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 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 spoiled for choice for 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 gardens 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. California Friendly Demonstration Gardens At The John Ferraro Building
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (
Location: John Ferraro Building 111 No. Hope Street
3. Flamingo Estate
Richard Christiansen’s private hilltop paradise is teeming with everything from Japanese plums, figs, zucchini, tomatoes and olives and macadamia nut trees and herbs. All of it waiting to be harvested and turned into bottles of jam, gorgeous soaps, scented candles and other tinctures. While this botanical utopia has hosted private dinners, the gardens are mostly reserved for the loving hands that tend to them. You can, however, get a taste of it with ‘The Garden Tour’ collection, giving you a curated collection the best scents and flavors the verdant seven acres has to offer.
Find out more here.
4. 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
5. Amir’s Garden
In 1971, Amir Dialameh single-handedly 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
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. While the gardens are currently closed, there are plans to reopen in early 2022 Find out more here.
Location: 6100 Woodley Ave, Los Angeles
8. Blue Ribbon Garden At The Walt Disney Concert Hall
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 tranquility. 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
11. 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
12. Museum of Jurassic Technology
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.
13. Ron Finley’s Garden
Somewhere in South Central Los Angeles, Ron Finley (a.k.a. the ‘Gangsta Gardener’) has been transforming his 70ft feet by 40ft backyard into an urban jungle. The Masterclass instructor and Ted Talk speaker has been starting a green revolution that aims to transform every patch of dirt and sandbox into a rich food source, giving the community the power to provide for themselves in verdantly barren neighborhoods.
Find out more about joining the revolution or volunteering here.
14. Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden
Beautifully manicured lawns, dotted with a notable outdoor sculpture collection featuring work by Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore, is pure therapy. The paths are lined with Jacarandas that turn a surreal shade of purple in spring while the rest of the trees turn to shades of yellow, orange and brown through fall.
Location: Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, 245 Charles E Young Dr E, Los Angeles, CA 90095
15. Koreatown Pavillion Garden
This stunning 5,000-square-foot pavilion with a petite garden commemorates Korean immigrants in L.A. This beautiful symbol, known as the Dawooljung, meaning “a harmonious gathering place,” was built by South Korean craftsmen and is an ideal spot to relax amongst the non-stop buzz of Koreatown.
Location: 1000 Normandie Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90006
16. Storrier Stearns
Found in Pasadena, the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden is a beautiful zen retreat with a life full of devastation and triumph. Its constructed bridges, traditional cedar log house, and lush gardens are surrounded by two ponds full of koi fish. As you and your loved one take in the landscape, it’s clear that dedication and patience went into this tranquil masterpiece. Learn more about Storrier Stearns here!
Featured Image: The Japanese Garden
Garden lovers may also want to check out this membership card from the American Horticultural Society that gets you access to over 345 gardens across North America.