I decided to partake in the free Museum Day in Los Angeles, CA last week. I have been spending far too much time indoors and was glad for an excuse to get outside. There were a lot of places taking part, but I chose Descanso Gardens because I had never been. It was a lovely day out, with the temperature in the 80s, despite it being ”winter.”
It seemed as though many people parked in the residential area, but there was ample parking in the actual lot. My boyfriend, Brian, and I got our tickets online, which helped us avoid standing in an extra line. We stopped by the café first, which is right before the entrance. My lunch was good and the perfect amount of food. A woman in the line mentioned that she likes to take advantage of free museum days. Last year, she went to MOCA in Downtown LA, but said it was so crowded that she doubts she would ever go again on the free day. Descansco was definitely busy, but there were moments of complete quiet and peace, which were much needed. We got to enjoy a bench by the lake for a fair amount of time without interruption.
The grounds are enormous, with much to see. Each season has it’s own group of blooming flowers, with spring having the most. I really enjoy how it is set up, allowing you to walk through different sections. The Oak Forest and Ancient Forest were my favorites and Japanese Gardens are always beautiful and calming.
There are a few trails and places that are a bit of an uphill hike. We walked up a bit of a steep hill to find that it was an even steeper walk down, walking next to a fence. Most of the grounds are even and accessible for everyone, though. They do offer wheelchairs at the Visitor Center. Also, there are benches and bathrooms throughout the grounds.
The Boddy House, former home of E. Manchester Boddy, who founded the gardens, was an unexpected hike uphill, at least on the route we chose to take. If you have difficulty with something like that, please make sure to plan ahead and look into other routes/options so that you can enjoy this attraction. Restored in 2007 and opened as a museum in 2008, the Boddy house is considered a “must-see.” There are informational signs within the house and the rooms are, rightly, roped off. There is a functional sink with a sign that asks everyone to please not touch or use it, but, clearly, someone turned the handles because there was splattered water within the basin. (That both annoyed me and made me laugh.) The rooms and furniture are a “re-interpretation” of its appearance. Since the house and furnishings are contemporary, it didn’t have the same historical feel as many other places I have been, making it feel like more like going to a house party at a very nice house. There are docents available, but due to the crowd, it didn’t even occur to me to find one to gain any insight. Again: Free Museum Day. Brian couldn’t help himself as we left the building, telling random people where the keg was. Everyone enjoyed his joke, I think.
We also went to the Sturt Haaga Gallery, which is next to the Boddy House. It has nature-themed art, of course.
On our way out, we did stop in the gift store, where they sell many garden-related items as well as food items, like jellies and bread mix.
I am glad to have visited Descanso Gardens, regardless of the crowd. It did take Free Museum Day to get me to finally visit, but it will only take a change of season to get me to go again. I am looking forward to the lilacs in the Spring.
* Wear comfortable shoes.
**Make sure to bring water in your recyclable bottle.
1418 Descansco Drive
La Canada, Flintridge, CA 91011