Dreaming of a California vacation typically conjures pictures of pristine sandy beaches, gorgeous National Parks, and beautiful vineyards and wineries. But beyond these attractions, you will find some of the best botanical gardens in California.
Whether you are an urbanist, amateur botanist, a gardener, or just a normal tourist, you shouldn’t miss the incredibly diverse gardens in Califonia where you can see unique plant collections and enjoy the serene environments escaping from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life.
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Here we have created a list of the most beautiful California botanical gardens worthy of a detour from your next beach vacation in California, so you can plan a visit.
#1 San Francisco Botanical Garden
This is a huge and one of the most diverse botanical gardens in the US. It is a real gem in Golden Gate Park. With 55 acres of landscaped gardens and open spaces, San Francisco Botanical Garden showcases over 8500 different kinds of plants from all around the world.
You must include this garden in your San Francisco itinerary. Take a stroll through the shaded coastal redwood grove in the garden. It is a wonderful and peaceful place where you can spot American pine glade, Meso-American forest, bamboo forest, succulent garden, and loads of rhododendrons and camellias.
Tip: Try to reach early to visit this large California garden. December to March is the best time to see the blooming magnolias.
- Admission Fee: $9-$12 per adult
- Address: 1199 9th Ave San Francisco, CA 94122
- Opening Time: 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM(Daily)
- More Info: San Francisco Botanical Garden
#2 Balboa Park Botanical Building
Located in the heart of San Diego, it is one of California’s best botanical gardens for flower and plant lovers. You can see a total of more than six gardens in the park that includes Rose Garden, Japanese Friendship Garden, Alcazar Garden, Desert Garden, and Botanical Building.
The mesmerizing koi pond in front of the Balboa Park Botanical Building is one of the most photographed places in San Diego. The Botanical Building is the home of various tropical plants, orchids, and ferns. The park is dog-friendly, but not allowed in the garden.
Tip: The park is open 24 hours every day. Check their official site for festival and concert information.
- Admission Fee: Free
- Address: 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
- Opening Time(Botanical Building): 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM(Friday to Wednesday)
- More Info: Balboa Park
#3 Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in California
If it’s peace you like, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens offer a calm ambiance and vibrant flowers in which you will lose yourself. Located in Fort Bragg it is a famous botanical garden in Northern California. This garden boasts canyons, coastal bluffs, wetlands, and a closed-cone pine forest.
It is a fun experience to walk through their vegetable and fruit gardens. Ven you can pick fresh vegetables and berries in the season.
The coastal climate is perfect for camellias and magnolias. You can see the incredible display of rhododendrons(aside from the Himalayas, it is the only place to find this flower) and native wildflowers in the month of May. July and August are also a great time to see the blooming dahlias & heathers.
- Address: 18220 North Highway One, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
- Opening Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM(Wednesday to Sunday)
- More Info: MCBG website
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#4 Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden
Looking for the best botanical gardens in Southern California? Look no further and visit Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden which is located on the famous Catalina Island that can be accessed by a short boat ride from the Los Angeles coastline.
This is a unique garden in California. The temperate marine climate is the main reason to showcase plants that are endemic to Southern California’s islands. That means these plants grow naturally in these coastal islands but nowhere else. You can see here some rare and endangered species.
It is a very romantic place in the US. Stroll through the Desert Garden or walk through the information center and learn about the history of the island. The garden walkway meanders around the variety of rare plant life with name tags at the bottom.
- Address: 125 Clarissa Ave., Avalon, Catalina Island, CA 90704
- More Info: Catalina Conservancy
#5 The Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens
Founded in 1911 by Henry E. Huntington, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a great place for people who want books, art, and gardens in one place. This 120-acre estate has 16 themed gardens that feature 15000 types of plants.
You can see one of the largest collections of cacti and succulents in the Desert Garden. The Japanese Garden features a moon bridge and a tea house. The Chinese Garden, Rose Garden, and Shakespeare Garden are also recommended if you are a nature lover.
Tip: The first Thursday of the month is the ‘Free Day’(free admission). The free ticket can be booked online one month ahead.
- Opening Time: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm(Wednesday to Monday)
- Admission Fee: $25 on weekdays and $29 on weekends
- Address: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108
- More Info: Huntington website
#6 Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
This 78-acre garden is a place of tranquility for all flower lovers. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden contains over 1000 rare species and plants. This living museum is the home of various native plants, trees, and some historic landmarks.
Enjoy the views of the Santa Ynez Mountains on the backdrop, the stunning landscapes, and the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. Fortunately, we included visiting this beautiful botanical garden in our Solvang itinerary.
Not only the diversified plants and trees, but you can also do plenty of things in this California botanical garden. From guided photo walks, bird-watching to lectures on the environment, and workshops on photography, the event calendar of the garden is packed throughout the year.
Their educational programs are very engaging through their interactive learning experiences. Your four-legged friends are also welcome in this dog-friendly botanical garden in California.
- Admission Fee: $16 per adult
- Opening Time: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM(Daily)
- Address: 1212 Mission Canyon Rd Santa Barbara, CA 93105
- More Info: SBBG website
#7 San Diego Botanic Garden, Encinitas
This popular 37 acres botanical garden of California is about 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. It is such a peaceful serene place filled with a diverse collection of plants and trees, birds, ponds, fountains, waterfalls, and wildlife.
Explore the Palm Canyon, and the palm trees from all over the world, the Bamboo Garden, the largest collection in the country, and the Mexican Garden, which contains topiary mariachis. You can also pack a lunch and sit at the many tables or benches spread around the property.
Pick a subtropical fruit garden, desert, Mexican garden, Hamilton’s children’s garden, or the bamboo forest to chill. In the Subtropical Fruit Garden, you can get to see many exotic fruits such as cherimoya, star fruit, Surinam cherry, and many more.
Local people often visit this beautiful garden. My personal favorite is the Hamilton Children’s Garden and the jungle treehouse. Tropical Rainforest Garden will give you a little touch of Hawaii.
Tip: Don’t forget to bring your DSLR camera. There are some amazing photo ops wherever you look.
- Admission Fee: $18 per person
- Opening Time: 10 am-4 pm(Wednesday to Sunday)
- Address: 230 Quail Gardens Dr. Encinitas, CA 92024
- More Info: SDBG website
#8 Conejo Valley Botanic Garden
It can be a nice weekend getaway from Ventura, one of the cheapest places to visit in California. Conejo Valley Botanic Garden is a free garden and rests on 33 acres of mother nature with scenic hiking trails and beautiful plants and flowers to look at.
There is a nature trail through the garden that offers a pretty nice view. You can see several gardens here: Desert Garden, Children Adventure Garden, and Butterfly Garden. Both are beautiful but the Children Garden is more beautiful with some amazing photoshoot spots.
The Garden showcases over 60 types of salvia, of which 10 are typical California native species. Most of the plants are labeled in this garden.
There is no parking fee in the garden. Dogs are allowed but must be on-leash.
- Address: 400 W Gainsborough Rd Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
- Opening Time: 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM(Daily)
- More Info: Conejo Recreation & Park District
#9 University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley
Founded in 180, UC Botanical Graden is a vast and beautiful landscape focused on international research and environmental conservation. This 34-acre living museum contains a diverse collection of plants from all around the world, of which most are California native plants.
You can spend hours wandering through different types of gardens: Australasia, native California, Desert, Chinese medicinal herbs, Succulent. I will highly recommend visiting their South America collection. It is absolutely breathtaking with all the names of the plants are written down in placards in front of the plant.
Especially it is an ideal place for couples who are looking for a gorgeous wedding spot in California.
- Address: 200 Centennial Dr Berkeley, CA 94720
- Admission Fee: $15 per adult
- Opening Time: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm(Daily)
- More Info: UC Botanical Garden
#10 Moorten Botanical Garden
When you are in the Palm Springs area, you shouldn’t miss this privately owned arboretum. This little gem of California displays different types and shapes of cacti and other beautiful flowers and succulent plants.
Visit this charming place with your family and friends and discover the extraordinary display of desert plants from around the world.
Although Moorten is rather on the smaller side in this list, it has more than 3000 types of plant species and even some little turtles and doves. Nearly every inch of it this botanical garden is filled with flowers, succulents, colorful rocks, and ancient fossils that will dazzle your eyes and excite your sense of smell.
- Admission Fee: $5 for adult, $2 for children(5-15 years)
- Opening Time: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM (Thursday to Tuesday)
- Address: 1701 S Palm Canyon Dr Palm Springs, CA 92264
- More Info: Moorten Botanical Garden
#11 Niguel Botanical Preserve
Wondering for an enchanting place where you can see the lavish green of nature as well as can do some adventure activities? Niguel Botanical Reserve is such a beautiful and calm place that offers a scenic hiking trail and endless natural view.
They have a kids’ playground, swimming pools, large lawns, hills, sidewalks, and a lovely garden area. You can stroll along some nice trails both in the sun and the shade in this southern California botanical preserve. Most of the trails are steep and dog-friendly.
- Admission Fee: Admission and parking both are free.
- Address: 29751 Crown Valley Pkwy Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
- More Info: Niguel Botanical Preserve
#12 Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden
Located near the San Gabriel Mountains at Arcadia this historical site is a popular botanical garden in Los Angeles. Resting on 127 acres of gorgeous landscape, Los Angeles County Arboretum seeks to have its collection be among the most diverse in the Golden State.
From cactus gardens, Asian gardens, various types of orchids to waterfalls, and scenic trails; there is so much to see here. You can even see plants from Africa, Madagascar, and Australia. If you are looking for beautiful and exotic plants, this is the right place for you.
- Admission Fee: $15 per adult(only online reservation)
- Opening Time: 9:00 am – 4:30 pm(daily)
- Address: 301 N Baldwin Ave Arcadia, CA 91007
- More Info: Arboretum
#13 South Coast Botanic Garden
This 87-acre botanical garden is located in Palos Verdes, California. It contains more than 2500 different species of plants that include herbs, cacti, ficus, roses, and vegetables. This botanical garden features different types of gardens like Rose garden, Water-Wise, Garden of the Senses, Children’s, Herb Garden, and Japanese Garden.
Don’t miss the GLOW, a stunning art installation. It looks amazing with low light. It is a perfect place for photogenic people and the exhibits are very engaging and informative. Check their website for exhibits, programs, and events like garden events, weddings, conferences, photography, and filming.
Tip: You can get a free entry on third Tuesday of every month.
- Admission Fee: $15 for adult, $5 for children
- Address: 26300 Crenshaw Blvd Palos Verdes Penninsula, CA 90274
- Opening Time: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm(Daily)
- More Info: South Coast Botanic Garden
#14 Descanso Gardens
Descanso Gardens is one of my favorite places to visit in SoCal. It’s a perfect spot for a romantic stroll, exercising, relaxing, relaxing, meditating, exploring nature, and just having fun. This beautiful California garden is surrounded by gorgeous mountains.
If you enjoy nature and stay near the LA area, you will most likely spend few hours here. Their Ancient Forest and Lilac Garden are highly recommended for plant and flower lovers. Located 20 minutes away from Los Angeles this garden features nine botanical collections, a house museum, modern art gallery, cafe, and cute gift shop.
Check out their event calendar. Their events include morning yoga, weekend walks, gardening tutorials, and annual festivals. They have a pretty big parking lot but it gets busy during events.
Tip: Bring plenty of water along with some snacks and food. I would suggest not wearing sandals as some parts of the garden are hilly and off-road.
- Address: 1418 Descanso Dr La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011
- Opening Time: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM(daily)
- More Info: Descanso Gardens
#15 Fullerton Arboretum
Looking for a free botanical garden in California? Here it is. Located right next to the California State Fullerton stadium, this small arboretum has a good variety of plants, trees, and flowers. Fullerton Arboretum also features a play area for kids, open grassy fields, a pond (with different birds & fish), redwoods, an area for cacti, and so much more.
There are specific zones with plants from the different regions such as tropical, woodlands, desert, Mediterranean, etc. Near the entrance, they have a nature center where you can buy various herbs and vegetables to plant in your own garden.
Tip: It is an ideal place for a photoshoot. You need to get a permit online on their website. You can make a donation to the arboretum.
- Admission Fee: Free
- Address: 1900 Associated Rd Fullerton, CA 92831
- Opening Time: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
- More Info: fullertonarboretum.org
#16 California Botanic Garden, Claremont
Bring your friends, and your family to the lush landscape of the California Botanic Garden. Explore this 86 acre of natural landscape upon which these gardens sit.
Located at the south of San Gabriel foothills this non-profit organization is packed with California native flora (sunflower, blue curls, wild grape, and California buckwheat). Keep an eye out for the wildlife. You can spot little bunnies and wild birds.
Wear comfortable hiking boots as the place itself a hiking spot. The staff is super friendly and knowledgeable about California plants and conservation efforts.
- Admission Fee: $10 per adult
- Address: 1500 N College Ave Claremont, CA 91711
- Opening Time: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM (Tuesday to Sunday)
- More Info: California Botanic Garden
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