If it weren’t for your kids, would you still take time to literally stop and smell the roses? Treat your little nature lovers (and yourself) to an idyllic escape via a visit to the gorgeous Descanso Gardens, where in addition to the blooming flowers, buzzing bees, and chirping birds there are an abundance of activities geared especially for little outdoor explorers. This locale should be dubbed Los Angeles’ ‘secret garden,’ because it rarely makes headlines, but it’s a true hidden gem and local treasure that gives visitors sweet refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Explore the Flowers and Gardens: Of course, the main reason to visit the Descanso Gardens is to behold the breathtaking array of flowers. Varieties in bloom during April are azaleas, camellias, irises, lilacs, native plants and wildflowers, tulips, clivia, and wisteria. And the gardens will be ripe with azaleas, camellias, roses, irises, wildflowers and California natives come May. You can meander through several different themed gardens including the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden, Nature’s Table edible garden, California Garden, Iris Garden, Lilac Garden, the Camellia Collection and the Oak Forest, which is full of stunning, centuries-old towering oak trees.

Ride an Enchanting Train: Full Steam Ahead! Families can board an iconic, 1/8th replica of a diesel train for a delightful journey into nature via the seven-minute train ride on the Enchanted Railroad at Descanso Gardens. Parents and tykes alike will appreciate the birds-eye view into the scenic garden surroundings. The Enchanted Railroad is open for train rides six days a week: Tuesdays from 10 am to noon and Wednesday through Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Cost: $3 per rider, or $25 for a book of 10 tickets.

Garden Sprouts: Garden Sprouts is a grownup and child (ages 2-4) class where the seeds of love for nature are planted and nurtured. Children and adults participate in storytime, songs, hands-on nature, science, art, and gardening activities, as well as prepare a healthy snack together. All activities are designed specifically for children’s fine and gross motor skills and social development. Classes fill up fast so RSVP online.

Dining Options: All of these activities are sure to work up everybody’s appetite. Stop by Maple Restaurant or Café Descanso to enjoy an array of yummy options off their seasonally changing menu. The Café is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and offers outdoor seating. Thinking of packing a picnic? Be advised that there’s no food or drinks permitted within the Garden’s gates, but there are picnic tables near the parking lot where you can enjoy the food you brought from home.

Admission/Hours: Open daily (closed on Christmas) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Last entry is 4:30 pm). There is ample free parking. Adults cost $9, seniors and students: $6, children ages 5-12: $4.


Descanso Gardens
1418 Descanso Dr.
La Cañada Flintridge, Ca
Online: descansogardens.org

— Beth Shea