La Cañada Flintridge is a semi-rural community located only 13 miles north of Los Angeles. Despite its location on the country’s second most populous metropolitan area, it manages to hold tight to its equestrian/hiking/bicycling culture that has been years in the making. In the midst of this natural beauty that has been enhanced by restaurants, retailers and other accoutrements of modern life, are several attractions that fascinate, educate and entertain residents and visitors alike. Annual special events also enhance community life and attract visitors to the community.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
One of NASA’s 11 major centers is located on 177 acres in La Cañada Flintridge and is open for free, pre-scheduled tours on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. So space aficionados, as well as those with an interest in rocketry and science, in general, need not travel to Florida or Houston to get a glimpse into the world of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
“You can schedule a tour by visiting www.jpl.nasa.gov, clicking on ‘public events’ and then on ‘tours’,” explained Kim Lievense, manager of the Public Services Office for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). “The tours involve lots of walking and stairs and must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. The average wait, however, is five months. So visitors need to plan ahead.” Those who schedule a visit will see a multi-media presentation; browse the Jet Propulsion Laboratory visitors’ center/museum; and then view the Space Flight Operations Facility and the laboratory’s Spacecraft Assembly Facility for many of its robotic missions.
JPL’s roots date to 1936 when a group of Caltech students and experimenters tested rocket engines in the Arroyo Seco on the border of what is today La Cañada Flintridge. During World War II, their tiny effort grew into the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a facility now instrumental in developing missiles, rockets, and spacecraft – the next rover mission to the Red Planet, Mars 2020, will move into final assembly and testing, while 2012’s Curiosity rover, still rolling along, will begin exploring clay formations on Mt. Sharp.
Approximately 6,000 engineers, scientists and support personnel are employed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To learn more about JPL, click here or call (818)354-4321.
La Cañada Flintridge’s best-known attraction is Descanso Gardens, a cultural institution and botanical garden at 1418 Descanso Dr. Approximately 350,000 visitors come to Descanso Gardens annually to experience its collections – including camellias, roses, oaks, California native plants and lilacs – and to enjoy family-friendly programs, summer concerts, classes for all ages and more. The Sturt Haaga Gallery also presents three curated art exhibitions each year.
From mid-November till January Descanso displays Enchanted: Forest of Light. It is an interactive, nighttime experience unlike anything else in Los Angeles, featuring a one-mile walk through unique lighting experiences in some of the most beloved areas of Descanso Gardens.
Descanso Gardens is an “International Camellia Garden of Excellence,” according to the International Camellia Society, and the Canadian Garden Tourism Council deemed it one of the “Top Five Gardens Worth Traveling For” in North America. National Geographic even named Descanso Gardens one of the world’s ten most beautiful gardens.
Descanso Gardens is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (closed Christmas Day). Admission is $9 (general); $6 for seniors 65 and older as well as students with ID; $4 for children 5 to 12; and free for children 4 and younger. For more information, visit their website or call (818) 949-4200.
The Trails of La Cañada Flintridge
La Cañada Flintridge boasts a unique and extensive 22-mile trail system, a hidden gem popular with equestrians, hikers, runners, mountain bikers and dog walkers. It consists of a series of easements through private property, public fire roads and public paths and bridges that are maintained by both the City and Los Angeles County. It is protected for the future by the city’s master plan and even connects to the Pacific Crest Trail.
In 2016 the city’s former mayor, Jon Curtis, established a Mayor’s Hike on the trails, designed to get residents to pull out their hiking boots and get some exercise while enjoying the city’s beautiful trails. It has been an annual event ever since. On Nov. 3, 2018, Mayor Terry Walker led the hike and was accompanied by L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and a number of current and former LCF city government members. Tom Reynolds, the current president of the LCF Trails Council which co-sponsored the event, also participated
In the past 40 years, the Trails Council has worked with the City, Los Angeles County, Southern California Edison and other groups to preserve, extend and improve the multi-use, multi-ability trails, creating an uninterrupted 12-mile loop around the community, as well as many offshoot trails. For more information, click here.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the impressive home of Dr. Roy Lanterman and his wife, Emily, is now owned by the City of La Cañada Flintridge and maintained and administered by a nonprofit foundation. The home covering 11,500 square feet, including the basement, was the first totally reinforced concrete home built west of the Mississippi River. It was designed by Arthur Haley in 1915 and features a U-shaped Mexican Colonial hacienda design with a fountain courtyard in the middle, pergolas with plantings on all four sides and English Arts and Crafts design elements throughout.
The home was opened as a museum in 1993 after undergoing years of exterior restoration using money raised by the museum foundation and through both city and state grants. Interior restoration continued until 2008. It has a volunteer board of directors and a staff of three, all part time. “The house has been beautifully restored and retains almost all of its original furnishings,” said Executive Director Laura Verlaque. “It offers visitors a rare opportunity to see what life was like in early Los Angeles County.”
The home-turned-museum at 4420 Encinas Dr. is open for group and school tours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings and to the general public Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and the afternoons of the first and third Sundays of every month. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors and free for those under 12. In addition, the museum holds a range of special events including two annual open houses, lectures, exhibits and an annual ragtime tea dance. Its extensive archives are open for research on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.
For more information, call (818) 790-1421 or visit the organization website.