Life in Silver Lake
Imagine if you could have everything people love about Brooklyn - the food, the bars, the music and culture, Prospect Park and public transportation - without the grey slush and three-layers-of-thermals winter days. What if you could enjoy gallery hopping in February? And what if, best of all, you didn’t have to settle for Coney Island as the only viable beach-day destination? Enter Silver Lake, LA’s long-beloved hipster hideaway. With a strong grip on its urban roots and a forward-thinking population of artists, professionals, creatives and families, Silver Lake can convince even the staunchest East Coasters to rethink their loyalties. Whether your move is cross-country or in the same county, read on for everything you need to know about central LA’s most happening neighborhood.
Silver Lake at a Glance
Silver Lake is bordered by East Hollywood, Los Feliz, Atwater Village, Westlake and Echo Park. The iconic Sunset Boulevard runs through the 2.75 mile neighborhood, and Sunset Junction is a popular meeting place for shoppers who want a piece of Silver Lake’s famously trendy boutiques, including clothing, home goods, vintage and antique shops.
You can commute to Burbank or Downtown LA in less than a half hour, or about an hour for Century City or Santa Monica. Public transportation is available, notably on the Metro Bus 4 Line. The neighborhood itself has a walkability score of 77, so die-hard pedestrians should feel comfortable getting around by foot, and residents brag about having everything they need within a ten minute walk from their homes.
Median rents in Silver Lake range from $1,396 to $2,359, while home values average around $1,089,000.
Don’t be fooled by the neighborhood’s hipster-centric reputation: Silver Lake is growing more family-friendly by the year. With spectacular elementary schools and kid-appropriate activities like the Silver Lake Farmer’s Market, outdoor movies at Silver Lake Picture Show (recent flicks have included Coco and Sister Act), irresistible sweets at Lark Cake Shop, shopping at The Reckless Unicorn, Yolk and Grow Kid Grow, and music lessons and performances at The Wee Ones Music Club, families don’t lack for things to do. The Neighborhood Nursery School, established in 1976, is a big draw for young families who want progressive, community-focused options for educating their kids.
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A living part of Silver Lake’s history are the “secret stairs”. These leftovers from the bygone trolley days are equally great for fitness-seekers and photo-takers. Not content to simply be a convenient way to reach stellar views of the San Gabriels, some of the staircases have been turned into public art pieces: the Micheltorena stairs are painted in vibrant stripes. The whole neighborhood is home to amazing street art - some of the most impressive in the city.
Of course, Silver Lake’s namesake, the massive reservoir at its center, is a focal point of the neighborhood. With a 2-mile paved loop for walking and running, two dog parks, the Silver Lake Recreation Center and Silver Lake Meadow, it’s a dreamy, scenic oasis. Silver Lake Meadow, designed after New York’s Sheep Meadow, was a couple of overgrown, impassable acres until 2011 - now, it’s a wide-open space with native plants flourishing along the walkways. The recreation center hosts sports leagues for kids along with yoga, painting, Tai Chi and other enrichment for all ages.
Food + Drink
Locals are spoiled for choice when it comes to coffee: Lamill Coffee, Intelligentsia, La Colombe, Proof, Dinosaur Coffee, and Scout are just a few of the more popular spots. Pour-overs, cold brews, grab n’ go or get-your-work-done, it’s hard to throw a stone without hitting a great café. Later in the day, you can get your fill of date-night dining at Alimento, Night + Market Song, Sawyer, Kettle Black, or Stella. For more casual meals, the choices are even better: lemongrass chicken at Same Same, pho at Blossom, ramen at Silverlake Ramen, burgers at Hache, and take-out at Fat Dragon barely scratches the surface of Silver Lake’s options. After dinner, dance the night away to indie bands at The Satellite or under the disco ball at The Friend. There’s also tiki bars (Side Bar), wine bars (Melody), dives (Jay’s Bar), and, of course, the aforementioned Black Cat. And in the morning, mimosas, eggs, and espresso away at BarBrix, Sqirl, Cliff’s Edge, Millie’s Café or Trois Familiar.
In Silver Lake, low-key locals rub elbows with celebrities and don’t think twice about it, a testament to the neighborhood’s ultra-chill, ever-evolving vibes. Suitable for strolling with a stroller or stumbling home from an all-night dance party, this central LA is a perfect place to put down roots - you’ll be surprised at how much room there is to grow.
Silver Lake History
Silver Lake History Lake wears its history on its sleeve: many of its homes boast mid-century modern architecture and have had famous architects or residents. Micheltorena Street alone is home to several houses designed by John Lautner, Gregory Ain, and Rudolph Schindler, as well as the home of silent film star Antonio Moreno, a home that served as a set piece for Less Than Zero, and the former home of music critic Peter Yates - who hosted outdoor concerts on its roof. And then there’s the Sunset Pacific Motel (known locally as the Bates Motel for its location near Bates Street and its derelict, spooky vibes), now distinctive for its participation in the 2015 public art installation “Projection”: the artist, Vincent Lamoureux painted the entire building white. A bit worse for the wear these days, the installation gave the property a new afterlife. It’s not far from what remains of the wall pictured on the cover of Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 album!
Silver Lake was also home to Walt Disney’s very first studio in the 1930’s - you can kill two birds with one stone by getting your groceries at Gelson’s Market, which is the site’s current occupant. If you’ve ever wondered why Disney favors the name Hyperion in its subsidiary companies (as in Hyperion Books), it’s because the original studio was at the corner of Hyperion Avenue.
The neighborhood also served as a hub for the LGBTQ community - some consider Harry Hay’s Silver Lake home as the birthplace of the gay-rights movement. The Black Cat Tavern, which still stands, was the site of a police raid and subsequent protest - two years before the Stonewall Riots. From subversive drag performances in the 30s to modern-day voguing at Los Globos, Silver Lake has long been a place where freedom of identity and expression has taken priority.