Let’s face it, while Los Angeles has a ton to offer (and boy does it!), sometimes it’s nice to find a bit of zen in all the flurry of city living. Lush, natural greenery is always good for the soul, making the L.A. County Arboretum and Botanical Garden a fantastic spot for you and your little sprouts to recharge those botanical batteries. Located on 127 acres (making it 7 acres larger than the neighboring Huntington Gardens) in historic Rancho Santa Anita, this not-so-secret garden is bursting with flora from around the globe. With a handful of historic buildings, ponds, a waterfall and bird-watching aplenty, this place is the perfect spot to plant yourselves for the day and soak up some serenity.
photo: Lianne K. via Yelp
What To Do
With so much natural splendor to behold, the real question is how to see it all in one day. Here are some of the absolute highlights you and your garden gnomes should check out on any Arboretum adventure.
Queen Anne Cottage & Coach Barn: These structures have survived from Southern California’s Golden Age and are must-sees. You might recognize these impressive buildings from shows such as Fantasy Island or Dynasty (along with dozens of other TV and film appearances) and the younger set will be swept off their little feet by the grandeur these historical hotspots from the 1880s. Complete with a duck pond, original stained glass, and more history than you can shake a stick at, the Queen Anne Cottage and carriage house warrant some serious exploration.
Santa Anita Depot: This spot will tickle your tiny train lovers’ fancy as it was reconstructed on Arboretum grounds using the original brick, balcony, trim, windows and doors from the busy 1890’s train station—then located just a quarter mile from the gardens. Take a guided tour of this space that’s offered on various days and times during the week (check the schedule ahead of time) or swing by on your own to marvel at history recreated brick by brick.
photo: Jenny S. via Yelp
The Meadowbrook Garden: This garden is your best bet to see some brilliant Fall colors and get into the pumpkin spice spirit while gazing out to the incredible mountain vistas.
The Aquatic Gardens: Your pollywogs will enjoy the peaceful stroll through the small pools, Lilly pads, and beautiful tree covered areas. This is also a great spot to rest before checking out the Meyberg Waterfall just below.
The Tropical Greenhouse: Home to thousands of orchids always in bloom, this destination will delight even the bittiest botanist and provides a great place for some gorgeous photo ops.
photo: Nadia A. via Yelp
Peacocks and turtles and lizards, oh my! Not only is the LA Arboretum a Botanical Garden and Historical Landmark, but it’s also officially a wildlife sanctuary. If plants and flowers aren’t doing it for your explorers-in-tow, then maybe catching a few glimpses of the local animal life will excite the mini-masses.
To be clear, the peacocks are the real stars here when it comes to Arboretum animals—and with the way they strut around the grounds, they know it too. But there are also tons of reptiles, small mammals and other species of birds everywhere for your viewing pleasure.
photo: Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden via Facebook
Bookworms Storytelling: A super fun and educational program for kids ages 3 – 6 where, 3-to-4 times per month, kids can enjoy plant and nature-themed stories and a take-home craft. Check ahead for specific dates and times this program is offered, as well as many other kid-friendly tours and classes.
Spooky Creatures In the Garden: On Sat. Oct. 27th, you and your family can kick off some Halloween celebrations Arboretum-style. Designed for kids 10 and under, there will be chilling science experiments, scavenger hunts, creepy crafts and seasonal strolls around the grounds. Don’t forget to BYOC (Bring Your Own Costumes).
Magical Lantern Art Festival: Beginning Oct. 26th through Jan. 6th on Wed.—Sun., 5:30 p.m. -10 p.m. whimsical lantern art representing everything from shimmering flowers to soaring dragons are on display in a festive fantasy of light. A special installation that is not to be missed—especially during all of the upcoming holiday hoopla.
photo: The Peacock Cafe via Facebook
Where to Eat
While food and drinks are not allowed to be brought onto Arboretum grounds, you are more than welcome to use the picnic area and lawn just outside the entrance to eat, drink and be merry. If you’re in need of nosh while inside, head over to the Peacock Cafe where you can feast on satisfying fare like sandwiches, burgers, soups, and salads. They also offer a kids’ menu to boot.
If your crew is feeling more adventurous, the Arboretum is right down the street from one of the best family-friendly Dim Sum spots in the LA area.
More Useful Tips
There are bathrooms located throughout the garden but the one by the gift shop is the most family-friendly.
For those with city strollers, there is a paved path that circles the whole garden but there are also many other smaller dirt paths that wind through the denser sections of the garden. If you want to do more off-roading, bring your jogging stroller or another more robust stroller.
The Arboretum’s paved roads and paths make most of the garden landscape areas accessible. Wheelchair rentals are available on a first-come, first serve basis and there is a wheelchair lift in the Queen Anne Cottage. Leashed and or harnessed service animals are also welcome.
photo: Dan W. via Yelp
The Arboretum is located in Arcadia near the Santa Anita Race Track and is about a 25-minute drive from LA (without traffic obviously). Parking is free and ample on most days. If you are looking for public transportation, the Gold Line metro rail now stops in Arcadia. As you disembark the train, keep your eyes peeled for the Arcadia Transit shuttle and hop on the (appropriately named) Green Line bus which makes a stop at the Arboretum to the very affordable tune of 50 cents for passengers ages 5-62 years old.
Good to Know
Cost: $9 Adults; $6 Students and Seniors 62 and over; $4 Children 5-12; Free for Children 4 and Under
Hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Insider Tip: There is free admission on the third Tues. of every month but know that the parking lot is generally filled to capacity on these days by 10 a.m.
301 North Baldwin Ave.
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