Harper’s Topiary Garden in San Diego

Harper’s Topiary Garden in San Diego’s Mission Hills area is a labor of love from the couple that lives in the house above the garden. Decades ago they decided to manicure the lawn like this, and since then Edna (the wife) has maintained it. It is a popular location for driving by when visiting the city and people have been going out of their way to go explore this fun, quick stop ever since. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Just a get out and look spot
  • Location: 3549 Union St, San Diego, CA 92103

Getting There

From I-5 South, take the exit for Sassafras St/San Diego Airport. From there head down to Sassafras St and turn left. Make another left on India St and a right Vine. The house is near the corner of Vine and Union. There is street parking near the house.

The house has over 50 plant sculptures ranging from animals to surfers. It is a lot of fun to look over and try to pick each of them out.

You can walk along the sidewalk near the garden, but that is as far as you can go as you can’t walk in it.

There is not much else to say about this spot other then it is a blast, and you should check it out.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short 10 minute stop here. If you are in the area, be sure to head over to the Spruce St Suspension Bridge as well. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Harper’s Topiary Garden in San Diego

Harper’s Topiary Garden in San Diego’s Mission Hills area is a labor of love from the couple that lives in the house above the garden. Decades ago they decided to manicure the lawn like this, and since then Edna (the wife) has maintained it. It is a popular location for driving by when visiting the city and people have been going out of their way to go explore this fun, quick stop ever since. Here is all the information.

Details

  • Just a get out and look spot
  • Location: 3549 Union St, San Diego, CA 92103

Getting There

From I-5 South, take the exit for Sassafras St/San Diego Airport. From there head down to Sassafras St and turn left. Make another left on India St and a right Vine. The house is near the corner of Vine and Union. There is street parking near the house.

The house has over 50 plant sculptures ranging from animals to surfers. It is a lot of fun to look over and try to pick each of them out.

You can walk along the sidewalk near the garden, but that is as far as you can go as you can’t walk in it.

There is not much else to say about this spot other then it is a blast, and you should check it out.

I thoroughly enjoyed my short 10 minute stop here. If you are in the area, be sure to head over to the Spruce St Suspension Bridge as well. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Cholla Cactus Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees are of course the main draw for Joshua Tree National Park, but one of the most impressive areas, botany-wise, is the Cholla Cactus Garden. The few acres of land here have grown countless Cholla cactus and they dot the landscape as you look out towards the hills. It’s a great short hike in the park and a fun 30-minute adventure for the whole family. Here is all the information.

Details

  • .5 mile round trip
  • Flat
  • Great for sunrise and sunset

Getting There

From the Oasis of Mara entrance to the park, you will head south on Park Blvd till it splits. Head left and go past Belle and White Tank Campgrounds before arriving at the Cholla Cactus Garden about 5-10 minutes later. There is a small parking lot where you can park for the short hike.

The Trail

From the parking area, you will see the two entrances to the trail heading out in front of you. It doesn’t really matter which side you start on as it is a loop trail and you will see everything.

At the further west entrance there is a plaque with information though and a small paper pamphlet on the area (not always there).

The trail is flat and short but you will want to take your time as you look out over the cactus and even get up close with some of them.

Don’t get too close though as the cactus get their name because they stick to you pretty quickly.

The trail continues to wind around, and there are a few short bridges that you will use to cross the terrain.

While it doesn’t take long to see this area, it is a really impressive area of the park. It’s also a perfect spot for sunrise as well, since the views are facing east. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Cholla Cactus Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Trees are of course the main draw for Joshua Tree National Park, but one of the most impressive areas, botany-wise, is the Cholla Cactus Garden. The few acres of land here have grown countless Cholla cactus and they dot the landscape as you look out towards the hills. It’s a great short hike in the park and a fun 30-minute adventure for the whole family. Here is all the information.

Details

  • .5 mile round trip
  • Flat
  • Great for sunrise and sunset

Getting There

From the Oasis of Mara entrance to the park, you will head south on Park Blvd till it splits. Head left and go past Belle and White Tank Campgrounds before arriving at the Cholla Cactus Garden about 5-10 minutes later. There is a small parking lot where you can park for the short hike.

The Trail

From the parking area, you will see the two entrances to the trail heading out in front of you. It doesn’t really matter which side you start on as it is a loop trail and you will see everything.

At the further west entrance there is a plaque with information though and a small paper pamphlet on the area (not always there).

The trail is flat and short but you will want to take your time as you look out over the cactus and even get up close with some of them.

Don’t get too close though as the cactus get their name because they stick to you pretty quickly.

The trail continues to wind around, and there are a few short bridges that you will use to cross the terrain.

While it doesn’t take long to see this area, it is a really impressive area of the park. It’s also a perfect spot for sunrise as well, since the views are facing east. Be sure to check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.

Botanical Gardens Building in Balboa Park, San Diego

The Balboa Park area in San Diego is one of the best family friendly adventures you can have in the area. While it can be expensive if you are visiting all of the museums, you can explore places like the great botanical building entirely for free. Here is all the information on this beautiful building in Balboa Park.

Details

  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: Open Friday – Wednesday from 10 AM – 4 PM

Getting There

After making your way to Balboa Park and finding a place to park your car, you will want to head to the middle of the area. The Botanical Building is located halfway between the Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum. You can’t miss it as you are walking the main strip, there is a large pond in front of it and generally a lot of people exploring the area.

The Botanical Building

Built for the 1915 exposition, the Botanical Building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. Take some time to walk around the pond before heading in. They have massive fish in this pond as well as lots of ducks usually walking around and begging for food.

I like seeing this area at night as well. You can’t go in during that time, but you can see how beautiful the building is lit up.

The building itself is large and has a slated ceiling which lets in the light and the rain.

The entire interior is one long walkway and a collection of plants all along the path. There are over 2,000 plants in here.

While I am not a botanist, I still enjoyed seeing all the variety and colors from the plants represented.

It is a popular area for photography, so you will be dodging everything from selfie sticks to SLRs as you make your way around the building.

It doesn’t take long to see, but it mostly depends on how much you want to explore and dive into the different plant species.

I usually spend about 20 minutes there, but I have seen the area many times and still stop to explore it each time I am in Balboa Park.

Let me know what you think of the Botanical Building in the comments and check out more of my favorite spots in Balboa Park here.

Cornerstone Sonoma: Gardens, Shopping and Photography in Sonoma

Before heading to Sonoma, I had no idea about the fantastic spot that is Cornerstone Gardens in the south part of town. I had heard of the famous big blue chair (which is now orange), but I had no idea that the place it was situated in was such a fantastic place to eat, explore and shop in the city. Even though it is not in the historic downtown, you need to make Cornerstone Gardens a stop on your list when you visit Sonoma, here is all the information.

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Details

  • Free
  • Hours: Every day 10 AM – 5 PM
  • Location: 23570 Arnold Dr, Sonoma, CA 95476

Getting There

Located on Highway 121, North of Cline Winery and right next to the Sonoma Airport, Cornerstone is right off the highway with a giant orange chair to guide you in. There is a large parking lot with a lot of spots but it can fill up during some of the busy times like weekends and events, so be warned.

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The property itself is large and open with lots of places to explore. The front area is all shops, many that my wife fell in love with. They were generally outside of our price range, but that didn’t stop her from slowly pursuing all of the offerings they had.

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The shops do have a fun vibe with lots of unique plants, wooden chairs and other decors of the same style.

There is an excellent restaurant right in the middle of the complex called Park 121, and you can read all about my time there at this post. There are also a few wineries here for tastings as well.

The Gardens

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Heading out from the shops and wineries will get you to the main attraction here, the gardens.

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The first spot to see is the large orange chair which is very popular on social media. It is a giant chair that you can climb on and stand / sit in for a picture that makes you look tiny. I enjoyed it for photos more than I anticipated.

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Heading on, the gardens here are all spaced out, and each one is closed in and unique from the others. I liked this style as you literally never knew what each garden would hold till you went in and saw it.

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Some of the gardens are just laid out with beautiful flowers while others have attractions and art pieces to go with the manicured plants.

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Here are some of the main ones I liked.

The Wishing Garden

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This garden had a bunch of sharpies and red / silver tape that you could rip off and write a wish on.

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As you went into the main part of the garden, there was an area for the wishes where you could tie yours to wishes from others. It was beautiful because they all flowed in the breeze, making it a fun installation.

Immigrant Tribute

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This installation was dedicated to the immigrants who made Sonoma thrive. It mixed cement, water, and plants to make the installation come to life.

The Wind Wheels

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In the middle of the back area, there was a large collection of multi-colored wind wheels. They turned with the wind’s direction and spun as you walked.

The Pond

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In the back of the gardens, there is a large pond with a lone bench. I liked this spot as the view walking down to the bench with the pond behind it was amazing.

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Here are few more photos of some of the other installations.

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They were working on a new one when I was there that looked like it was going to be awesome as well.

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I spent at least an hour just wandering around the shops and gardens here. It is a must visit for me in the Sonoma area, and I highly recommend you add it to your list as well. Let me know if you have been in the comments.

French Laundry Gardens in Yountville

When you talk to foodies about the best spots to eat in California, the French Laundry from chef Thomas Keller is among the most coveted dining experiences in the state. The restaurant itself has a prefix menu that is $300 plus a person, and it books out 6-8 months in advance. I have never eaten there myself, but when I visit Yountville, I love to go across the street from this famed spot and explore the public gardens where they grow a lot of the vegetables that they use in the food. I highly recommend you check it out, and here is all the info.

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Details

  • Free
  • Location: 6639 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Getting There

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The gardens are located on Washington St, the Main Street in Yountville, right across from The French Laundry. There is parking along the street that you can use.

The Garden

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I would recommend visiting this garden near sunset as the light adds a beautiful tone to the garden. I have even heard of people who have visited the garden and met Thomas Keller himself while walking through it, but I have not had that opportunity when I have gone.

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The gardens have a nice rock walkway in the middle that leads to a map which shows what is currently growing. The map allows you to make a mental note of the crops as you wander around and take it in.

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The garden has grass paths in between the different plots, and they are all intricately manicured to provide a calming experience to the visitor.

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In the north part of the garden, there is a greenhouse where they are growing all of the seedlings that will be eventually be planted amount the plots.

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I enjoyed seeing the care that was put into bringing these seeds to life and there was so much color in this area from the different plants.

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There is also a chicken coup where they gather farm fresh eggs for the dishes and a few different bee areas around the property.

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I found the bee areas to be fascinating as they not only pollinated the plants in the garden but provided honey for the different dishes.

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After about 30 minutes exploring I walked out of the garden and on to my next adventure. I appreciated this beautiful spot that Chef Thomas Keller has created, and I recommend you take a relaxing stroll through it while visiting Yountville. Let me know what you think of this spot in the comments.

French Laundry Gardens in Yountville

When you talk to foodies about the best spots to eat in California, the French Laundry from chef Thomas Keller is among the most coveted dining experiences in the state. The restaurant itself has a prefix menu that is $300 plus a person, and it books out 6-8 months in advance. I have never eaten there myself, but when I visit Yountville, I love to go across the street from this famed spot and explore the public gardens where they grow a lot of the vegetables that they use in the food. I highly recommend you check it out, and here is all the info.

French Laundry Garden-2

Details

  • Free
  • Location: 6639 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599

Getting There

French Laundry Garden-1

The gardens are located on Washington St, the Main Street in Yountville, right across from The French Laundry. There is parking along the street that you can use.

The Garden

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I would recommend visiting this garden near sunset as the light adds a beautiful tone to the garden. I have even heard of people who have visited the garden and met Thomas Keller himself while walking through it, but I have not had that opportunity when I have gone.

French Laundry Garden-3

The gardens have a nice rock walkway in the middle that leads to a map which shows what is currently growing. The map allows you to make a mental note of the crops as you wander around and take it in.

French Laundry Garden-5

The garden has grass paths in between the different plots, and they are all intricately manicured to provide a calming experience to the visitor.

French Laundry Garden-9

In the north part of the garden, there is a greenhouse where they are growing all of the seedlings that will be eventually be planted amount the plots.

French Laundry Garden-10

I enjoyed seeing the care that was put into bringing these seeds to life and there was so much color in this area from the different plants.

French Laundry Garden-12

There is also a chicken coup where they gather farm fresh eggs for the dishes and a few different bee areas around the property.

French Laundry Garden-14

I found the bee areas to be fascinating as they not only pollinated the plants in the garden but provided honey for the different dishes.

French Laundry Garden-13

After about 30 minutes exploring I walked out of the garden and on to my next adventure. I appreciated this beautiful spot that Chef Thomas Keller has created, and I recommend you take a relaxing stroll through it while visiting Yountville. Let me know what you think of this spot in the comments.