Smell the flowers while you bask in the botanical oasis of a San Gabriel Valley town
Long favored by film crews from The West Wing to The Wedding Planner, San Marino provides a nice backdrop for you to star in your own garden escape.
Zero in on one of the city's many gardens, some of them with rare botanicals.
Then walk its Mission Street shopping district.
San Marino is about 12 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens In the newly opened Garden of Flowing Fragrance, California's only classical Chinese garden, hand-carved bridges, moon gates, and floral-patterned mosaic walkways surround a koi-filled lake. Get serene at the tiled-roof teahouse, Hall of the Jade Camellia, and sip Chinese teas such as rich green bi luo chun. Closed Tue; $15 Mon and Wed-Fri, $20 Sat-Sun and Memorial Day; 1151 Oxford Rd.; 626/405-2100.
The Old Mill Nearly two centuries old, El Molino Viejo's thick adobe walls once enclosed the stone wheels that ground flour for padres at nearby San Gabriel Mission. Explore the mill's small museum and art gallery, with paintings for sale by California Art Club members. The surrounding gardens stay true to their California roots. 1-4 Tue-Sun; free; 1120 Old Mill Rd.; 626/449-5458.
Julienne This cafe offers patio seating and a mean breakfast (try the crème brûlée French toast with fresh strawberry sauce). But we recommend something even more alfresco: Order lunch to go from its adjacent market, then picnic in 30-acre Lacy Park (free Mon-Fri, $4 Sat-Sun for nonresidents; 1485 Virginia Rd.; 626/300-0790). $$; closed Sun; 2651 Mission St.; 626/441-2290.
Simply Fresh Buy patio furniture and garden items to create your own home oasis at this indoor-outdoor shop. Closed Sun; 2628 Mission; 626/441-7250.
San Marino Toy and Book Shoppe Designed for the child in everyone, the store offers a thoughtful array of toys and books, even kids' gardening tools. 2424 Huntington Dr.; 626/309-0222.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Huntington's 3-acre rose garden, and May is the peak month to see many of its 1,200 varieties in bloom. Also this month, the Huntington holds its very popular annual spring plant sale (10:30-4 May 18; free; 626/405-2100), which features plant varieties not usually found in nurseries.