Stroll Through These Botanic Gardens for a Taste of Autumn in LA

While scarves and sweaters may not be on the agenda, these spots will give you an authentic autumnal experience.

The Huntington Botanical Gardens
The Huntington Botanical Gardens | blacograf/Shutterstock
The Huntington Botanical Gardens | blacograf/Shutterstock

In Los Angeles, and most of Southern California for that matter, the announcement of the Iced Pumpkin Spiced Latte at Starbucks is usually the only indication that fall is imminent. Jumping into piles of crisp leaves and wearing chunky cable knit sweaters are the products of mere fantasy. But, lucky for us, there are a handful of botanic gardens in the LA area that are here to help fill that void. From courtyards decorated in vibrant gold leaves to an array of deep red and orange roses, here are the best botanic gardens in Los Angeles that make the city feel a bit more like a Nora Ephron movie.

Ginkgo trees in The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.
Ginkgo trees in The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. | Mark Mauno/Flickr

The LA County Arboretum’s Fall Color Walk is a godsend for autumnal-deprived Angelenos. Located near the San Gabriel Mountains, the 127-acre site exudes a plethora of autumnal hues. Use this map to spot the red maples, Japanese persimmons, and ginkgo trees. The bulk of the arboretum’s fall colors are in the Meadowbrook Garden, but make sure to get a look at all the site has to offer, including various historic structures and plenty of wildlife. The arboretum is open from 9 am to 6 pm daily, and tickets are $15.

Descanso Gardens
Photo courtesy of Descanso Gardens

La Cañada Flintridge
For three weeks in October each year, Descanso Gardens puts on Carved, a nightly stroll through the Camellia Forest and Rose Garden, where the gardens are illuminated by jack-o-lanterns and adorned with massive carved pumpkins, gourds, and a Día de los Muertos altar. However, if you want a better look at the colors, head over to Descanso during the day, where the fall foliage is displayed across the 150 acres. Blooms include the “Ebony Flame” crape myrtle, gingkos, and toyon berries; keep track of them here. Carved runs from October 6 to October 29; tickets are $45. Daytime admission to the gardens goes from 9 am to 5 pm, and tickets are $15.

California Botanic Garden, St. Catherine's Lace Buckwheat
Photo courtesy of California Botanic Garden

The largest botanic garden in California dedicated to the state’s native plants (over 22,000 kinds), the California Botanic Garden’s offerings are a bit unique compared to classic fall foliage. Instead of the typical deciduous leaves, the 86-acre garden showcases rusty reds from St. Catherine's Lace Buckwheat and soft yellows and oranges from the Western Sycamore. You’ll most likely also catch a glimpse of migrating birds and other wildlife snacking on acorns falling from the garden’s variety of oak trees. Check California Botanic Garden’s “What’s Beautiful Today” page for daily updates on the flora so you know what to expect. In October, the garden is open from 8 am to 6 pm, and tickets are $10.

South Coast Botanic Garden
South Coast Botanic Garden | Tracie Hall/Flickr

Palos Verdes Hills
Nestled amongst the cliffs of Palos Verdes Estates, the South Coast Botanic Garden is an 87-acre oasis containing over 150,000 landscaped plants frequented by over 300 species of birds. Throughout the gardens, autumnal colors emanate from the statuesque sweetgum trees, red grapevines, oriental persimmon trees, and red oak trees. Also, starting October 1, among the fall foliage will be acclaimed artist Thomas Dambo’s massive trolls on display as part of his TROLLS: Save the Humans exhibit, so make sure to keep an eye out for the 30-foot-tall creatures. South Coast Botanic Garden is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm, and tickets are $15.

The Chinese Garden in The Huntington Botanical Gardens. | kanguyen/Shutterstock

San Marino
Pretty much everyone in LA knows about The Huntington Library and its extensive collection of art, but the botanical gardens, especially during the fall, are still a well-kept secret. During the cooler months, the ginkgo biloba trees in the Zen Court of the Japanese Garden shift from a summery green to a vibrant gold. The ginkgos, Japanese maples, and weeping willows ornament the garden, and their leaves constantly fall throughout, transforming the space into a fall wonderland. The Rose Garden also takes on some autumnal hues, with the “Redgold,” “Thanksgiving,” “Good as Gold,” and "Hot Cocoa” roses. The Huntington is also home to one of the largest Chinese gardens in the world, featuring 15 acres of bonsai, penjing, and more. The Huntington Botanical Gardens are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm except on Tuesdays, and tickets start at $25.

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Kelsey Allen is an Associate Editor on the local team at Thrillist.