Adventure Reviews: First Up, Descanso Gardens
I often say that if it weren’t for the traffic, Los Angeles would most assuredly be considered as great a city as New York, Paris, Chicago, Sydney – all those cities around the world that people get misty over when they try to describe it. Los Angeles has a terrible reputation for being dirty (true in parts), smoggy (improving every day), too spread out (just means we have mountains AND beach AND city), and full of “nouveau riche” “fake poseurs” with “shattered dreams” and “coke boogers” (totally true, but only between Fairfax and the 405).
But Los Angeles, especially the East side of Los Angeles where we live, is a really spectacular place, especially for raising kids. Unlike New York, Paris, Chicago, Sydney, London, Dublin, etc, the greatness of the city doesn’t smack us in the face when we walk out of the door. We have to dig a little deeper, work a little harder, look a little more closely to find LA’s greatness.
Since Willa was born, we have had an Adventure a Day with her. This has helped us explore and discover parks, attractions, gardens, and events all over Los Angeles, and has enriched our lives as Angelenos. Living in beautiful Atwater Village, our little town in the middle of this sprawling metropolis, we are uniquely situated close to some of LA’s best spots.
If I can get out of the way of my crippling procrastination/overwhelming duties on the Neighborhood Council, I’m going to start reviewing some of our favorite Willa Adventure Spots on this blog. We begin today with one of our favorite and oft-visited places, Descanso Gardens.
Descanso is a straight shot up the 2 Freeway for those of us on the East side. For Atwater Villagers, it’s about ten minutes away. Descanso is a botanical garden and learning center, with a meticulously well-maintained rose garden, small but striking Japanese garden, inspiring California native expanse, overwhelming and legendary Oak and Camilia forest, and many other attractions.
If you are a new mom with a little Little, Descanso is a wonderful place to walk while wearing or pushing your baby. The surroundings are truly breathtaking, and there are just enough hills to actually burn some calories. When Willa was a newborn we would come to Descanso about once a week. The fresh air and sensory experiences were great for her, and I loved sitting on a bench by a stream, nursing her, reading, and mostly, BEING OUT OF THE HOUSE.
If you have a slightly bigger Little (i.e., your baby is walking), Descanso is the best place for burning off energy, running around, exploring, riding the little choo-choo train, and getting good and worn out. Willa loves visiting the Koi fish and turtles at the small pond near the lake (“N” on the map), chasing the baby geese, looking for fairy butterflies, fairy dragonflies, fairy hummingbirds, smelling all the roses, and generally exploring all the fun nooks and crannies.
I love this photo of Willa flashing navel inside of a big, weepy tree at Descanso.
Descanso hosts lots of events throughout the year, like live music on the lawn, fairy shows on summer nights, storytelling days, gardening seminars, and even a kids’ camp.
EATING: There is no picnicking in the Gardens (except on special event nights), but there is a pretty good cafe at the entrance, so plan accordingly.
HOURS: 9AM-5PM. Descanso is one of the few places that opens early enough that if you have a bigger Little who naps around 11AM or 12PM, you can actually have a nice, full morning before nap.
ADMISSION: $8 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, $6 for seniors/students. I highly recommend buying a membership to Descanso. Your membership gives you free admission not only to Descanso but also to hundreds of other gardens across the United States (including the Arboretum in Arcadia… to be reviewed soon!). Membership is $70 for two adults, and also gets you a discount at the cafe and the gift shop.
Descanso Gardens is real treasure. Please check it out (baby or not), and let me know what you think!