Wouldn’t it be nice to trade the sounds of honking cars and bustling city life for chirping birds and something a little more serene? If such a place existed in Los Angeles, it would have to be far away right? Not so! The Huntington Botanical Gardens in neighboring San Marino are a fanciful escape from the daily grind. The 207 acre plot is filled with fourteen different themed gardens, endless varieties of colorful flower blossoms, a desert plot of succulents, fairytale bridges, stately trees, and over 14,000 different types of plants. This luscious paradise will surely have your little nature lover full of wonder and amazement–the perfect adventure for any time of year.

Go: Year-round. Closed on Tuesdays, and hours vary by day, so click here for hours and to plan ahead.

Approximate travel time: Located near Pasadena, in the city of San Marino, the Huntington Botanical Gardens are 12 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles. Click here for detailed directions.

What to see: What’s not to see? Don’t miss the Children’s Garden, which boasts topiary plant animals and hands-on scientific experiences related to the four ancient elements: fire, water, earth and air. Kids may also channel their inner Tarzan (or Jane) amongst the vines and the waterfall in the Jungle Garden, and the Huntington Garden website beckons visitors to visit the Lily Ponds, advising, “Don’t miss the summer flowering lotus, which usually blooms in mid-July. First planted here in 1905, these magnificent relatives of the water lily unfurl pink and white flowers eight or nine inches wide.”

Possible lunch spots: The Rose Garden Tea Room is a lovely option for families who’d like to experience traditional tea time together, complete with scones and finger sandwiches, and of course, tea. However, the experience is on the costly side with a charge of $7.50 for children ages 2-3 and $27.99 per adult. The Cafe offers less expensive, self-serve fare including sandwiches (grilled cheese and PB&J for the kiddos), soups and salads.

How to dress: Casual, seasonally appropriate, with comfortable walking shoes and sunscreen and sun hats.

Need to know: Free garden tours are offered Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday between noon and 2:00 pm, and Saturday and Sunday between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm.


Food and picnicking are not permitted on garden grounds. See “possible lunch spots” above for dining options. As of this writing, the Japanese Garden was closed for renovations.

Bonus: Bard of Avon lovers, get thee to the Huntington Library to behold the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s collected plays, published in 1623.

Cost of trip: Admission is free for children under age 5. Adult tickets cost $15 on weekdays and $20 on weekends and Monday holidays. Youth tickets (ages 5-11) cost $6. Parking is free. *Top tip: Admission to The Huntington is free on the first Thursday of every month with advance tickets.

Online: www.huntington.org

— Beth Shea

photos courtesy of Guian Bolisay, Shiela Thomson and Kim Scarborough via flickr