The brand new Ishihara Park was built to provide a green, clean buffer between the new Expo to the Sea’s metro maintenance center and the nearby homes. That explains the unconventional long, narrow layout.  But the genius of the space lies in taking a splash of green and transforming it into something you’ll find yourself returning to again and again.  Plus, it has one of your favorite childhood playground apparatus…

A Little Bit of Everything
The 2.35-acres park was named for longtime Santa Monica resident and World War II veteran George Ishihara.  It’s designed as a series of 8 outdoor “rooms,” including a watershed area, bird garden, open lawn/picnic area, playground and edible gardens. The western end features shady established pine trees along with the tasteful, drought tolerant landscaping you expect in eco-aware Santa Monica, along with some cool metallic sculptures. You’ll also find a series of kinetic exercise machines that provide an excellent (and free!) open-air gym for anyone over the age of 14. It’s perfect for parents with new babies; you get a walk, an exercise stop, and baby gets to breathe or nap in the clean, green air!

Next comes a wide lawn perfect for sunbathing or packing up some board games to play on blankets and a picnic area with charcoal grills.

We Go Round and Round (Finally!)
The enclosed playground is a small but worthwhile destination in and of itself because it has an honest-to-goodness merry-go-round (and not that rusty old one you still seek out every time you visit your childhood playground)!  There’s also a teeter-totter and an awesome swing that can practically fit an entire family of four at once. Throughout the park are cool design-y touches like egg-shaped stepping stones, re-purposed log benches and concrete formations that seem to have been designed for parkour.


All That and No Need for a Bag of Chips!
The pièce de résistance lies toward the eastern end of the park: a fragrant citrus grove and an edible demonstration garden growing all manner of photogenic veggies. The city of Santa Monica is still working out how the demonstration garden and it’s bounty will be made available to the public, so it is currently locked behind a fence much of the time, but there will be gardening workshops and tasting opportunities available in the future.

In the meantime, we’re guessing no one will bat an eye of you go ahead and pilfer a couple of lemons from the open citrus orchard.

Ishihara Park
2909 Exposition Blvd.
Santa Monica
Online: santamonicaparks.org/buffer-park-details

What’s your favorite piece of play equipment at a park?  Let us know in the comment section!

—written and photographed by Erin Harris