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.