When the day calls for outdoor beauty, maybe a bit of contemplation — or a picnic — one of the gorgeous gardens around L.A. is the best place to be. Stroll through Chinese and Japanese landscapes, roses beyond believe, lilac patches, and trees that stand the test of time. From Descanso to the Huntington, the arboretum or Exposition Park, here are some of the loveliest gardens for strolling for a few minutes or an entire day in any season. Covid mandates have most requiring advance tickets, but that just means you have to stick to the plan you make. Check all websites for hours and information. Bonus: All are just a short drive from DTLA.
Founded in 1928, this popular public space is one of the city’s best kept secrets. More than 200,000 rose bushes and the beautiful fountain create a beautiful backdrop for USC students, locals, and tourists. Located between the Natural History Museum, the Science Center, and the California African American Museum, it’s a perfect outdoor respite after soaking up culture indoors. Pro tip: The Metro Expo Park/USC stop is right out front.
Hidden in a residential pocket of La Canada-Flintridge, only about 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, this special place is full of year-round beauty. It’s never a bad time to visit, from the camellias blooming in the winter — one of the largest collections in the Western Hemisphere — to the lilacs and cherry trees in the spring, roses in the summer, and golden gingko trees in the fall. Holiday events are particularly fun, including pumpkin displays at Halloween and decorations around Christmas.
Tucked away in tony San Marino, this 120-acre pastoral paradise is just a short drive up the 110 from DTLA. Featuring 16 stunning themed gardens, visit bonsai collection in the Japanese garden, a tea house and elaborate tile walkways in the expansive Chinese garden, herb gardens, roses, eye-popping cacti, and so much more. If you want to plan your visit around what’s blooming now, here’s a great map. Pro tip: Tickets are free the first Thursday of every month, but reservations are required (during Covid) and go fast.
The unique 127-acre botanical garden, located on what was once the Rancho Santa Anita site in Arcadia, features plant collections from all over the world, including many endangered species. Walk through rose gardens, a tropical greenhouse, near turtle-filled ponds, or just get lost in the trees. The best part is probably the peacocks, who roam freely through the park. If you’re old enough to know, the Queen Anne Cottage, constructed in 1885, was the main house in the late-70’s television hit, Fantasy Island. Get some dumplings before or after a stroll — you’re in the SGV, after all.
This Pasadena gem was created by Kinzuchi Fujii, known for designing and building Japanese landscapes across Southern California in the first half of the 20th century. This is his only remaining garden. Perfect for strolling, there’s a small pond, 15-foot waterfall, and a formal teahouse on about two acres. Note: Bcause it’s in the heart of a residential neighborhood, there are a few parking restrictions.
Discover inner peace at this lovely meditation garden in Pacific Palisades. There are shrines, waterfalls, a hilltop temple with weekly services and meditations, and yoga. It’s a great place for a moment of solitude and reflection surrounded by Southern California’s natural beauty.