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Guide to Descanso Gardens

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. 

Descanso Gardens Family Fun

Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
(818) 949-4200

Hours:

  •                 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. 

Descanso Gardens in bloom
Descanso Gardens in bloom, photo by Paul Kennar

Admission Fees for Descanso Gardens:

General Admission $15
Students with ID $11
Seniors 65+ $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

Individual $70
Dual $80
Senior Dual $75
Family $99
Family Plus $195
Sponsoring $300
Sustaining $600
Center Circle Associates $1000+

Parking

Descanso Gardens has a spacious outdoor parking lot. Parking is free.

Rose Garden at Descanso Gardens
Rose Garden at Descanso Gardens, photo by Wendy Kennar

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.

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.

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.

Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens
Japanese Garden at Descanso Gardens, photo by Wendy Kennar

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.

Tulips in bloom at Descanso Gardens
Tulips in bloom, photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens

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).

MomsLA is your source for Things to do with Kids in Los Angeles.

Cherry Blossoms in bloom at Descanso Gardens
Cherry Blossoms in bloom at Descanso Gardens

Disclaimer: MomsLA has made every effort to confirm the information in this article; however, things can often change. Therefore, MomsLA makes no representations or warranties about the accuracy of the information published here. MomsLA strongly urges you to confirm any event details, like date, time, location, and admission, with the third party hosting the event. You assume the sole risk of relying on any of the information in our list. MomsLA is in no way responsible for any injuries or damages you sustain while attending any third party event posted on our website. Please read our Terms of Use which you have agreed to based on your continued use of this website. Some events have paid to be listed on MomsLA.

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