When you think of San Diego, many people automatically dream of heading to the beach and enjoying time in the sun and water. However, San Diego is home to amazing botanical gardens that invite people of all ages to enjoy time outdoors and take in the senses and fragrances that come with strolling through flowers and plant gardens.
10 Botanical Gardens Near San Diego
Here is a look at some of the best botanical gardens in San Diego to tour and enjoy.
Balboa Park Botanic Building
Located in the city’s famous Balboa Park, the Botanic Building was built for the 1915-15 World Exposition. As one of the world’s largest lath structures, the Balboa Park Botanic Building houses more than 2,100 plants, including ferns, orchids, and palm trees. The building – one of the most-photographed in the area – also hosts seasonal flower exhibits.
San Diego Botanic Garden
With 37 acres to explores, a visit to the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas takes you along beautiful trails covering more than 30 individual gardens. Ranging from firewheel trees in the Australian Garden to a simulated coral reef in the Undersea Succulent Garden, you can explore flowers, trees, and plants from around the world. The botanical garden also features three attractions specifically designed for children, including the Hamilton Children’s Garden, home to Toni’s Tree, canopy play area, and more.
Japanese Friendship Garden
For more than 30 years, San Diego and its sister city Yokohama have celebrated their relationship through the Japanese Friendship Garden. With a bonsai collection, beautiful flowers, and koi fish, as well as immaculate artworks and Japanese lanterns, a walk through the 12-acre park will make you feel like you’re in Japan.
Old Cactus Garden
Created for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, the cactus garden makes you feel like you’re standing in the middle of the desert without leaving Balboa Park. Covering just 2.5 acres, the Old Cactus Garden features about 1,300 cactus of all sizes, shapes, and styles. From the Sonoran desert, with cactus twice the size of a human to small clumps including prickly pear and golden barrel cacti.
Point Loma Native Plant Garden
A little more than two acres, the Point Loma Native Plant Garden shares flowers and plants often found only along the San Diego River. A beautiful area for a family stroll or dog walk with well-manicured trails, visitors often enjoy the fragrance of the fresh sage, as well as the views of springtime flowers.
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens
Inviting people to relax, reflect, and recharge during their time here, the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista seeks to combine nature and art to create a special visit. Home to 16 gardens representing international regions, you can find everything from Australian eucalyptus trees and a Mediterranean grape arbor to a prehistoric cycad garden. As you traverse 13 acres of beauty, you’ll find picturesque views and amazing fragrances.
Harper’s Topiary Garden
For about 15 years, a couple created art from their shrubs. Harper’s Topiary Garden has featured more than 50 life-sized creations, including fish and dinosaurs. Since this is on private property, visitors are asked to appreciate the view from the sidewalk, and to walk through or touch the plants.
Safari Park Bonsai Pavilion
Located inside the Safari Park, which is part of the San Diego Zoo, The Safari Park Bonsai Pavilion features several acres of trails for visitors to enjoy bonsai trees and other Asian-style exhibits. With a waterfall, bridges, and stream flowing through the area, the bonsai pavilion sets a relaxing and reflective environment. The Bonsai Club also hosts special exhibits featuring trees designed by artists.
Water Conservation Garden
Seeking to help educate people on water conservation and its effects on the environment, the Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego is home to six gardens, including native plants and cactus. The themed gardens allow visitors to explore the area’s ecology and how conservation helps it thrive. The Water Conservation Garden also offers exhibits on subjects, such as mulching and gardening. The conservation garden also welcomes a butterfly garden each spring and summer.
Ethnobotany Children’s Peace Garden
Created to honor famed inventor George Washington Carver, Balboa Park’s Ethnobotany Children’s Peace Garden seeks to help educate children and others about the importance of plants to society and the environment. As the first sustainable and edible garden in San Diego, gardeners raise organic herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Families can also register for gardening classes.
From edible fruits to larger-than-life cactus, the San Diego area offers everyone an opportunity to explore more than just flowers and shrubs when visiting botanical gardens. You can enjoy fresh air, sunny skies, and excellent trails as you soak in the beauty of the area’s botanical gardens.
Happy Field Tripping!