Now Open: The Gardens at Lake Merritt - 510 Families
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Now Open: The Gardens at Lake Merritt

Please put on a face covering and enjoy the limited hours of The Gardens at Lake Merritt. They are totally engaging for children and the adults that love them.

As we strolled around The Gardens at Lake Merritt, a chunk of Lakeside Park that shares a parking area with Children’s Fairyland, my husband and I agreed that visiting botanical gardens always sounds boring, but is usually a big win with my family.

In the Sensory Garden, one of eleven themed sections of the Lake Merritt Gardens, we rubbed mint, lavender, and “pizza” flavored leaves (oregano) with our fingers.  If your children cannot stop touching everything they walk by, this is the place to take them. Because of the Gardens’ traditional status as a demonstration garden, they are raising awareness about the irreplaceable role of pollinators with a “Bee Hotel” for native species.

Lake Merritt garden gate
The Gardens at Lake Merritt welcomes you with a gate that’s new as of March 19, 2020 thanks to dozens of hard-working volunteers | Photo via Gardens at Lake Merritt facebook


There is a Japanese garden with Bonsai trees, an Edible garden, and more in this seven-acre herb, shrub, and tree mecca. My camera lens was foggy when we visited, due to moisture in my purse (#momproblems), so the shot below is borrowed from Yelp.


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Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt
Photo courtesy of Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt via Yelp

There are over-sized leaf statues to huddle beneath, paths on which to skip, and, as of this writing, an empty river bed into which one can jump.

Plan your visit to The Gardens at Lake Merritt

Add a visit to The Gardens to your list of things to do with visiting grandparents and wandering toddlers.

Admission is free, but parking is $5.
Winter hours begin at the end of Daylight Saving time: 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.
Summer hours begin with Daylight Saving time in March: 8 am to 5 pm.

A half-day trip: Gardens at Lake Merritt

Mom’s groups that like to walk the Lake can stop by and find a shady bench on which to feed a baby.


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The Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt hosts the Autumn Lights Festival — which we love for little ones and their families who can stay up past dark! This popular, annual event raises money to keep the Garden free, lovely, and open to all.

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