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Map: 29 Secret Gardens and Green Spaces Hidden Around LA

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The word on Los Angeles is that's it's all asphalt and fenced-off yards, but joke's on the haters, 'cause we've got Griffith and the Getty and, even better, a network of little under-the-radar parks and gardens and labyrinths where anyone can steal away for a little peace among nature. It's summer, so once again—with help from our readers—here's the latest version of our secret gardens map of Los Angeles, now with 29 lesser-known sites to explore. There are quiet rooftops, courtyards canopied in spectacular light art, folk art gardens, Japanese gardens galore, and of course the rocky oasis at the police academy. Most are open to the public in one form or another, but hours, access, and cost vary, so check the websites before you go. And please enjoy!


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Union Station

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Union Station is known for its gardens and courtyards, but blogger The World on Wheels dug up this little gem on the far east side of the property, behind the Metro building—it has gardens, benches, fountains, and waterfalls.

Biddy Mason Park

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Biddy Mason Park is a quiet little courtyard Downtown named for a former slave who became a prominent figure (and one of the first black landowners) in nineteenth century Los Angeles. It's lined with a black concrete art wall designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

The Medallion

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M2A Architects designed the mind (and ground) bending park in front of the Medallion rental building in the Old Bank District.

Roybal Federal Building

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There's a terraced lawn and peristyled green space between the Federal Building and the Roybal Courthouse, plus one of Jonathan Borofsky's "Molecule Man" statues.

LAPD Headquarters

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On top of the restaurant at the new LAPD headquarters sits this circular reflection garden.

DoubleTree (formerly the Kyoto Grand)

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It may be one of the worst kept secrets in LA, but the Japanese garden at the DoubleTree is still pretty lovely. Just take the elevator to the third floor for a half acre of waterfalls, bamboo, and stone paths.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

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It's true, there's nearly an acre of public park and garden up on the third level of Disney Hall—take the stairs up from the street near First and Grand. The Blue Ribbon Garden is also where the Patina restaurant below grows a lot of its ingredients.

Amir's Garden

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After a fire in the seventies, Iranian immigrant Amir Dialameh took it upon himself to replant a hillside in Griffith Park—today it's nearly five acres of "pine and jacaranda trees along with rose bushes, geraniums, oleander, and yucca."

Virginia Robinson Gardens

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This is the estate that Robinsons department store built, back in 1911, and before becoming public (it's run by the County), it hosted many a fabulous Beverly Hills resident.

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

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The James Irvine Japanese Garden has a 170 foot long stream that flows down a waterfall and around the entire garden.

Japanese Garden

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The Japanese Garden in Lake Balboa is six and a half acres "fashioned after 'stroll gardens' constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese Feudal lords."

Los Angeles River Center and Gardens

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This spot in Cypress Park originally opened in the fifties as Lawry's California Center, a showcase for Lawry's seasoning and condiments. It's filled with pepper trees, roses, and Mission architecture.

Los Angeles Police Academy

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One of the more unexpected sites in LA—the charming, rocky garden at the LAPD's police academy, tucked in Elysian Park by Dodger Stadium. Warning: the babbling of the waterfall may be interrupted by the sound of a little gunfire.

Garden of Oz

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This mosaicked folk art garden was originally created by Gail Cottman and is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. It's often gated, but we've heard a rumor (probably untrue!) that the local kids have keys.

Wattles Park

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This Runyon Canyon-adjacent site is perhaps most popularly known as the site of the Freddy in Troop Beverly Hills. The house was designed in the early 1900s by Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey, and is surrounded by several gardens in various states of upkeep.

Debs Park

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Tucked in Montecito Heights, Debs Park has a lake, tons of trails, and lots of spots to picnic (plus barbecue pits). It also has an Audubon Center so you can learn about all the birds that hang around the area.

Peace Awareness Labyrinth and Gardens

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Busby Berkeley's old mansion in West Adams is now home to the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness—they've created a labyrinth ("Walking a labyrinth in modern times is a great way to bring peace and relaxation to our minds") and meditation gardens. You can take a guided tour on some weekdays.

Cascades Park

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Super simple and relaxing, Cascades Park is basically just grass and a long waterfall.

Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters

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While the Self-Realization Fellowship's Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades is better known, locals swear by the peaceful gardens at their Mt. Washington HQ, which was built in the late 1800s as the Mt. Washington Inn.

Arlington Garden

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Caltrans owns this property—it was originally planning to do construction staging here for 710 Freeway work—but it's been turned into Pas's only public garden. It has an app too for identifying everything all its plants.

Bamboo Charlie's Garden

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A homeless man named Charles Ray Walker spent years building this lovely and eclectic folk art garden by the LA River in Boyle Heights. Since his death, fights among caretakers have put the space in jeopardy.

Runyon Canyon Rock Mandala

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Artist Robert Wilson created this mandala off the hiking path at Runyon in 2008; he restored it just last month.

Museum of Jurassic Technology

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MJT creator Robert Wilson used part of his MacArthur genius grant to build this lovely rooftop garden/aviary and it's the perfect counterpoint to the dark, detail-packed museum.

UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

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This seven-acre botanical garden at UCLA is used as a teaching and research lab and as "a long-term repository for unusual plants, a refugium for biodiversity." The school offers guided tours once a month, or you can go on your own.

La Casita Del Arroyo

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La Casita del Arroyo was first built during the Great Depression using lumber from the 1932 Olympics bicycle track and boulders from the Arroyo Seco (with design by famed architect Myron Hunt). Today it's got a water demonstration garden and butterfly sanctuary.

“Dividing the Light”

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"Dividing the Light" at Pomona College is one of artist James Turrell's Skyspaces; at dusk and dawn, a lighting program in the small courtyard "bathes the canopy in changing colors, from goldenrod to turquoise, altering the viewer’s perception of the sky."

Old Trapper's Lodge

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Tucked by the stables at Pierce College is the Old Trapper's Lodge, built by a man named John Ehn in the 1940s as part of his western-themed motel (the Old Trapper's Lodge). Today it's a landmarked collection of weird Old West art surrounded by trees and trails. Image via J Jakobson

Orcutt Ranch

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The Orcutt Ranch in West Hills was built in the 1920s by William Warren Orcutt, the geologist who first discovered fossils at the La Brea Tar Pits. It has oak and citrus trees, gardens, ranch structures, and an adobe residence that heavily incorporates the swastika, which to Orcutt in 1926 was just a Native American symbol.

Earl B. Miller Japanese Garden

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This little (1.3-acre) garden on the CSU Long Beach campus was designed by Edward R. Lovell and opened in 1981 as "a hybrid art form that combines typical elements of Japanese garden design within the context of its Southern California location."

Union Station

Union Station is known for its gardens and courtyards, but blogger The World on Wheels dug up this little gem on the far east side of the property, behind the Metro building—it has gardens, benches, fountains, and waterfalls.

Biddy Mason Park

Biddy Mason Park is a quiet little courtyard Downtown named for a former slave who became a prominent figure (and one of the first black landowners) in nineteenth century Los Angeles. It's lined with a black concrete art wall designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville.

The Medallion

M2A Architects designed the mind (and ground) bending park in front of the Medallion rental building in the Old Bank District.

Roybal Federal Building

There's a terraced lawn and peristyled green space between the Federal Building and the Roybal Courthouse, plus one of Jonathan Borofsky's "Molecule Man" statues.

LAPD Headquarters

On top of the restaurant at the new LAPD headquarters sits this circular reflection garden.

DoubleTree (formerly the Kyoto Grand)

It may be one of the worst kept secrets in LA, but the Japanese garden at the DoubleTree is still pretty lovely. Just take the elevator to the third floor for a half acre of waterfalls, bamboo, and stone paths.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

It's true, there's nearly an acre of public park and garden up on the third level of Disney Hall—take the stairs up from the street near First and Grand. The Blue Ribbon Garden is also where the Patina restaurant below grows a lot of its ingredients.

Amir's Garden

After a fire in the seventies, Iranian immigrant Amir Dialameh took it upon himself to replant a hillside in Griffith Park—today it's nearly five acres of "pine and jacaranda trees along with rose bushes, geraniums, oleander, and yucca."

Virginia Robinson Gardens

This is the estate that Robinsons department store built, back in 1911, and before becoming public (it's run by the County), it hosted many a fabulous Beverly Hills resident.

Japanese American Cultural & Community Center