Some of the country’s most serene gardens are ones you may have never heard of.
As gorgeous as the big-name gardens of Southern California are–looking at you, Huntington and Descanso–sometimes the best garden is the more secretive one. These lesser-known hidden gems may be slightly smaller than their larger and more famous counterparts, but, because of fewer visitors, they offer a quiet serenity that the others cannot. Here are seven of the best secret gardens around Southern California.
Kyoto Gardens at the DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown
WHERE: Downtown Los Angeles
Set upon the rooftop of the DoubleTree by Hilton in L.A’s Little Tokyo neighborhood is the Kyoto Gardens, a gorgeous sanctuary that spans over one full acre of luscious greenery and expands into outdoor, upper and lower terraces that offer exquisite views of the downtown skyline. The exhibit is a near-exact replica of a 16th century Japanese Garden in Tokyo that was originally constructed for a samurai named Lord Kiyomasa Kato.
Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters
WHERE: Los Angeles, CA
Perched at the top of Mount Washington in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles is the international headquarters for the Self Realization Fellowship, an organization founded by the yogi guru who is known for bringing the practice of yoga to Western civilization. The grounds are made up of lush plants and lawns, a Japanese-style garden complete with a koi pond, cactus and rose gardens, and hidden spots throughout for sitting and meditating. The garden is accessible by car (or hike from the bottom of Mount Washington) and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m, Tuesday through Saturday.
WHERE: Pasadena, CA
Arlington Garden, Pasadena’s only free public garden, located on the former site of the historic Durand Mansion, is a mecca of California’s native plant life. Through the grounds are poppies, orange and olive trees, sunflowers, succulents, and more. There are also plenty of spots to sit and take in the serenity, with benches and tables scattered throughout. Also featured in the garden is a classic, seven-circuit labyrinth, as well as crepe myrtle trees donated on behalf of Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees exhibition.
Moorten Botanical Garden and Cactarium
WHERE: Palm Springs, CA
The Moorten Botanical Garden may not technically be much of a “secret,” per se, but it is a lesser-known plant mecca in Southern California made up of something you might not immediately think of when you hear the word “garden”–cacti. This private arboretum was established in 1938 and created to celebrate the natural beauty of desert plant life–and not just from California, but from around the world. This desert oasis is open during the Spring, Winter, and Fall months from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (closed Wednesdays) and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the summer.
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden
WHERE: Long Beach, CA
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden is located on the Cal State Long Beach campus and is used as both an educational resource for the college as well as a community garden for the public. It’s made up of hills and ponds, as well as plants groomed into asymmetrical shapes with ornamental stone lanterns, boulders, and other classic Japanese Garden attributes scattered throughout. Here, you are welcome to walk the curvy pathways, enjoy the koi pond (and the ducks that live around it), as well as sit and reflect in the Zen Garden.
Lake Shrine Temple
WHERE: Santa Ynez Canyon, CA
Part of the Self Realization Fellowship, Lake Shrine Temple is home to Lake Santa Ynez, the only natural spring-fed lake located in the city of Los Angeles. It is also home to a mediation garden by the lake, where you are welcome to roam the grounds surrounding the lake. There are plenty of spaces to reflect and meditate or watch the resident swans swim about the lake. A gorgeous structure called the Golden Lotus Archway is located near the lake, and there is a houseboat open on Saturdays for mediation purposes.
Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden
WHERE: Santa Barbara, CA
Free of charge and located on residential streets (between Micheltorena and Arrellaga Streets) in the lovely beach city of Santa Barbara, Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden contains over 75 species of plant life that are (mostly) drought-tolerant, a koi pond, walking paths, and a gazebo. It also contains a sensory garden with Braille and audio posts for those with hearing or visual impairments. A butterfly garden is also located on the premises.