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Travel Review: Free Things to do in LA – UCLA Botanical Garden

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

A couple team members set out in search of free things to do in Los Angeles. None of us are native to the state - we’re all Chicagoans. So, a chance to duck our subzero outerwear was clutch. We ate the January sunshine and were easily impressed by it!


It didn’t change the fact that we were, ummmm, sorta BROKE. And let’s keep it extra real, Los Angeles is expensive. According to the New York Times, in Nov. 2021, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $4.71, the highest in the nation. So, our goal was to find some free stuff to do in LA that fits any budget. That mean YOURS, too!

Now that I told you (insert head snap and eye-roll here)how gas will break you in LA, – I gotta ask . . . are you trying to ditch the cold this winter but have all coins and no bucks? Keep reading to find out how a visit to UCLA’s campus should be on your list of LA Freebies!

Tisha’s Talk

With the Great Resignation happening – LET’S NOT PRETEND – some of our careers are now overwhelming. Many of us are doing double/triple duties as companies struggle to fill employment gaps. That’s why, we’re solely focusing on relaxing and calming trips for the first quarter. Allow us to be an addition to your mental health recovery plan with our easy going Q1 travel tips & ideas.


Firstly, turn off the tollway and freeway option on your GPS system. What’s the rush? We began our day in East Hollywood and set out for UCLA campus with freeways disabled. Unless you’re hard-pressed for time, disabling the GPS system allows you an opportunity to see more of what LA has to offer. Our route chucked us up-hill and down-hill before we found ourselves cruising the famous Sunset Strip in Beverly Hills. For a newbie – the ride alone is worth it.

What Was So Great About The Drive?

  • Tall palm trees swaying back and forth in the wind

  • Perfectly manicured lawns

  • The funny feeling you get about the possibility of driving right-up next to your favorite celebrity

  • The weather. Did I not mention the weather? I know I did. Just poking fun!


UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden admission is FREE to the public. You can park in a metered UCLA guest parking spot ranging from $4.00 to $16.00. The parking facility IS NOT PAY UPON RETURN – You must pay the meter prior to leaving the lot or run the risk of a parking ticket or worse – towed. You’ll need your license plate number and a form of payment at the kiosk. UCLA is a beautiful BUT large campus. We parked at parking structure 2 which is very close to the garden. However, like we said earlier, what's the rush? You can park anywhere you like on campus and enjoy a scenic stroll.


November thru January

Monday – Friday 8AM to 4PM

Saturday – Sunday 9AM to 4PM

February thru October

Monday – Friday 8AM to 5PM

Saturday – Sunday 9AM to 5PM

Tisha’s Tip

Check out the “what’s blooming section” of the website prior to your visit. This is a great way to find out if your favorite species is in bloom during your visit.

When people call you extra, just look em in their face and say, am I extra or are you basic? @KurvyKween - TikTok

That's the quote that came to mind when I picked out my garden dress - LOL. Yeah I get it, people pick wedding dresses not garden dresses. Well, I did because basics is no fun. I hope you have fun with it too. Post your pics and tag me - I want to see all the EXTRA-NESS!

Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden is the perfect back drop for gorgeous photos. Even if you decide to go alone there are plenty of little rocks to prop your phone and set the timer. Try it for yourself.

Day at Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden
Tisha Starr

How to Make a Day of It

  • Plan a nice breakfast. Enjoy it slowly

  • Pack a good lunch in a matching thermal tote because remember we aren't going for basic

  • Throw in your favorite book or kindle or maybe even a small speaker to strum your favorite tunes

  • Don't rush the drive in - we talked about that earlier

  • And maybe even grab a cheap pair of binoculars to watch the native birds

  • Take as many pictures as you like

  • BREATHE - Some of you may remember we wrote about the health benefits of spending time in nature here


1) It’s free 2) The garden has plenty seating scattered throughout 3) You can pack a bag lunch and make an afternoon of it 4) The grounds aren’t too steep to climb, and the garden is wheelchair accessible. 5)In January the greens are lush and plentiful 6) Beautiful spot to take engagement photos 7)leased dogs are allowed in the garden - YIPPIE


1)The Mildred Mathias Botanical Garden is an outdoor classroom and research facility where myucla students study. At times, we felt like classroom crashers when faced with eager students jotting notes in notebooks 2) There weren’t many colorful blooms in January 3) Parking is limited

What Do We Think

Mental health is a hot topic. Some of us are grasping at straws trying to maintain it. Free is free. But free doesn't have to equal basic. As our world attempts to regain normalcy, LA still boast one of the most scenic states in America. Nestled between mountains, traced by the ocean and encrusted in diversity, Los Angeles thrives. If you're planning a trip to LA or you live there and haven't seen the botanical garden at UCLA - GO!

We've rated the spot 8 of 10

Bonus: If you aren't all pictured out by the end-of-the-day, take a drive to one of the most photographed walls in America. The PAUL SMITH store. The bubble gum pink color makes for another nice backdrop. But Hey... we're just here to review the city and tell you what we think. Finding your selfie spots are a bonus.