Families visiting Descanso Gardens will find much to see and do and explore. Our Guide to Descanso Gardens has all the information you need to have a fun visit. Be sure to check out our post All the Best Botanical Gardens In and Around Los Angeles for a list of other botanical gardens for your family to explore.
Exploring Descanso Gardens
You’re in for a sensory treat when exploring the Descanso Gardens. With different blooms throughout the year, families can return again and again and always see something new including “lots of colorful spring bloom, winter camellias or the year-round majesty of our oaks.”
Enjoy the 5-acre Rose Garden featuring more than 1,600 roses; the serene Japanese Garden featuring plants native to Asia, a teahouse, an arched bridge; the Camellia Collection (North America’s largest camellia collection); Oak Forest, featuring some trees that are centuries old; and California Natives, an 8-acre garden featuring “climate appropriate and – frequently aromatic – plants;” to name just a few of the gardens you’ll see on your visit.
1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
- Current hours through July 31st (Hours may change seasonly)
- Monday – Friday: 9:00 am to 8:00 pm
- Saturday – Sunday:9:00 am to 5:00 pm
- August 1 – September 6th
- Monday – Friday:9:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Saturday – Sunday:9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Descanso Gardens is open 364 days a year; closed only on Christmas Day, December 25th.
Admission Fees for Descanso Gardens:
|Students with ID||$11|
|Children (ages 5-12)||$5|
|Children 4 and younger||FREE|
Visitors who are not members must reserve tickets in advance; Members may visit whenever they choose.
Is Membership at Descanso Gardens Worth it?
There are multiple Membership options available at Descanso Gardens, each with terrific benefits that make it worthwhile. Depending on the level you choose, you’ll find benefits including discounts at the Gift Shop and Café, Early Admission, members-only events, and more. Check the website for all the benefit details so you can find the membership level that best fits your family’s needs.
In addition to benefits you and your family will receive, you’ll know that you’re helping to sustain a place of beauty, dedicated to helping educate people about the natural world.
Membership Levels and Fees
|Center Circle Associates||$1000+|
Descanso Gardens has a spacious outdoor parking lot. Parking is free.
Descanso Gardens Family Fun
Tour the Historic Boddy House
In the 1930s, Los Angeles and Southern California were growing, and Descanso Gardens was a ranch and the home of E. Manchester Boddy, who had migrated here from the East Coast. His home has been restored and serves as a museum, giving a glimpse of life in SoCal nearly 100 years ago. Self-guided tours of the Boddy House are included with the price of admission.
Exhibits at the Sturt Haaga Gallery
The gallery, which was once the garage for the Boddy family home, has been doubled in size since then, and hosts several exhibits throughout the year. The gallery showcases work by contemporary artists, with themes around nature and ecology. Each exhibition usually includes an enrichment activity for children. Entry to the gallery is included with admission to the Gardens.
Ride the Enchanted Railroad
A treat for kids and kids-at-heart, a ride on the Enchanted Railroad is something you must do when you visit Descanso Gardens with your family. This 1/8 scale replica train travels a short loop around part of the gardens, and is sure to delight.
The train ride requires an additional ticket, which can be purchased at the Visitor Center, and comes in books of 10, in case it’s really a big hit with the little ones. Note that riders must be 30 inches tall – and able to sit on their own. Note also that the train schedule is weather dependent, and only runs certain days and hours. Please check the website or call ahead to be sure it’s running the day you decide to visit.
Keep in mind, as of this writing, certain activities and special attractions, such as the historic Boddy House and the Enchanted Railroad remain closed. We trust they will re-open soon.
Wildlife in the Gardens
Don’t be surprised if you see animals at Descanso. Although most will try to remain out of view, you’re likely to see water fowl, numerous insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, too. Over 100 species of birds have been seen there. It’s best to observe animals, taking photos if you can, and not try to interact with them.
Seasons and What’s in Bloom
Whatever time of the year you visit, you’ll find different plants at Descanso to be in bloom, and if you’re hoping to see specific types it’s best to check with them first. The famous Camellias bloom from approximately October to March, azaleas bloom in April and May, tulips come alive in March, roses appear in early Summer, and in the Fall you’ll see all the reds, oranges, and yellows of the Fall colors.
Respecting the Gardens
Descanso Gardens has a code of conduct that helps preserve the beauty and integrity of the plant life, and aims keep the atmosphere safe and accommodating. They ask that you not pick flowers, or harm the plants, and that you not splash or jump in the water features. This may be a challenge for some little ones, so bear that in mind when you go. There are also some rules about photography, which you can find on their website as well.
Special Events – Carved and Enchanted: Forest of Light
Descanso Gardens hosts a variety of special events throughout the year including classes and seasonal activities. Summer in the Garden is a chance to hear live music as you explore, and is included with the price of admission. Other special Summer events do require separate tickets.
Carved, a Halloween favorite, will return October 11th through October 31st, 2021, and Enchanted: Forest of Light returns November 21st, 2021 and will run through January 10th, 2022. Check the website to access the calendar for the most up-to-date information about classes and special events.
Descanso Gardens can also be rented for private events, like weddings.
Dining Options at Descanso Gardens
You’ll find an on-site café offering a variety of food and drink including salads, sandwiches, and an “explorer menu” featuring such favorites as peanut butter and jelly and turkey sandwiches. The café is currently open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. The menu is available online.
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).