Explore the Beautiful Gardens of Los Angeles

Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens
Photo: Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens

In today's fast-paced, modern world, it's important to slow down every now and then. For visitors and locals alike, there are green spaces throughout Los Angeles that offer a break from the urban frenzy. From acres of flowers to historic Japanese gardens and lush hidden gems, read on and discover the best gardens in LA.

Exposition Park Rose Garden
Exposition Park Rose Garden | Photo: Albert Valles, Flickr

Rose Garden - Exposition Park

Located across the street from USC in Downtown Los Angeles, Exposition Park is the home of several top L.A. cultural attractions and venues, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center and the California African American Museum.

The famous seven-acre Rose Garden features more than 15,000 rose bushes, in about 200 varieties. Its gazebos, statues and central fountain make the garden a popular picnic, wedding and photography destination. The Rose Garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum
Nature Gardens | Photo: Natural History Museum

Nature Gardens at NHM

Explore the ever-changing Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum and you will experience LA wildlife all around you. Every bush, flower, and tree was planted to attract creatures. If you look closely, you'll see butterflies, hummingbirds, squirrels, snails, and much more. Look for a lizard crawling near the Living Wall, go barefoot on the native lawn, and dip your toes in the water at the Urban Waterfall. At the Listening Tree, you can actually hear water moving from the roots to the leaves of the coast live oak tree. The Get Dirty Zone invites you to get your hands dirty, see how roots grow and look for pillbugs.

"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall
"A Rose for Lilly" at Walt Disney Concert Hall  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Blue Ribbon Garden - Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Blue Ribbon Garden is the hidden rooftop garden at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Nearly an acre in size, the garden is enclosed by the hall’s flowing exterior and filled with lush landscaping that blooms throughout the year. One of the garden’s highlights is the Frank Gehry-designed fountain, a tribute to the late Lillian Disney and her love for Royal Delft porcelain vases and roses. The fountain is a large rose that’s covered in thousands of broken pieces of Delft porcelain and tiles, creating a one-of-a-kind mosaic. The Blue Ribbon Garden often serves as a backdrop to pre- and post-theater receptions, private events and children’s programming.

Maguire Gardens at the Central Library
Maguire Gardens at the Central Library | Photo: TCLF

Maguire Gardens - Central Library

The crown jewel and headquarters of the massive L.A. Public Library system, the Richard J. Riordan Central Library was built in 1926 and houses more than ten million items, from popular fiction titles to rare genealogical publications, historic photographs and U.S. patents.

The 1.5-acre Maguire Gardens is a public park adjoining the library. The garden is named for Robert Maguire, the real estate developer who played a large role in preserving the library's historic Goodhue Building and the restoration of the building and its grounds after the devastating arson fires of 1986. The grounds include public art works, cypress trees, fountains and shallow pools.

Kyoto Gardens at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown in Little Tokyo
Kyoto Gardens | Photo: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Los Angeles Downtown, Facebook

Kyoto Garden - DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown

Located in Little Tokyo, the DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown features a lush sanctuary on its rooftop, the idyllic Kyoto Garden. Spanning a half-acre of manicured greenery, cascading waterfalls and tranquil ponds, the garden is a meticulous recreation of an ancient Japanese Garden in Tokyo. Originally established for the 16th Century samurai lord Kiyomasa Kato, the Japanese Garden in Tokyo became an oasis for residents of the city. One of L.A.'s most popular event and wedding venues, the garden also features the outdoor Upper and Lower Terraces, as well as the Thousand Cranes room, which boasts stunning views of the garden and skyline. Kyoto Gardens has appeared in numerous commercials, movies and TV series, including The Runaways, Rampart, Her, Law and Order Los Angeles, The Biggest Loser, NCIS Los Angeles, Prime Suspect, Hostage, David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding and Battle of the Sexes.

James Irvine Japanese Garden
James Irvine Japanese Garden | Photo: JACCC, Facebook

James Irvine Japanese Garden - JACCC

Since opening its doors in 1980, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) has become one of the largest cultural art and community centers in the U.S. Discreetly located inside the JACCC, the award-winning James Irvine Japanese Garden is a hidden gem in Little Tokyo. Known formally as Seiryu-en ("Garden of the Clear Stream"), this intimate green space was designed in the Zen tradition of the famous gardens of Kyoto, Japan. The James Irvine Garden features a 170-foot cascading stream, a wide variety of plants, flowers and trees, handcrafted cedar bridges, a selection of stone lanterns, and a hand washing fountain.

Pink bench hidden inside Amir's Garden in Griffith Park
Amir's Garden in Griffith Park | Photo: @dain_c0n, Instagram

Amir's Garden - Griffith Park

Spanning more than 4,300 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in North America and home to some of L.A.'s most popular attractions, including the Los Angeles Zoo, Autry Museum of the American West, and the Greek Theatre. Tucked away on a steep hill in Griffith Park, Amir's Garden is a labor of love enjoyed by hikers and equestrians alike. The five-acre garden is the legacy of Amir Dialameh, who worked on the shaded grove for 32 years.  

A native of Iran, Dialameh regularly hiked the Mineral Wells trail through Toyon Canyon on his way across Griffith Park, before a major brush fire devastated the area in 1971. The sight of the scorched landscape moved him to action. After obtaining permission from city officials, Dialameh cleared the charred tree stumps. Over the years, he planted pine and jacaranda trees for shade, along with rose bushes, geraniums, oleander, and yucca, transforming the barren hillside into a beautiful oasis. Dialameh also built stairs to the picnic area and added colorful wooden benches. Amir Dialameh passed away in 2003. Today his gift to Los Angeles is maintained by volunteers and volunteer groups, with assistance from the City of L.A. Park Rangers and park maintenance workers.

Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens
Photo: Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens

Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens

Located in the historic West Adams District, the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens (PALG) is a nonprofit spiritual center that opened in 2002. PALG was founded by, and is the headquarters of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (MSIA), a non-denominational, ecumenical church. Visitors are invited to "unwind the mind" by walking the stone labyrinth, modeled after the famous Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. The Asian-themed meditation garden features 16 water fountains, a koi pond and several intimate seating areas for reflection and meditation.

Docents are available to give tours of the historic Guasti Villa, built in 1910-14 by Secundo Guasti, an Italian immigrant whose namesake Southern California winery was at one time the largest in the world. The mansion was later the home of legendary director and choreographer, Busby Berkeley.

Views of the Central Garden and Pacific Ocean at the Getty Center
Views of the Central Garden and Pacific Ocean at the Getty Center  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Central Garden - Getty Center

Located at the heart of the acclaimed Getty Center in Brentwood, the 134,000 square-foot Central Garden was created by renowned artist Robert Irwin. The design features a natural ravine and tree-lined walkway that leads visitors through a sublime experience of sights, sounds and scents. The walkway traverses a stream that winds through a variety of plants and gradually descends to a plaza with bougainvillea arbors. Continuing through the plaza, the stream cascades over a stone waterfall into the signature floating maze of azaleas surrounded by specialty gardens.

Virginia Robinson Gardens mansion
Photo: Virginia Robinson Gardens, Facebook

Virginia Robinson Gardens

Built in 1911 and renowned as the first luxury estate in Beverly Hills, the Virginia Robinson Gardens was the private residence of Virginia and Harry Robinson (of Robinson’s department store fame). Known as "the first lady of Beverly Hills," Mrs. Robinson hosted lavish parties at the estate with guests such as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; as well as Hollywood royalty like Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Fred Astaire and Sophia Loren.

Situated on six acres behind the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, the Robinson Gardens include the Rose Garden, Italian Terrace Garden and a forest of King Palms that is reportedly the largest outside of Queensland, Australia. Shortly before her death in 1977, Mrs. Robinson bequeathed her estate to L.A. County - it's now part of the Department of Parks and Recreation. The Virginia Robinson Gardens was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November 1978.

Guided docent tours are available by appointment only, book your reservation at the Robinson Gardens website.

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at UCLA
Photo: Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden - UCLA

Nestled within the UCLA campus in Westwood, the 7.5-acre Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a living museum that maintains one of the most important living botanical collections in the U.S. Over 3,000 types of plants grow in the garden and a wide range of environments are found within its borders, from the dry desert and Mediterranean sections on the eastern end to the shaded, lush interior. A stream and series of ponds run through the center of the garden, which is home to koi and turtles. As part of its public education program, the garden offers free docent-led tours for groups of eight or more.

Night Garden at Descanso Gardens
Night Garden at Descanso Gardens | Photo: Descanso Gardens, Facebook

Descanso Gardens

Located in La Cañada Flintridge, the 160-acre Descanso Gardens was originally developed in 1936 by newspaper magnate Elias Manchester Boddy, whose numerous interests included horticulture and politics. Descanso Gardens offers numerous areas for exploring, including a bird sanctuary, five-acre rosarium, Japanese tea garden, water-wise garden, Oak Woodland, California garden, and the world’s largest collection of camellia flowers. Plants are blooming year-round at Descanso - check the What's In Bloom page for a list of monthly blooms. Descanso also hosts a wide range of events, from docent-guided walks to Shakespeare and the dazzling Enchanted: Forest of Light.

Lake view at SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) in Van Nuys
SuihoEn (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”)  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Japanese Garden

Suiho En (“Garden of Water and Fragrance”) is a 6.5-acre authentic Japanese garden fashioned after “stroll gardens” constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese Feudal lords. This San Fernando Valley gem was created by Dr. Koichi Kawana to provide beauty, relaxation, inspiration and a better understanding of Japanese culture using reclaimed water. Dr. Kawana designed more than one dozen major Japanese gardens in the United States, including the botanical gardens at LACMA. Admission is free and available by reservation only.

Outer Peristyle Garden at the Getty Villa
Outer Peristyle Garden at the Getty Villa  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Getty Villa

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its hilltop location in the Pacific Palisades, the Getty Villa houses a collection of 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities that span 7,000 years of history, from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Villa is modeled after a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Among the masterpieces on view is one of the greatest statues of ancient Rome, the Lansdowne Herakles.

Just as they were in the ancient Roman home, gardens are integral to the Getty Villa. The Villa's four gardens feature designs inspired by ancient Roman models and planted with species known from the ancient Mediterranean. Explore the gardens and enjoy reflecting pools, bronze sculptures, fountains and spectacular views of the Pacific.

Golden Lotus Temple and swans at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine
The Golden Lotus Temple at the Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Self-Realization Fellowship

Tucked away in the Pacific Palisades a few blocks from the Pacific Ocean, the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine is a lush, ten-acre site with gardens, a spring-fed lake, and a variety of flora and fauna. Founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1950, the Lake Shrine welcomes thousands of visitors each year to enjoy its scenic beauty and serenity. The Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial is a "wall-less temple" that features a thousand-year-old stone sarcophagus from China, which holds a portion of Gandhi's ashes in a brass and silver coffer.

South Coast Botanic Garden

South Coast Botanic Garden

Located in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the South Coast Botanic Garden offers a unique horticultural and wildlife habitat experience. The 87-acre Garden is renowned as one of the world’s first botanical gardens to be developed over a sanitary landfill. The reclamation project began in April 1961 with the planting of 40,000 donated trees. Today, the Garden's collection of more than 200,000 plants attracts visitors from around the world, including then-Prince Charles, now King Charles III. On select dates, the public is invited to bring their leashed fur babies to Dog-Walking Hours and stroll the Garden.

Huntington Library Chinese Garden Pavilion Bridge
Pavilion of the Three Friends and the Jade Ribbon Bridge at Garden of Flowing Fragrance | Photo: The Huntington Library

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

Founded in 1919, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is world-renowned as a cultural, research and educational center. The Botanical Gardens at The Huntington feature more than a dozen specialized gardens spanning 120 acres, including the California Garden, Children's Garden, Desert Garden and Rose Garden.

Completed in 1912, the acclaimed Japanese Garden features a moon bridge, koi ponds, the historic Japanese House, ceremonial teahouse and bonsai collection. "The Japanese Garden is arguably the most popular spot at The Huntington," says James Folsom, the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens.

The Garden of Flowing Fragrance (Liu Fang Yuan) is one of the largest Chinese-style gardens outside of China. Designed to promote the rich traditions of Chinese culture, the 15-acre garden combines the botanical with the artistic and scholarly, featuring lakes, pavilions and bridges.

Wish Trees at Arlington Garden in Pasadena
Wish Trees | Photo: Arlington Garden, Facebook

Arlington Garden

Pasadena's only dedicated free public garden, Arlington Garden was built in 2005 on the former site of the historic Durand Mansion. The garden includes thousands of California-native plants such as poppies, sunflowers, cactus and succulents, orchards of orange and olive trees, and many more species. Arlington Garden also features a variety of benches and tables, birdbaths and statuary. A classical, seven-circuit Labyrinth was built at the garden in October 2010. In November 2008, 21 crepe myrtle trees were donated and permanently installed at Arlington as part of Yoko Ono's Wish Tree series. 

Teahouse at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena
Photo: Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden, Facebook

Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden

Located across the street from Arlington Garden, the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was designed in 1935 by Kinzuchi Fujii for Charles and Ellamae Storrier Stearns, who were patrons of the arts and influential figures in Pasadena's cultural and civic life. A landscape designer and craftsman from Japan, Fujii dedicated seven years to create the garden, which he designed in the chisen kaiyu shiki ("strolling pond") style. The garden's current owners, Jim and Connie Haddad, worked closely with Dr. Takeo Uesugi to faithfully restore the garden from 2007 to 2013. Dr. Uesugi's acclaimed projects include the James Irvine Japanese Garden at JACCC and the redesign of the Japanese Garden at The Huntington Library.

The highlight of the restored garden is the 12-tatami mat teahouse, which burned down in 1981 and was rebuilt using Fujii's original drawings, photos and architectural plans. Other features include four original bridges, a traditional cedar log waiting house, two large connected ponds and a 25-foot hill with cascading waterfall. The Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February 2005.

Queen Anne Cottage at L.os Angeles County Arboretum
Queen Anne Cottage at The Arboretum | Photo: Angelo Henry, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

Founded in 1947, the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a 127-acre garden located in Santa Anita. The Arboretum is home to plant collections from all over the world, including many rare and endangered species. Highlights include the Aquatic Garden, Celebration Garden, Garden for All Seasons, Grace V. Kallam Perennial Garden, Herb Garden, Meadowbrook Garden, Rainbow Serpent Garden, Rose Garden, Tropical Greenhouse and Water Conservation Garden. Biogeographic plant collections include Africa, Australia, Canary Islands and Madagascar.

The Arboretum also houses several historic structures, including the Queen Anne Cottage. Built in 1885, the Queen Anne Cottage is perhaps most famous for its appearance in the opening of TV's Fantasy Island. The Queen Anne Cottage was added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 1980.

Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center
Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center | Photo: City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks

Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center

Famous for its lush citrus groves and beautiful rose garden, the 24-acre Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center is the site of the historic Orcutt residence, which was completed in the 1920s. The gardens include heritage oak trees, wandering garden paths, formal flower beds and a variety of interesting specimens of trees, exotic shrubs and flowering plants. There are several significant oak trees on the property - one of the largest is more than 33 feet in circumference and is estimated to be over 700 years old. Nature trails amble through the sprawling orchards, and picnic tables are available for public use.