Peacocks! Waterfalls! A haunted mansion and so much more! If you have more than 3 days in Los Angeles, don’t miss the beautiful L.A. County Arboretum. This mesmerizing botanical garden in Arcadia, is one of the best weekend getaways from Los Angeles.
Where is the Los Angeles County Arboretum?
The historical L.A. County Arboretum is a botanical garden nestled into the hills of the San Gabriel Mountains, in Arcadia (about 20 miles away from Downtown Los Angeles.)
Arboretum sits on a remaining portion of the Rancho Santa Anita, one of the Mexican land grants of Southern California.
A Brief History of the Arboretum
The unusual thing about Rancho Santa Anita is its location: above an aquifer basin. That explains the numerous springs and underground ponds that discovered in the area. Of all these pongs, the only one remaining today is Baldwin Lake.
The presence of water and game created a permanent Indian dwelling in the area, believed to be the place of the Tongva village of Aleupkigna, but the exact location of the village is unknown.
The modern history of the L.A. County Arboretum began in 1875 when Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin, an investor and real estate speculator, purchased Rancho Santa Anita and began constructing its buildings and grounds. Baldwin was a strong influence in the area, building the Santa Anita racetrack, the Oakwood Hotel and ultimately developing Arcadia into a destination resort.
In 1947, California and Los Angeles jointly purchased the 111 acres to create an arboretum around the Baldwin site. They planted trees and developed the grounds over the next several years. In 1956 the Los Angeles County Arboretum opened its gates to the public.
Visiting the L.A. County Arboretum
Similar to the next door Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, the plants in the Arboretum are grouped by geography. You’ll find Australian, Mediterranean, South American, African, and Asiatic-North American plants.
Besides the great variety of gardens, the L.A. Country Arboretum features a Historical Landmark: the Queen Anne Cottage, a significant example of Queen Anne style architecture.
Back in 1885, Baldwin built the cottage for his fourth wife, Lillie Bennett, who later died here of cancer.
Rumor has it that the cottage is haunted. Some claim to have seen the ghosts of Lucky Baldwin and his wife Lillie roaming the rooms. Others claim to have felt odd cooking smells, and seeing strange anomalies walk the gardens at night.
The gardens are also home to a flock of Canada geese and some 200 peacocks which hang around the main entrance area. The peacocks are descendants of the original birds imported by Baldwin from India.
Arboretum served as the filming location for many movies and television shows, like Jurassic Park, Tarzan and Paradise Island.
The L.A. County Arboretum offers a great value: for only $9 per adult ($7 for seniors/children) you can enjoy more than 100 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, a tram ride, a waterfall, and a “hunted” mansion.
The tram ride is $5 per seat, but it’s well worth the small charge. The ride includes a 45 minutes narration that introduces you to the gardens and its history.
There is also a small restaurant on the premisses, the Peacock Café, that offers fairly priced food and drinks, so you can spend an entire day at the Arboretum without going hungry.