The San Gabriel Mountains rise as a lofty backdrop to the foothills community of La Cañada Flintridge, just west of Pasadena. Bookended by two local treasures ― Descanso Gardens and the Craftsman-style Lanterman House ― the city feels sheltered from the bustle of urban life.
The 160-acre Descanso Gardens ($7; 1418 Descanso Dr.; 818/949-4200) vibrates with color and the hum of bees in April. From late-flowering camellias to lilacs to the early roses of spring, "everything blooms at once," says horticulture supervisor Brian Sullivan. Ruffly pink cherry trees turn the Japanese Garden into a scene reminiscent of vintage woodblock prints, and bulb plants like tulips and daffodils flourish en masse. To create the colorful effect, Descanso staffers spent an entire week in January planting more than 26,000 tulips imported from Holland.
On each of the first four weekends this April, Descanso will host a different plant or flower sale. The Rose Revel (Apr 30-May 1) features talks, tours, and live music. Music also fills the gardens during the open-air concert series (Sat and Sun through May 15).
The Lanterman House (1-4 Tue and Thu and first and third Sun of every month; $3; 4420 Encinas Dr.; 818/790-1421) offers a glimpse of the lifestyle enjoyed by Southern Californians during the early 20th century and demonstrates how principles of indoor-outdoor living are relevant today. Back then, the lack of close neighbors allowed the Lanterman family to blend outside and inside into one casual living space by sleeping on porches and dining outside on the lawn.
For a bite to eat, try one of the many restaurants along Foothill Boulevard. Dish ($$; 734 Foothill Blvd.; 818/790-5355) updates old favorites with a modern twist, such as a grilled rib-eye steak with blue cheese and red wine sauce. Penelope's Cafe, Books & Gallery ($; closed Sun; 1029 Foothill; 818/790-4386) serves light sandwiches and pastries inside among mix-and-match antiques and outside on a flower-ringed patio.
Or try the killer scones at the Turnabout Teacup ($$; tea Thu-Sat, by reservation only; 1432 Foothill; 818/790-3342), which tucks its small tearoom next to a store with vintage-style gifts.
La Cañada Flintridge ( www.lacanadaflintridge.com or 818/790-4289) is nestled at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, 13 miles northeast of Los Angeles off I-210. Foothill Blvd. is the main street.