park along 1st Street because it has historical and cultural significance.

It was named after Eugene A. Obregon, a Mexican American marine killed in action during the 1950 Korean War.

Remarkably, this place highlights the history of Mexican Americans serving in the United States Armed Forces.

In addition, this park was the terminus of the first Chicano Moratorium march in 1969 with 1,000 protesters.

Today, the family-friendly park features a children's playground and plenty of grassy areas ideal for birthday parties and family picnics.

You'll also find a gymnasium, outdoor workout equipment, a swimming pool open during summer, and sports facilities for baseball, basketball, and handball.

Take a Photo of the Iconic El Pino

If you're a fan of the 1993 Taylor Hackford epic crime drama film "Blood In Blood Out," you must check out the iconic El Pino.

It is a towering bunya pine with an unusual shape and height that stands tall atop a small hill in East Los Angeles, dominating the skyline.

Thanks to the movie, El Pino has become a widely recognized attraction.

People worldwide drive to the corner of Folsom and North Indiana streets to visit and take photos of the majestic tree.

Even if you haven't watched the film yet and are in the area, you may still want to find this iconic landmark.

Check Out the Former Golden Gate Theater

Exterior of the Former Golden Gate Theater
Los Angeles, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Another must-visit attraction along Whittier Boulevard is the former Golden Gate Theater, an East Los Angeles historical and architectural landmark.

Built in 1927, it was designed as a movie theater and playhouse in Spanish Baroque Revival Churrigueresque style, one of the few remaining in Southern California.

Due to the 1987 Whittier Earthquake severely damaging the historic Vera Building surrounding the theater, the Golden Gate Theater sat vacant.

The former theater has reopened as a CVS retail pharmacy since 2012.

Although renovated and repurposed as a drugstore, you can still check out and marvel at the remaining design and architectural features.

Taste Delicious Mexican Food at Tamales Liliana's

To spice up your East Los Angeles trip, try delicious cuisine from one of the many top-notch restaurants like the famous Tamales Liliana's.

They started selling their tasty tamales and champurrado on street corners.

Their initial success led to the opening of their first restaurant on East First Street in Boyle Heights.

Due to their increasing popularity, they opened a new restaurant on East Cesar Chavez Avenue in East Los Angeles which then moved to a larger spot on the same street.

Today, it's one of the most successful restaurants in East Los Angeles, serving Los Angeles and neighboring communities for over 24 years.

The family-owned restaurant offers quality traditional Mexican fare, including enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and menudo.

Customers rave about their pozole, champurrado, café de olla, and house-special tamales like stewed pork in a red chili sauce, chicken with vegetables, sweet with pineapple and raisins, and strawberry.

Visit Tamales Liliana's for a hearty meal and discover why it's a must-visit dining spot.

Take Your Kids to Atlantic Avenue Park

Atlantic Avenue Park, or Atlantic Park, is among the best places to take the kids in East Los Angeles.

It is a small park with an outdoor playground and a splash pad that's famous and perfect for young children to keep cool during hot summer days.

It features a more recently constructed six-lane swimming pool that spans 50 meters that's also accessible during the summer.

Besides picnic shelters and barbecue pits, you'll also find a rose garden surrounding the volunteer-maintained Veteran's Memorial.

Atlantic Avenue Park is sandwiched between South Atlantic Boulevard and Amalia Avenue.

Visit the Home of Peace Memorial Park and Mortuary

If you like visiting gravesites that are home to public figures, go to the Home of Peace Memorial Park and Mortuary, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Los Angeles.

Initially established in Chavez Ravine in the 1850s, it was relocated in 1902 to its current location along Whittier Boulevard.

The cemetery is the resting place of famed actor and comedian Curly Howard, actress Carla Laemmle, and the world-renowned Warner Brothers.

Other notable figures are MGM film studios co-founder Louis B. Mayer and film producer and Universal Studios co-founder Carl Laemmle.

At the cemetery, you can also find 100-year-old palm trees and beautiful architecture like the stone sculptures and the Home of Peace Chapel, one of Southern California's architectural treasures.

Remember history at the Home of Peace Memorial Park and Mortuary.

Hang Out at Cities Restaurant & Lounge

If you want to eat, drink, and enjoy live music, visit Cities Restaurant & Lounge, which serves New American cuisine.

Try their Korean short-rib taco, tropical ceviche, Cities Kobe Burger, braised Nueskies pork belly, and rotating craft beers.

Don't forget their signature cocktails like Aguachile Margarita and Blood Orange Paloma or their award-winning canned cocktails like Rocket Queen and Heartbreaker.

Besides great food and drinks, it boasts a lively atmosphere since it has a dance floor, DJs, and a good selection of music, making it a fantastic spot to hang out with friends.

Cities Restaurant & Lounge is easy to find since it lies along East Cesar Chavez Avenue near Long Beach Freeway.

Final Thoughts

Visiting East Los Angeles means embracing and experiencing the heritage of the Hispanic community in California.

Enjoy the beautiful community parks and excellent dining options; you can also visit historical sites, join cultural festivities, and see other iconic attractions.

Explore the best things to do in East Los Angeles, California!

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