Spring is in full swing, with colorful blooms bursting to life, making it the best time to visit one of our many Los Angeles botanical gardens. From South Bay to Santa Barbara, there are so many beautiful outdoor spaces to explore that offer a tranquil oasis from the city bustle. We’ve compiled a list of the best botanical gardens to spot blooms and enjoy nature.
South Bay Botanical Gardens
Known as the Jewel of the Peninsula, this 87-acre garden offers over 2,500 varieties of plant species to explore. It’s so beautiful it’s hard to believe the space was once the site of a sanitary landfill! One of the highlights for families is the Children’s Garden and Children’s Discovery Garden, which feature plants that complement classic nursery rhyme stories. The South Coast Botanic Garden also offers educational programs and themed events, like the current exhibition Washed Ashore, which features artwork created by plastic debris collected from beaches across the world.
Located in Polliwog Park, the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden, also known as MBBG by the locals, is a ⅔ acre demonstration garden. MBBG highlights native plant life and habitats in Southern California, such as Coastal Sage Scrub, Riparian Woodland, Wetlands, and more. MBBG is open from sunrise to sunset and is free to visit. It has multiple picnic tables on the grounds, perfect for lunch or a quick snack.
Pine Wind Japanese Garden was designed by National Landscape Award winner Takeo Uesugi to be a tranquil intermission from daily activities. This garden is home to authentic Japanese landscaping and architecture. There are stone pathways, a two-tiered amphitheater, and a koi pond. The aesthetic background is perfect for a family photo session.
Los Angeles Botanical Gardens
The Los Angeles Botanic Garden boasts 127 acres with 11 different landscapes to explore. The arboretum is also an official wildlife sanctuary, so you’ll be able to see the famous peacocks and various birds, small reptiles, and aquatic animals. You could spend all day here and still have more to see on your next visit, making it the perfect spot for a family membership.
You can catch a guided tour or explore the grounds yourself and even stop at the cafe for lunch. The arboretum also hosts special events, like Members Bike Nights and Lightscape.
Located in La Cañada Flintridge, Descanso Gardens is a unique Southern California garden distinguished by its specialized botanic collections, historical significance, and rare natural beauty. The 160-acre botanical garden features a massive rose garden, a camellia garden, a Japanese garden, an oak forest, a lakeside hiking trail, an art museum, a miniature train, and more.
Descanso also hosts various special events throughout the year, including outdoor art installations, live concerts, spring bloom tours, Carved, and Enchanted.
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, also known as The Huntington, are 120 acres of landscaped gardens showcasing plants from around the world. There are 12 themed gardens, including the Desert Garden, Australian Garden, Herb Garden, Lilly Pond, and Rose Garden. The Children’s Garden is beloved by all young visitors, but be sure to bring a change of clothes because the fountains in the play area are just too tempting on hot days. If your little ones love to throw tea parties, book a time in the Rose Garden Tea Room, where kids get their own special tea set.
The first Thursday of every month is Free Day at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. You can gain entry without a fee, but you have to reserve a free ticket a month in advance, and they sell out fast.
The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to more than 1,400 animals representing 270 species, many rare or endangered. So whatever your favorite – meerkats or mandrills, komodo dragons or kangaroos – chances are you’ll get to see them here. Zoo grounds also feature unique gardens that highlight groups of plants. The native gardens present many of this region’s spectacular indigenous plants. The cactus and succulent gardens contain representatives of arid climates around the world. The cycad garden is a living time capsule full of plant species that have existed since the age of dinosaurs.
This is a 7.5-acre public garden, outdoor classroom, and research facility on the UCLA campus. The mission of the botanical garden is to act as a community gathering place that promotes plant conservation and botanical research. The grounds feature a diverse collection of plants from around the world, like the Ancient Forest, Desert Garden, Cycads, and more.
The botanical garden has guided tours and a free self-guided audio tour voiced by the Herbarium Collections Manager that allows you to go at your own pace.
If you’ve ever visited the California Science Center, you might already be familiar with the sprawling rose garden surrounding a central fountain on the lawn. Summertime is the best time to visit and wind your way through the over 200 varieties of roses, taking time to stop and smell each one. Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon among the roses.
Located on Catalina Island, this nearly 38-acre garden highlights the California island endemic plants. Many of these plants are extremely rare, and some are on the Endangered Species list. The garden also features multiple botanical collections from around the world and acts as the entry point for access to one of the Island’s most popular hikes, the Garden to Sky Trail.
While the Getty Center and Villa are known as art museums, they are also both home to a beautiful garden. The Central Garden of the Getty Center is a 134,000-square-foot space filled with winding pathways, a walkway across a stream, and a maze of azaleas among 500 plant varieties. The gardens at the Getty Villa replicate ancient Roman gardens and feature sculptures and fountains among the Mediterranean plants.
Orange County Botanical Gardens
The Garden, located in Orange County, has impressive collections, including a lush tropical conservatory with a koi pond, a rose and tea garden, more than 100 species of palms, and more. The Garden also has a café that boasts coastal cuisine made with California produce and a Tea Garden. Visitors are encouraged to explore the gardens, and there are both guided tours and self-guided audio tour options.
The Fullerton Arboretum is 26 acres of collections of plants from across the globe. It is the largest botanical garden in Orange Country, featuring a collection of over 4,000 plants. There are four collections for visitors to explore: Cultivated, Woodlands, Mediterranean, and Desert. Some highlights include an 11,000 sq ft organic vegetable garden, historic citrus and avocados, a children’s garden, and an extensive cycad collection.
Inland Empire Botanical Gardens
California Botanic Garden is the most extensive botanic garden dedicated to California native plants, promoting botany, conservation, and horticulture to inspire, inform and educate the public and scientific community about California’s native flora. The Garden is a living museum with curated collections of more than 22,000 California native plants, some of which are rare or endangered. Spread across 86 acres in Claremont, California, the Garden is located approximately 35 miles east of Los Angeles. The Garden displays about 2000 taxa of California plants and includes those native to the California Floristic Province.
San Diego Botanical Gardens
This 37-acre botanical garden is designated one of the “Top 10 North American Gardens Worth Traveling For” by the American Gardens Association. There are 29 themed gardens, including a bamboo garden, regional desert landscapes, and a tropical rainforest. There are also two children’s gardens and a Family Education Conservatory that teaches visitors about horticulture and conservation.
Located in downtown San Diego, Balboa Park has over a dozen gardens, including the Japanese Friendship Garden with koi ponds and sand and stone artworks and the Spanish-style Alcazar Garden with colorful tile and 7,000 annuals. There is also a 3-acre Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden with over 1,500 roses blooming from March through December.
Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden fosters the conservation of California’s native plants through gardens, research, and education and serves as a role model for sustainable practices. There’s plenty to explore with 78 acres and 5.5 miles of trails, including a Redwood grove and an authentic Japanese tea house, originally built in Kyoto, Japan.
The new Backcountry section offers kids of all ages the perfect way to experience and connect with nature up close and hands-on. Located on the west side of the Garden, just over Campbell Bridge, the Backcountry invites visitors to climb, jump, run, and fully immerse themselves in the natural surroundings.
Looking for more things to do in and around Los Angeles and the South Bay? Check out these ideas: