Home » 11 free museum days in L.A. to plan your whole month around

11 free museum days in L.A. to plan your whole month around

by Marko Florentino
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Free days: The third Tuesday of the month with advance reservations, which are available the first of each month.

About the museum: Maybe it’s the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s early history as an Indigenous Tongva settlement named Aleupkigna on Baldwin Lake and then as the Mexican land grant Rancho Santa Anita, where cattle, grains, vineyards and fruit trees were nurtured, that gives this sprawling 127-acre botanic garden a kind of proletariat feel.

There are plenty of beautiful places to wander here, such as the aquatic gardens that include the Meyberg Waterfall, the Meadowbrook Garden (filled with deciduous trees whose colorful blooms and leaves change every season as well as evergreens), the tropical greenhouse with thousands of orchids, and the plantings grouped by geography — South American, Mediterranean, South African, Australian and Asiatic-North American. But the arboretum also has extraordinary demonstration gardens such as the Crescent Farm, a one-time compacted lawn transformed into a lush, drought-resistant garden of California native plants and low-water fruits, vegetables, ground covers and shrubs by using lasagna mulching and hugelkultur beds to rebuild the soil.

Peacocks nonchalantly roam the gardens — they’re descendants of the three birds imported by Rancho Santa Anita’s last owner, Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin. There are historic buildings as well, such as the relocated Santa Anita Depot and the Queen Anne Cottage built by Baldwin.

Little-known fact: This L.A. County-owned garden is also a great place for botanic research, thanks to its extensive library that you can search online and to Frank McDonough, a full-time botanical information consultant whose job is to answer the public’s questions about plants. (Call McDonough at [626] 821-3236.) The garden has regular wellness classes such as forest bathing and yoga. It also provides room for many plant-related conventions and clubs and offers a popular wintertime holiday light show called Lightscape. It’s truly a garden for the masses, especially if they have a taste for wonder.

Admission is $15 for adults, $11 for seniors and students, $5 for kids ages 5-12. Members and children 4 and younger are free. Annual memberships are $70 for individuals, $65 for two seniors (age 62+) and $95 for families.

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