True Angelenos know that this is a city of hidden gems and tucked away treasures. Unlike other cities that flaunt their tourist bait out in the open, Los Angeles begs those to seek and discover. It’s why this city often gets berated by tourists for lacking “attractions” and a clear-cut itinerary. The dizzying sprawl lays out like a labyrinth, one that asks you to choose your own adventure and find your own sense of the city.
At first glance, one of the main critiques of the city is a lack of parks. And while this may be true statistically — especially in comparison to other major cities like New York City and San Francisco — it brings about a distinct kind of wonderment when you happen to stumble upon a sanctuary of green space where you least expected it. The more you search, the more you’ll find this city has pockets of greenery waiting to be found. To kick off your own exploring, we’ve rounded up the best parks in Los Angeles for picnicking, reading, journaling, hanging out with friends, daydreaming and soaking up all the beauty that nature has to offer us.
1. Echo Park
We love Echo Park for countless reasons: the magical lotus flowers that blossom every summer, the delicious elote carts that line Park Avenue, the delightfully cliché swan lake boats and the ample green space that makes for the perfect picnic spot. Snag a spot right behind the iconic woman statue, officially named Nuestra Reina de Los Angeles (Our Queen of the Angels), that gives you the best view of the lake and the DTLA skyline, along with plenty of shade. And if you forgot to pack some goodies from home, you can always pick up a slice of pizza from Triple Beam Pizza up the street or order up some tacos, elote and aguas frescas from the vendors nearby.
📍 751 Echo Park Avenue
2. Chavez Ravine Arboretum in Elysian Park
It’s easy to get lost in the massive Elysian Park, a 600-acre park with eight hiking trails and plenty of incredible lookout points including Angel’s Point, Radio Hill, Buena Vista Point and a secret tree swing with stunning views of the city. With countless hidden nooks and corners, your best bet is to explore the park on your own time to find your own super special spot. But if you need a recommendation of where to start, our favorite slice of this park is the extra abundant Chavez Ravine Arboretum, the first and oldest arboretum in Southern California. Founded in 1893 by the Los Angeles Horticultural Society, this botanical tree garden is home to over 130 different varieties of trees from around the world, including the oldest and largest Cape Chestnut, Kauri, and Tipu trees in the United States. Consider it a living museum right in the heart of the city (and it’s totally free).
📍 Chavez Ravine Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90012
3. Palisades Park
Breathe in the salty ocean breeze at this enchanting park in Santa Monica (a bit of a misnomer as this park is not in the Pacific Palisades). This 26.4-acre green space stretches along Ocean Avenue, offering panoramic views of the Santa Monica Bay. This park is perfect for a solo sunrise walk or a dreamy sunset picnic, with golden hour bathing the greenery in mesmerizing light. The grounds are kept impeccably clean, making it one of the best places to catch a breath of fresh air and disconnect from the hustle and bustle of the day. To top it all off, there’s plenty of shade on hot days thanks to the majestic old trees dotting the park.
📍 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
4. Griffith Park
If you’re an Angeleno, you’re no stranger to the enormous Griffith Park, one of the largest municipal parks with urban wilderness areas in the entire country. The park spans across 4,210 acres of wild chapparal terrain and manicured parkland complete with the cutest picnic areas. This verdant stretch of land is rich with California native plants including species of oak, walnut, lilac, mountain mahagony, sages, toyon and sumac.
For the hikers among us, the parks boasts 53-mile network of trails, fire roads and bridle paths (you can actually call 323 913-4688 to get more information on which trails are open and operating). There’s something for everyone at Griffith: hiking, bike rentals, pony rides, horseback riding, picnicking, tennis, swimming, soccer and other sports fields. And it goes without saying, but be sure not to miss the extraordinary views and mind-bending planetarium shows at Griffith Observatory.
📍 730 Crystal Springs Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90027
5. Tongva Park
Just south of Colorado Avenue, between Ocean Avenue and Main Street in Santa Monica, sits Tongva Park — a 6.2-acre park that’s named after the indigenous Tongva people. This lovely outdoor space features an amphitheater, playground, garden, fountains, picnic areas, restrooms and the real pièce de résistance: an overlook with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier. If you find yourself on the westside, this is the perfect place to take a step out of the city and immerse yourself in a lush and quiet park.
📍 1615 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Right next to the California Science Center and USC’s campus lies one of the city’s best-kept secrets: The Exposition Park Rose Gardens. This historic 7-acre garden is filled with over 20,000 gorgeous flowers and 190 different varieties of roses, and it’s completely open to the public. More than just a beautiful place for picnicking or solo strolling, the garden holds a little slice of history and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. We recommend making a visit during blooming season from March to November when the sweet scent of the blooms is at its peak.
📍 701 State Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037
7. Los Angeles State Historic Park
Situated on the outskirts of Chinatown, the Los Angeles State Historic Park is an expansive, 32-acre public green space that recently underwent a massive make0ver. You may have visited the park for dinner and a show at Street Food Cinema or if you’ve eaten at the much loved Nick’s Cafe and went for a post-meal stroll. This park is a peaceful place to take a step back from the city and ground yourself in some nature. More than just a beautiful park, this space is rich with history. The last recorded location of Yang-na, a large Tongva village, was found adjacent to the park. If you happen to visit, be sure not to miss the scenic overlook bridge and the orange grove that’s home to at least 75 varieties of citrus.
📍 1245 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
8. Barnsdall Art Park
If you’re looking for a romantic spot to revel in the rays of golden hour, Barnsdall Art Park is the place. This beautiful park has a rich history dating back to the 1800s when it was once a commercial olive orchard, before a wealthy socialite and lover of the arts, Aline Barnsdall, purchased the 35-acre property in 1919. It was then that the iconic Hollyhock House was built, designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Write. Some 500 olive trees still dot the landscape today, but the park and the famed house is now open to the public to enjoy and bask in the beauty of the city. Situated on top of a hill, this gem of a spot boasts impressive views of the Hollywood Hills, including Griffith Park. It’s one of the most charming places to throw down a blanket and nibble on some picnic goodies as the sun sets.
📍 East Hollywood • 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90027
9. Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles
We’ve got a serious soft spot for Gloria Molina Grand Park, or Grand Park for short. This 12-acre civic park provides a much needed dose of greenery in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Stretching from The Music Center all the way to City Hall, it’s the park DTLA deserves, with arguably the best free programming out of all the parks in the city. Keep an eye on their incredible events — their Summer Sunday Sessions bring together some of the best burgeoning musicians in the city.
📍 Downtown Los Angeles • 200 N Grand Ave
10. Point Fermin Park
You’ll find this tranquil, oceanside park situated on top of a rugged coastal bluff in San Pedro. Point Fermin Park is home to 37 landscaped acres of green lawns, shaded pergolas, lush gardens and a charming old lighthouse. The expansive ocean views make this park one of the most serene places to have a picnic in Los Angeles. Bonus: it’s a short distance from the Korean Bell of Friendship, a gorgeous structure that was gifted to the United States by the Republic of Korea to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. in 1976. Make a whole day out of it and be sure to visit both spots.
📍 807 W Paseo Del Mar, San Pedro, CA 90731
11. Vista Hermosa
Last but not least, Vista Hermosa is a tucked-away treasure hidden in the middle of Historic Filipinotown. Walking into this lush natural park feels like you’ve stumbled upon a magical mirage in the city. The rolling meadows, the stunning plant landscaping, the shaded picnic tables and the *free* parking lot…can this really be less than a mile away from Downtown Los Angeles? We’re not exaggerating when we say the air feels fresher here. The grounds are impeccably maintained and even during the weekends, Vista Hermosa never feels overcrowded or busy. Round up your friends for a pot luck picnic or come by yourself to stroll and get some rejuvenating alone time (the bench facing DTLA is one of the greatest places to read, journal or just daydream). This park is the gold standard when it comes to green public spaces.
📍 Historic Filipinotown • 100 N Toluca St