San Diego Botanic Garden

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230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024
Daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
From desert climates to tropical and subtropical rainforests, explore the diverse biomes and microclimates that the San Diego Botanic Garden has to offer.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Urban Oasis
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Biomes & Exhibits
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Exhibits / Attractions
Exhibits / Attractions

The San Diego Botanic Garden: 37 Acres of Urban Oasis!

The San Diego Botanic Garden is a sprawling, four-mile oasis right in the heart of Encinitas in North County San Diego. Here, you'll find a showcase of flora made up of both species native to Southern California and from far-off places.

The Botanic Garden spans over 37 acres, which is ample space for displaying foliage and wildlife from all parts of the world. There are desert gardens, bamboo groves, a subtropical fruit garden, and even a large tropical rainforest. The mild climate of San Diego makes the garden the perfect place for all of these plants to thrive, contributing to an incredible experience you're unlikely to forget anytime soon.

The wide diversity of plants on display helps the San Diego Botanical Garden live up to its mission of encouraging everyone, from young children to their parents and grandparents, to connect with nature and care about conservation efforts.

By creating a unique environment filled with plants you won't find anywhere else in San Diego, the Botanic Garden is a testament to why preserving nature is so important and how humans and the natural world can live together in harmony.

A Touch of History

From a Blank Canvas to Quail Habitat, I love to share the history of little known history of the Botanic Garden.

Though the Botanic Garden is now a huge attraction with thousands of visitors each year, it started out as a humble two plots of land overlooking the Pacific coastline back in the 1900s. Throughout the years, it was used as the site of a ranch house, an avocado farm, and a hub for exotic gardeners so notorious that it was dubbed the "Flower Capital of the World."

As the land dedicated to gardening grew in size to just over 22 acres, it was eventually donated to the County of San Diego, initially intended to preserve a habitat for California quails. The garden officially opened in 1970, when it was initially named the Quail Botanic Gardens.

It has only grown in the years since, attracting visitors from many walks of life and expanding its collection of local and exotic plants and animals.

Experience the Botanic Garden’s Many Features

There's lots to experience at the garden, whether you're using it for a wedding ceremony, a spot for a family fun night, inspiration for your own herb garden or backyard, or just a place to relax and enjoy nature.

The Botanical Garden also serves as an urban oasis for Encinitas' visitors and long-time residents alike. The peaceful setting, wildlife sanctuary, and presence of community gathering venues allow guests to experience nature's healing abilities for themselves. It's a great way to get away from some of the hustle and bustle of more crowded Downtown San Diego tourist attractions.

Stroll Through the Gardens

The San Diego Botanic Garden is a great venue to spend your day taking a relaxing stroll while keeping an eye out for all the incredible sights. The walking paths are easily accessible, and following them will take you through a tour of the different biomes and microclimates contained within the garden.

From the subtropical fruit garden and succulent garden to the herb garden and desert garden, taking the time to appreciate the many restful vistas will be well worth the time.

You'll want to bring a camera with you to take pictures of the captivating plants and landscapes you'll find yourself walking through. There are plenty of perfect photo ops, whether you find yourself traveling under the canopy of a rainforest or through the peaceful bamboo grove.

Helpful volunteers are stationed throughout the garden to help you find what you're looking for or answer any questions you might have about the plants. You can easily spend a few hours during multiple trips to the garden and still learn something new on each visit.

Walking, Hiking & A Lot More to San Diego

I love visiting the San Diego Botanic Garden, but when the weather is great and I’m feeling active, I also like to pair it with a full day outside!

San Diego is not just sunny beaches, but home to some of the best hiking in the country. With the Go City San Diego pass, choose from two trails for your hike. Mission Trails Regional Park and Tecolote Canyon Trails offer trails for beginners and experts!

If a stroll through the garden is enough ‘hiking’ for one day, there’s also a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND California, SeaWorld San Diego, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

If you want to consider a few attractions or activities beyond the botanical garden, use our discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

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What activities does the Go City San Diego pass include?

There’s a variety of activities included with the Go City San Diego pass such as: The San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, Hiking Tours, Whale Watching, Museum Tours, Speed Boat Adventures & more!

For the most popular attractions and water-sport rentals as well as the biggest discounts, consider the All-Inclusive Pass.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra 5%!

Biomes and Exhibits

The exhibits at the Botanical Garden display a selection of foliage native to a different area of the world. There are many biomes you can walk through, including a rainforest, local Californian wildlife, a bamboo garden, and more.

Other special exhibits of note at San Diego Botanic Garden include a Pollinator Garden, an overlook area, and an attraction dedicated to educating visitors about fire-safe landscaping.

I want to share a few of my favorite exhibits with you now, but know that the San Diego Botanical Garden is big and I won’t be able to cover every exhibit and attraction. I’ll cover some highlights below but I’d say if you like nature, gardens, great weather and fresh air, you won’t regret picking up a Go City San Diego pass so you can take a discounted admission trip for yourself!

World of Orchards

This May 4-27, 2024, the Botanic Garden is hosting its annual spring orchards showcase, World of Orchards, which features impressive specimens, locally-bred hybrids, and rare species plants.

It also features vendors on select Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays selling plants, potted materials, and other merchandise.

Note: This event requires a special exhibition ticket ($7) in addition to general admission for non-members ages 18 and over. Online reservations are strongly encouraged as walk-up admissions are not guaranteed.

Geographic Gardens

The Botanic Garden features numerous gardens from diverse climates, including a Mexican Garden, Old World and New World Desert Gardens, African and South African Gardens, Australian Garden, and South American Garden.

You can view agaves, salvias, prehistoric cycads, and festive dancing topiaries and succulent mariachi players in the Mexican Garden.

The Old World and New World Desert Gardens feature showy aloes, euphorbias, and dragon trees, as well as cacti, agaves, and succulents.

Gaze upon colorful flora, especially the treasures of the southwest Cape, at the South African Garden, which features a Mediterranean-type climate similar to ours.

Explore water smart plants such as palms, cacti, and bromeliads from the dry regions of South America in the South American Garden.

Or go “down under” at the Australian Garden, where you can explore fascinating plants such as kangaroo paws, bottle trees, firewheel trees and more.

Demonstration Gardens

There are multiple demonstration gardens throughout the Botanic Garden, including the Subtropical Fruit Garden, Herb Garden, Incredible Edibles garden, and Fire Safety Landscape Garden.

Visitors to these gardens can experience food growing while also exploring low water gardening in the many areas that showcase drought tolerant plants, water smart landscaping, and water saving systems.

Bamboo Garden

The Bamboo Garden is the largest public collection of bamboo in the country. It is accredited by the North American Plant Collections Consortium in recognition of the role it's played in recognition, plant research, and conservation awareness.

At the exhibit, you can learn about the traditional use of bamboo in zen gardens as a decoration, its more functional uses, and its cultural and historical significance.

Local Tips
Wide Variety of Plants
The gardens include over 5,000 varieties of plants from all over the world including tropical, subtropical, and California native plants.

Pollinator Garden

The Pollinator Garden is part of the Pollinator Project, which is a research project that focuses primarily on the relationship between different plants and their pollinators. This is part of an effort to increase bee populations to counteract the devastation caused by environment destruction and uninhabitable conditions.

In this exhibit, you may spot any of the over 650 species of bees native to the San Diego area, but that's far from all you'll see. As the name suggests, it's also an amazing place to bird watch, and butterflies often frequent the nectar-rich bushes.

Snap a photo of a rare bird with vibrant feathers or, if you're lucky, let a butterfly land right on the tip of your nose!

California Gardenscapes

If you spend a lot of time at tourist attractions in California, it's easy to forget about some of its natural beauty. While beaches and sun-warmed waters may be the first thing to come to mind, these are far from the only natural environments present throughout the state.

The California Gardenscapes area is split into over a dozen different ecological zones to simulate the multiple environments that can be found in Southern California. These zones include coastal dunes, a wildflower meadow, the bioswale, the foothill garden, and many more, each one showing how varied the local landscape can be.

Dickinson Family Education Conservatory

Inside the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory, you'll find a wide range of tropical plants that require warmer conditions than those available outside. There are nearly 5,000 plant species inside the 8,000 square foot glass conservatory, which makes for an incredibly unique experience.

The exterior of the conservatory features various rare and critically endangered plants. As you enter the building, look up to see the hanging gardens suspended from the roof. These "plant chandeliers" are truly a sight to behold!

Fire Safety Landscape Garden

Wildfires pose a danger to both human lives and natural ecosystems alike, but they also play a role in bringing new life to old forests. It is important to know the possible threat of these fires when they are out of control, what happens to a forest before and after a fire, and what you can do to reduce the risk of contributing to a dangerous fire.

Many of California's native plants dry out when there is little rain, which means wildfires can spread quickly. In this exhibit, you'll learn about the threat these fires pose to California residents and ways the risk of fire damage and out-of-control wildfires can be managed with fire buffer zones and the use of certain less flammable plants.

Native Plants and Native People Trail

The Native Plants and Native People Trail showcases how the West Coast's earliest residents lived alongside the land and used it to their advantage.

Indigenous tribes like the Kumeyaay developed methods for living in harmony with their environments without depleting natural resources. The trail includes the southern maritime chaparral and coastal sage scrub habitats, both of which are now among the rarest in the United States.

Overlook Natural Area

The Overlook Natural Area is the perfect spot to get a good look at everything the San Diego Botanical Garden has to offer. You can get a bird's-eye view of the different zones in the garden, plan the path you'll take through them, or take advantage of an incredible natural photo backdrop.

The area is also heavily involved in conservation efforts. You can spot the critically endangered Del Mar Manzanita among other rare plants, which are being germinated to replace their dwindling population. You can also learn about efforts to reduce the spread of invasive plants in Southern California.

Tropical and Temperate Rainforest

The Tropical and Temperate Rainforest zone is one of the many geographical areas represented in the San Diego Botanic Garden. There are over 300 different species in this section of the garden, all surrounding a huge 60-foot waterfall.

This miniature rainforest is a once-in-a-lifetime sight, complete with deciduous and conifer trees, mosses, shrubs, ferns, and orchids.

Many of these rainforest plants are especially large, with leaves as big as six feet long and trees dozens of feet tall. The bunya bunya trees are especially notable for their pine cones, which are 10 pounds and can grow to be roughly the size of a human head.

Educational Attractions for Young Kids

The Botanical Garden makes for a great family vacation spot. Kids of all ages will enjoy learning about the different kinds of plants that grow naturally in our incredible world, and young children can enjoy all the different kids' activities at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

Things Your Kids Will Love

I’m a parent too so I understand how important kids activities are when you visit a place like a 37 acres garden. The good news is the San Diego Botanical Garden is setup well for families!

Be sure to stop by the Hamilton Children's Garden, which is the largest children's garden on the West Coast. It is a section of the grounds set aside especially for young kids, featuring fun exhibits such as playing in the Mountain Stream, exploring fruits and vegetables in the Incredible Edibles section, a spot for making music and botanical art, and climbing Toni’s Tree House in a jungle canopy.

Kids can also observe butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds around the plants as they pollinate and drink nectar.

Children can explore and play in the Junior Quail Trail, which uses interactive elements to blend physical challenges with observations of the natural world.

The Botanic Garden also offers children's tours with a trained guide, as well as the Seeds of Wonder exhibit, which features a dinosaur garden, playhouse, topiary, and miniature railroad. Kids can try potting their own plants, another form of botanical art, while learning about why conservation is important.

SAPLinGS (Science, Art, and PLay in Garden Spaces)

Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 10 AM to noon, kids can engage in cool science and art activities and hands-on learning that stimulates curiosity and sparks the imagination.

Each month features a different plant- or nature-based theme: April is Celebrate the Earth, May is Flower Power, and June is Pollinators.

Garden Time in the Incredible Edibles Garden

Every Wednesday from 10 AM - 11 AM, children can plant, water, weed, and learn about all the other activities that keep a garden incredible. Children can also explore seasonal happenings in the garden such as seeds and fruit, insects, decomposers and more.

Toddler Tales & Tunes in Hamilton Children’s Garden

Every Friday from 10:30 AM - 11 AM at the top of the Hamilton Children’s Garden, children can listen to Grandma Kathy as she uses puppets, bells, pompoms and more to connect children to plants and nature.

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Useful Tips for Your Trip

Save yourself the stress of winging your visit so you can enjoy a peaceful, relaxing trip to the Botanic Garden. Here are some tips and important information you should know before you plan your visit.


There is free parking available in lots at both the Dickinson Family Education Conservatory and the nearby San Dieguito Heritage Museum.

Pet Policy

To protect the plants from any potential destruction, pets are not allowed in the gardens. However, harnessed or leashed service animals are allowed.

Where to Eat

The Feel Good Coffee Cart provides snacks and drinks. You are also welcome to leave the grounds for lunch and return at no additional charge by presenting your receipt at the gate.

Special Event Venue Hosting

The San Diego botanical garden is the perfect spot to hold a corporate meeting or wedding day events! The venue is also well suited for birthday parties, special events or even just family fun night photos.

For more information about how to reserve the San Diego Botanic Garden for weddings and other events, check the official website for availability and contact information.

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