Located just west of Downtown Los Angeles is Echo Park. It’s an artistic and diverse community where bohemians and hipsters commiserate in gentrified coffee shops, hang out in cozy bars or shop in far-out boutiques. It also has a rough side, with its share of immigrants, homeless, and colorful characters. But one place everyone can go for relaxation and a touch of nature is Echo Park Lake.
Echo Park Lake is a man-made reservoir that was built in 1870 to provide drinking water for the local residents. It has undergone massive cleaning and renovation in recent years and is now on the list of “things to do in LA” for those yearning for peace and serenity in the Los Angeles urban environment.
I admit that in all my years in this city I had never walked around it and only passed by on my way to somewhere else. Last spring, I decided to give it a closer look. The weather was perfect, so I went for a walk around the lake, which is approximately 1 mile and easy if you’re over 50. Families of geese were everywhere with gooselings in tow.
I would have loved to bring my dogs because there were plenty of pooches there as well but trying to take photos with my curious pups would have been a challenge.
The lake has a striking view of Downtown Los Angeles
On any given weekend, paddlers in adorable swan boats fill the lake and lazily float by taking in the scenery and the nearby skyscrapers.
As I walked, I noticed a sign announcing the 39th annual Lotus Festival that would take place at Echo Park Lake in July and made a note to come back to attend. The many lotus beds in the lake were just beginning to bloom and I couldn’t wait to see them in all their glory.
A famous landmark at the northern end of Echo Park Lake is the Angelus Temple where evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson held services at the first mega-church in Los Angeles. The building, which holds almost 9,000 people, was erected in 1923 and looks like a theater on the outside. It is currently the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Not far from the lake is Angelino Heights where I took a rainy day tour earlier in the year of some of Los Angeles’s last standing Victorian Homes.
The Echo Park Lake Lotus Festival
July finally came around and an event notice on Facebook reminded me that it was time for the Lotus Festival. It’s a celebration of Asian culture and this year the focus was on Thailand. Even though the weather was supposed to be near 100 degrees I jumped in my car and headed to Echo Park.
Parking was at a premium because there isn’t a parking lot by the lake and even though the flyer said there was a lot available at an elementary school, I somehow missed it. After driving around a bit I found a space in a residential area not far away. In hindsight, It would have been better to take a Lyft or Uber to avoid walking to the lake in the heat, which was full throttle when I arrived. At one point I thought I was going to have a stroke. But when I got there the lake was filled with joyous paddlers in swan boats, the big fountain was flowing, and I could see festival tents erected on the Northern end of the lake.
There were multiple vendors, food stalls and a tented entertainment area for various ethnic dance groups and demonstrations of Asian culture.
Chinese Dragon Boats were also being launched with teams of rowers who navigated the lake trying hard not to bump into swan boats.
A Japanese style bridge, which was closed for the festival, rose serenely above the blooming lotus beds.
I made my way to the vendors which consisted of community organizations, voter registration booths, Asian and Hispanic jewelry, clothing, and art sellers. Thai dancers performed on stage and at one point, a group of Thai women did a demonstration of Thai massage, which, if you haven’t experienced it, is amazing.
There were a variety of ethnic food stalls, mostly Asian and Hispanic, but I quickly decided on a lunch of Pad Thai and chicken Kabab. The heat made it difficult for me to eat much and I’m still on my Noom regime, but it was certainly tasty.
In all, it was a lovely way to spend the day in LA and I’m sure I’ll return soon
I love urban city lakes and although Los Angeles has several, Echo Park Lake is one of my favorites. I’m so glad it’s been revitalized for everyone to enjoy. Anyone who needs a respite from urban craziness while visiting LA will find peace and relaxation there and feel welcome.
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Do you have city lakes where you live? What’s your favorite one and what do you do there? Please leave a comment below.