Finding Nature in L.A.: the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

My daughter and I spent a recent Saturday afternoon exploring the area around UCLA. We wanted to find something fun to do within walking distance of our hotel (the W Los Angeles – Westwood). Besides the obvious kid-friendly factor which is always a consideration when we travel, we also hoped to find an activity that would allow us to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. I knew we’d found the perfect place when I looked at a map and saw that our hotel was only a short distance away from UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden.

The garden, located on the southeastern side of campus, not too far from the medical center, is fairly small. However, there is plenty of see. The garden is home to a variety of plants from around the world, including some that are native to California. The botanical garden also features a butterfly garden and a small stream that hosts fish, water striders, and a surprising number of turtles. (While we were there, my daughter and I counted 23 turtles. Some were swimming slowly through the stream, while others sunned themselves on nearby rocks. This was the highlight of the day for my six-year-old.)

We spent about an hour at the garden and managed to see it in its entirety, so this is a manageable outing for those with small children or for people who are short on time. Its location on the UCLA campus makes it a convenient stop, and it is located near other places of interest, including restaurants and shops.

Living in Las Vegas is wonderful in many ways, although visiting the UCLA botanical garden did make me realize just how much I miss tall trees and lush green plants, two things that seem to be in short supply in Southern Nevada. My daughter was amazed at the height of some of the trees; it’s funny to think that she doesn’t have many clear memories of our pre-desert days.

For those seeking nature in the heart of the country’s second largest city, the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is a real gem.

We found a quiet spot to relax in the shade at the UCLA botanical garden.
We found a quiet spot to relax in the shade at the UCLA botanical garden. Image: Sarah Vernetti. All rights reserved.

By the way, the garden can be enjoyed free of charge.

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