Head to these fresh havens without leaving the city.
While living in a thriving metropolitan area comes with endless perks—otherwise, we wouldn’t all be here, right?—now and again, we need to break away from the daily grind and escape to nature. There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as gathering your thoughts under the shade of towering trees and wandering through lush landscaping with pops of color and subtle tweets of birds to remind us we’re not the only residents. While it’s not always possible to head to some of the glorious national parks or go on a retreat in some of California’s incredible outdoor destinations, Angelenos are spoilt for choice when it comes to pockets of greenery to explore. So if you’re looking for a little outdoor solitude but don’t necessarily have a day to dedicate to the whole of Griffith Park, then here are the lesser-known spaces in L.A. to explore.
1. Self Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine [Reservation Required]
Just a stone’s throw away from the Pacific Ocean, this 10-acre haven boasts everything from lush gardens, rolling hills, fountains, statues, incredible flora, and a stunning spring-fed lake with swans gliding atop. It was founded by yogi Paramahansa Yogananda and features the Court of Religions, which encompasses the world’s five principal religions. Yogananda believed the harmony of these faiths is what unites everyone. Off the main trails, you’ll find dozens of paths to hidden nooks where visitors can meditate and take in the enchanting scenery. Advanced reservations are required and can be made here.
Location: Lake Shrine 17190 Sunset Boulevard, Pacific Palisades, CA
2. Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve
Crowded trails don’t exactly elicit a sense of serenity, so heading to this tranquil, lesser-known gem is the perfect way to reconnect with nature and leave the world behind. This 9.4-acre wetland preserve forms part of the Dominguez Watershed and is teeming with life, including willows, shrubs, herbs, and all the creatures that live amongst it. It’s completely free, but you’ll need to make an advanced reservation only and it’s only open on the second Sunday or fourth Saturday of the month.
Location: 1202 W 170th St, Gardena, CA 90247
3. Garden of Oz [Temporarily Closed]
Follow the yellow brick road to this eclectic pocket of Hollywood hills. As the name reveals, this Oz-inspired garden is a magical place created by local wizard Gail Cottman. Its vibrant, mosaicked pathways and steps create a playful contrast with the fresh greenery. Some say there’s a copy of the key floating around, while others say the locks are changed regularly to keep unwanted visitors out.
Location: 3040 Ledgewood Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90068
4. Museum of Jurassic Technology [Temporarily Closed]
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City is a treasure chest of curiosities. Once you’ve had your fair share of obscurities in the museum, you can head out to the beautiful garden, which may be the most Jurassic thing about the place with plants growing wildly over the decaying walls with columns and arches that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Morrocan oasis.
5. Amir’s Garden
In 1971, Amir Dialameh singlehandedly turned a scorched and barren hillside in Griffith Park into a cascading oasis for hikers and horseback riders. It’s shaded with jacaranda trees and covered in rose bushes, geraniums, oleander. To get to it, though, you’ll need to go on a half-mile trek uphill from the trailhead at Mineral Wells Road and Griffith Park Drive. As expected, the views are absolutely worth it.
Location: Griffith Park Drive & Mineral Wells Road, Los Angeles, CA 90027
6. Arlington Garden
This enchanting space is the only dedicated public in Pasadena and happens to be on a former staging ground for the 710 Freeway. There’s an app you can download so you can identify the plethora of plant species. Find out more here.
Location: 275 Arlington Drive, Pasadena, CA 91105
7. The Japanese Garden [Opening Soon]
This breathtaking, authentic Japanese garden will immediately transport you to another world. It blends aesthetics and philosophical ideas to create an explosion of natural fragrances and sights. It features three different gardens to create one surreal experience. Begin with the Zen meditation garden, then wander along the Chisen or “wet-strolling” garden and end at the Shoin Building with an authentic tatami-mat teahouse. Find out more here.
Location: 6100 Woodley Ave, Los Angeles
8. Blue Ribbon Garden [Temporarily Closed]
The rooftop of one of the city’s major attractions, The Walt Disney Concert Hall, is probably the last place you’d expect to find tranquillity. But here, hiding in plain sight, you get a beautifully manicured garden. You’ll get to marvel at Frank Gehry’s gleaming masterpiece and the porcelain roses that pay tribute to Lillian Disney’s two favorite things (porcelain and roses).
Location: 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
9. Los Angeles Police Academy garden
The LA’s Police Academy is the last place you’d probably look for a stunning green escape, but it happens to be one of the loveliest spots in the city. So much so that it was declared Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #110 in 1973. Located in the Chavez Ravine area of Elysian Park next to Dodger Stadium, the rocky site can now be rented for special occasions.
10. La Casita Del Arroyo
Featured Image: The Japanese Garden