Updated for 2023
When you think Los Angeles, you may think traffic. Crowds. Hustle and bustle. Now replace those words with – Serene. Tranquil. Other-worldly. Lush. Those are the words that come to mind when exploring one of the many botanical gardens found in and around Los Angeles.
We’ve compiled the best places to take families – from the Los Angeles County Arboretum to the Getty Villa, from Japanese Gardens to Rose Gardens – to spend the day or go for a special event. Make sure and have your phones ready to take pictures at the many instagrammable spots!
The Best Botanical Gardens in Los Angeles
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108
At The Huntington, you’ll see it all. First editions of literary works, great works of art, beautiful gardens, and wildlife (including several types of birds, squirrels, and koi fish in the ponds). Families will find sixteen themed gardens across 120 acres. Explore the Australian Garden, the California Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Herb Garden, and the Rose Garden to name just a few. And be sure to plan to spend some time in the Children’s Garden. Here kids of all ages can “splash in water, play among topiary animals, make music with pebbles, dance under rainbows, discover fairy doors, and hold the magic of magnetic forces in their hands.”
SuihoEn “Garden of Water and Fragrance” aka The Japanese Garden
6100 Woodley Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91406
Within busy San Fernando Valley, you’ll find this peaceful escape — a 6 1/2 acre garden, which is actually three gardens in one including “dry Zen meditation garden, a ‘wet-strolling’ garden, and a tea garden.” The Japanese Garden is adjacent to a water reclamation plant. The garden is “fashioned after those strolling gardens which were built during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese feudal lords on their vast estates.” Additionally, the Garden is designed to be enjoyed during each of the four seasons and offers a variety of blooming flowers throughout the year.
California Botanic Garden (Formerly known as the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden)
1500 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711
The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is “the largest botanic garden dedicated to California native plants.” Stroll through the Garden’s 86 acres and discover a variety of plants and flowers including those in the Indian Hill Mesa, California Plant Communities, and the Alluvial Gardens. The Garden is a “living museum with curated collections of more than 22,000 California native plants, some of which are rare or endangered.”
Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
Southeastern corner of the UCLA Campus
707 Tiverton Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90095
The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a serene escape within the hustle and bustle of Westwood. This 7.5-acre “garden, outdoor classroom, and research facility” consists of a “diverse collection of plants from around the world.” While you meander through the Garden you’ll view a Desert Garden section, Southern California native section, Subtropical Woodlands, Western Australia natives, and more. The Garden is free to visit, though the Garden is closed on University Holidays so plan accordingly.
1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
You’re in for a sensory treat when exploring the Descanso Gardens. Enjoy the 5-acre Rose Garden, the serene Japanese Garden, the Camellia Collection (North America’s largest camellia collection), Oak Forest, and California Natives to name just a few of the gardens you’ll see on your visit. Descanso Gardens also hosts a variety of special events and programs throughout the year including the popular Enchanted Forest of Light.
Exposition Park Rose Garden
701 State Dr., Los Angeles, CA 90037
You may have glimpsed the Exposition Park Rose Garden while visiting the California Science Center. But if you haven’t already explored this rainbow of a rose garden, make sure to visit this picturesque spot this summer. You’ll find over 200 varieties of roses as well as a central fountain (which is a popular backdrop for photos). The Garden is open 8:30 am to dusk seven days a week.
Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden
1236 N. Peck Ave., Manhattan Beach, CA
The Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden, located in Polliwog Park, is a “non-profit public education organization dedicated to promoting Earth-friendly gardening techniques, encouraging the use of drought-tolerant plants including California natives, and conserving our natural resources.” Families will view a variety of California native plants and flowers (including succulents, lilacs, and wildflowers) as well as some non-native trees, grasses, and shrubs. Families can visit seven days a week, from dawn to dusk. There is no admission fee to visit this small botanical garden.
Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden
301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia, CA 91007
The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden consists of “127 acres of plants, natural landscapes, wildlife and historic buildings.” Families will view plants and trees from around the world as they view the Aquatic Gardens, the Rainbow Serpent Garden, the Herb Garden, the Tropical Green House, and more. Historic structures on site include the Queen Anne Cottage, the Coach Barn, and the Reid-Baldwin Adobe. And remember, The Arboretum is an official wildlife sanctuary. You’ll see a variety of birds (including the famous peacocks), aquatic creatures, and small reptiles. The Arboretum also hosts a variety of special events throughout the year.
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
On 133 acres, you’ll find more than 1,000 mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles at the L.A. Zoo. But, don’t forget that the L.A. Zoo is also a botanical garden with more than 7,000 individual plants representing more than 800 different species. “The plants that provide food, shade, and even entertainment are every bit as important as the animals.” Plants are matched to the Zoo’s different regions (such as South America, Africa, North America, etc.). You’ll also find special gardens each highlighting a group of plants. In the native gardens you’ll find indigenous plants, the succulent gardens contain plants that thrive in arid climates around the world, and the “cycad garden is a living time capsule full of plant species that have been in existence since the age of dinosaurs.”
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
California State University Long Beach (CSULB)
1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840
This 1.3 acre garden is a living museum, designed to be a source of serenity and peace for all who visit. Much of the garden is modeled after traditional gardens found in Japan. Children will enjoy wandering around and exploring among the many plants and flowers. There are Koi fish in the pond, and visitors can even obtain food at the garden and feed the Koi.
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Dr., Los Angeles 90049
When you visit the Getty, you have the opportunity to view amazing art pieces as well as the opportunity to get a view of Los Angeles you don’t often see. But for many, spending time in The Getty’s Gardens is just as important as spending time in the galleries. You’ll find a Cactus Garden that also provides great views of Los Angeles, two sculpture gardens, and the Central Garden. The Central Garden is “an evolving work of art, designed to change with the seasons.” The 134,000-square foot Central Garden features foliage and materials “selected to accentuate the interplay of light, color, and reflection. More than 500 varieties of plant material are used in the landscaping.” Admission is free, but there is fee for parking.
S. Mark Taper Life Science Botanical Garden
6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills, CA
You’ll find the S. Mark Taper Life Science Botanical Garden on the campus of Pierce College. This 2-acre botanical garden “serves as a living laboratory with a variety of plant and animal life.” The highlight, for many, is the 2,500-square-foot pond – complete with turtles. As you stroll through the garden, you’ll also find a large variety of trees, flowers, and bushes including coastal redwoods, a mother-of-pearl plant, kangaroo paw, and a Wollemi pine (once thought to be extinct). And don’t forget to look down at the “Evolution Walk,” a “concrete path marked every six inches with fossil images that represent a million years in the evolutionary process.”
275 Arlington Dr., Pasadena, CA 91105
Arlington Garden is a “three-acre garden on Caltrans-owned land.” This is Pasadena’s only public garden. This water-wise garden “celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate.” As you stroll through the garden, you’ll enjoy the sights and smells of the Citrus Grove, the Pine Forest, the Olive Allee, and more. And don’t forget to visit the Wishing Tree! The Garden is generally open seven days a week from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm and is free to visit.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA 90274
The South Coast Botanic Garden is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. The Garden is known as “The Jewel of the Peninsula.” Within the Garden’s 87 acres, you’ll find more than 2,500 different plant species and more than 200 different bird species are sighted here each year. Take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the Dahlia Garden, the Mediterranean Garden, the Herb Garden, Japanese Garden/Koi Pond, and more. Additionally, The Garden for the Senses allows visitors to “enjoy plants and flowers by smell, touch, sound, and sight.” Be sure to visit the Children’s Garden and Children’s Discovery Garden which is “developed around nursery rhymes with plants to match the stories.”
The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
While you may know The Getty Villa as being a re-creation of an ancient Roman country house and displaying ancient art, don’t overlook its gardens. The Villa’s four gardens “blend Roman architecture with open spaces and Mediterranean plants.” Wander and explore the Outer Peristyle Garden, the Herb Garden, the Inner Peristyle, and the East Garden. Remember, admission to the Getty Villa is free, but there is a fee for Parking.
Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden
270 Arlington Dr., Pasadena, CA 91105
The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is historic in that it is “the only intact example of a major Japanese-style garden created before World War II for a residence in Southern California.” You’ll find a 15-foot waterfall as well as a formal teahouse on about two acres of land. You’ll find a space of tranquility and serenity here.
Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants
10459 Tuxford St., Sun Valley, CA 91352
The Theodore Payne Foundation “inspires and educates Southern Californias about the beauty and ecological benefits of California native plant landscapes.” On this 22-acre site you’ll find a seed room, bookstore, art gallery, native plant nursery, demonstration garden, and hiking trails. There is no admission fee.
Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden
1400 Avalon Canyon Rd., Avalon, CA 90704
The Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden can be found on beautiful Catalina Island. The Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr. Families will enjoy an incredible view of Avalon Bay, and because of “Santa Catalina Island’s temperate marine climate” plants from around the world. The Garden is made up of 37.85 acres and includes many rare plants that are included on the Endangered Species list. The Garden is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas).
Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).