[Oh, Snap] A Holiday Stroll Through The Descanso Gardens

As I’ve grown up over the years, the holidays have become less and less about the physical, tangible presents exchanged among family and friends, and in turn – more and more about the actual holiday presence of the same individuals.  I mean, sure – who doesn’t love a gift every now and again; especially if it’s heartfelt and / or handmade.  My parents are pros at both of those, but to this day I honestly still prefer long strolls and chatting them up to anything that money could actually buy. The other week, I was struck with an awkward work situation – I was going to be the big boss for a few days while my boss was out, but for the Friday and Monday after the holidays.  My original feelings were a hodgepodge of frustration, anger and sadness that I wouldn’t be able to spend the days with my parents, but instead of getting into a bind about it – we did a quick about face; for the first time since moving down to LA, they were finally going to visit me for the holidays and enjoy a crisp, clear Christmas in the City of Angels.

The crazy thing about living in East Los Angeles is that I’ve gone from being surrounded by city streets, skyrises and bustling public transportation into an area that’s a much slower pace of life, and where nature is seemingly more abundant, though in truth – maybe I’m finding it more frequently, because I’m looking for it more.  Over the last year, Danny and I’ve explored a plethora of parks and finally – we’re running out of Botanical Gardens to introduce ourselves to in the area; it’s a beautiful thing! After the local options are exhausted, we’re going to spend our weekends traveling – in search of the serenity that only nature can provide.  After tackling Griffith Park, The Huntington and The Arboretum – it was time to conquer the Descanso Gardens and I was stoked to bring my parents along for the ride.  Being a holiday, there were barely any people in the park which was nice – and for the record, the Descanso Gardens are only closed a few days of the year, Christmas Day being one of them.

After spending the early afternoon galavanting around and grabbing some quick and hunger quenching pizza at Blaze in Pasadena, we were off to Descanso – located right about where the 2 and the 210 meet in La Canada / Flintridge. Unlike the other gardens we’ve visited which were much more in the heart of the city and centrally located, Descanso is a little further out of range of the city and has the stunning landscape to prove it.  We started in the Japanese Garden and wound around to the Live Oaks Forest, the Camelias, a California Native Plant Garden and last but certainly not least, the wonderful Rose Garden.  But, that’s not to say we always stayed on the beaten path – we definitely jumped off a few times, hiked through the hills and stole a stunning view of the city.  Though there wasn’t as much color or variety as the other gardens we’ve been to (which, truthfully, could just be due to the time of year) – I really enjoyed strolling through and enjoying the forested areas.  The Descanso Gardens are perfect for a mid-week walk, artistic inspiration or a little reading on a beautiful day.

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[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!

[Oh, Snap!] An Afternoon at the Huntington Botanical Gardens

Between my father and step mom being in town, and Danny’s mom heading down for the day – we’ve been inundated with family time, and it’s been perfect! Last night we went out on the town with my family, grabbed some sushi and enjoyed downtown Pasadena. Today, we thought we’d try something new so we cruised down to the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for a beautiful adventure.  Revered as one of the world’s epicenters for culture, research and education – the Huntington itself is a Non Profit institution founded by Henry Huntington back in 1919, almost a century ago.  During his lifetime, Huntington procured and collected an immense collection of art, classic and historical literature and my personal favorite – an assortment of botanical gardens from all over the world.  From the Australian outback to the Jungles, to Chinese and Japanese Gardens to the Rose and Herb Gardens, and with over 120 acres to the Huntington – there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

To start, we wound around to the Chinese Gardens to admire the lush vegetation, incredible architecture adorned with sacred geometry and the most delicious iced jasmine tea I’ve ever had the pleasure of slurping down.

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After spending an hour meandering through the Chinese Gardens, we waltzed down by the running river and into the Japanese Gardens, to find an area adorned with the most extensive assortment of bonsai trees I’ve seen in my entire 30 years of existence.  I swear, some of the trees were nearly a century old and so incredibly miniature!

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As we exited we were pulled into the canopies by the rose gardens while we caught our breath (it was almost 100 degrees out, mind you) and wouldn’t you know it but we stumbled right upon the full glory of their rose gardens, with so many different and beautiful hybrids.

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Finally, as we left four hours later we had to stop and smell – and eat! – the edible herb garden; I tasted a flower that tasted sweet and peppery – I so wish I remembered the name right now, but it was as beautiful as it was delicious.

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With the size of the Gardens themselves, here’s simply no way to see everything on the grounds but boy, did we ever try.  Do you have a favorite local botanical garden that you enjoy? Whether it’s in the Southern California region or across the globe, I’d love to get some ideas on other amazing botanical garden’s to fawn over.

[Oh, Snap] Arlington Botanical Gardens

Whether you’re a country cat or a city kitty, one thing’s for sure – Los Angeles has a little bit of something to offer for every type of adventurous personality out there. For the best in shopping and people watching head out to  Venice Beach or the Fairfax District, Hollywood boasts some of the trendiest tourist traps around and Downtown LA is home to Chinatown and the Fashion District – perfect for ballers on a budget.  To boot, there are also tons of museums for all ages and minds – the Natural History Museum downtown is perfect for any science and history buffs, near the La Brea Tar Pits you’ll find the LACMA, the Architecture + Design Museum, the Craft + Folk Art Museum and the Peterson Automotive Museum, last but definitely not least are the Getty and it’s sister museum – the Getty Villa – which I had a chance to finally visit last January.  A handful of the museums require some sort of paid admission (or a “donation”) to enter – thankfully, some like minded and fabulous people have compiled a list of ‘Free Museum Days‘ in and around LA county; genius!

Beyond the museums that the city of angels has to offer, there are amazing places to take leisurely strolls, discover street art and take in the nature – urban and authentic – that graces our city.   One of the craziest things about the vegetation in LA (and I learned this thanks to a nasty bout of allergies a few years ago): most of the trees, plants and flowers in LA aren’t indigenous to the area – chances are they’ve been imported from South America,  Australia or a Mediterranean style climate. Flowering trees like the African Tulip and Sweet Acacia are native to Africa but found scattered throughout the city; other trees, like the Olive Tree, were imported from Italy.  There are a few fantastic botanical gardens scattered around the city, but when there’s so much free stuff to enjoy – why bother paying?!

This past Saturday, my boyfriend and I were craving an outdoors-ey adventure and had contemplated going to the Getty or Huntington Gardens over in Pasadena.  The more we researched, the more we realized how many free things were truly at our fingertips so we shifted our sights to the Arlington Gardens – the hours are more flexible, parking is easy and – yeah, it’s free!  From the second we walked in, we knew we’d be making our way back at a later date with books and bottles of wine in tow.  The park is open from dawn until dusk and has literally dozens of park benches, tables and chairs for people to set up and soak in the environment in.  Each and every direction we turned showed us something new to take in and appreciate.  According to the signage there are roughly 35 different areas of plants, flowers and vegetation and it changes throughout the seasons.  The grounds are maintained by Better and Kicker McKenney and they do an absolutely fabulous job of keeping them gorgeous.  Without further ado – here are some of my favorite snaps from the weekend – if you’re ever in the Pasadena area make sure you plan a visit here!