Are you looking for kid-friendly farm and garden outings around Southern California? I remember being allowed to wander through botanic gardens on my own. I guess my mom was probably watching, but my eyes were facing forward and I was an explorer in a new world! What was around the next bend? What exotic plants made up this new landscape? There are places in Orange County that I bring my kids for those same experiences of wonder.
Keep reading to find my lists of Kid-Friendly Farms and Gardens in San Diego and LA counties at the end of this post!
Orange County Kid-Friendly Farms & Gardens
Fullerton Arboretum has community gardens to see, along with fruit-bearing trees and hidden paths.
Coastkeeper Natural Play Garden has demonstration gardens with drought-resistant plants that’s geared more for adults, but there is also a nature play area for children at the back of the garden. It changes with the seasons, but it’s a special treat to explore.
Sherman Library and Gardens in Corona Del Mar is very small, but their Discovery Garden is a highlight for kids to smell and touch plants. This one is better for school age kids rather than toddlers. If you have older kids who love taking photos — it’s paradise!
Orange County Great Park Farm + Food Lab is open Tues-Sun from 10am to 3pm – and still has free admission. (The Great Park carousel and balloon now charge admission fees.) Go on a Sunday between 10am and 2pm and you can catch the Farmer’s Market and food trucks, too.
Centennial Farms in Costa Mesa has lots of animals, but how about the farm? It’s set up in a whimsical way where kids can learn their vegetables and see what they look like on the plant.
Tanaka Farm in Irvine is known for its U-Pick Tours for spring strawberries, summer watermelon, and veggie cookout — plus their annual Pumpkin Patch. Each visit is a farm experience with a small fee for entrance and then whatever you end up paying for any produce you buy. The organized tours can cost up around $20, but the limited produce picked on the tour is included.
For a long time, I didn’t bother visiting the Santa Ana Zoo because I heard it was mostly monkeys. But walking the grounds at Santa Ana Zoo is similar to walking the grounds of botanical gardens. I thought it was a beautiful place.
Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site is just across the Orange County line near Long Beach. It’s part farm and part garden and so much fun to explore.
I’ve personally been to all these gardens, so if you have any questions then I’m happy to answer! I’ve also been further afield to these farms and gardens in LA and San Diego counties. Bookmark this page because I’ll be adding to it!
Los Angeles Area Kid-Friendly Farms & Gardens
- Descanso Gardens in La Cañada-Flintridge
- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino
- Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont
- South Coast Botanical Gardens in Palos Verdes Peninsula
- The Arboretum – Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
- Montane Botanic Garden and Children’s Discovery Center in Oak Glen (Yucaipa)
- The Getty Center
- Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store
San Diego Kid-Friendly Farms & Gardens
- San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas
- Alta Vista Botanical Gardens in Vista
- San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park (zoos, but also botanic gardens!)
- Kit Carson Park in Escondido (home to Iris Sankey Arboretum and Queen Califia’s Circle)
- Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens and Nursery in Fallbrook
- Balboa Park Trails & Gardens
Finally, there are a couple of gardens that I’ve been to that aren’t AS kid-friendly as the ones I’ve listed above — but that’s strictly my personal opinion. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth visiting with teens or on a date night.
What to Do When You Get to the Gardens
- Lay out any rules before you even go in. We use “eyes only” to prevent any picking from the gardens.
- Let your child take the lead. Where do they want to go? What do they want to see? Let them go at their own pace and show you around.
- Don’t forget to look up into the trees. Look at things from close-up and from far away.
- Make sure you have plenty of time to explore so you don’t feel rushed.
- Make your garden trip a color walk and have your child point out all the colors they see. We even did this at the Getty Center gardens up in LA. You can photograph them and make a special book of your day.
Originally published in April 2013.