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The Mother of All Gardens Remains Santa Barbara's Best Kept Secret

April 9, 2014 at 12:34 PM | by | ()

Santa Barbara distracts many with its beaches, wine country, and ocean-hugging mountains, but amongst the protective landscaping that hides the estates of neighboring Montecito sits the area's best kept secret: Lotusland, a 37-acre outdoor garden containing 3,000 plant species from all over the world.

Originally designed to be a retreat for Tibetan monks, the property features about two dozen unique garden plots that allow you to immerse yourself in different ecosystems. One minute you're strolling through an arid, hardy cactus garden, and the next you've entered a peaceful, Japanese-themed plot of land, an aloe garden, or are walking under tropical trees. One of the crown jewels of Lotusland is its Cycad Garden, a species that dates back nearly 300 million years.

The video above takes you on an aerial tour so you can get a feel for how drastic the different plots are. The reason Lotusland has remained a lesser-known attraction is due in part to accessibility restrictions imposed on it by the city of Montecito: The park is limited to 15,000 visitors a year because the city doesn't want to deal with the traffic a complete set of open arms would invite. Because of that, there is a bit of exclusivity in visiting.

Tickets will run you $45 for a 2-hour tour. The gardens are closely monitored, and guests are only allowed to walk through while on a tour and under the guide's supervision. You must have a reservation before you visit, which you should make no less than week in advance. Despite the expensive ticket and the restrictions, we still recommend putting it on your list, especially if you're traveling with a significant other. It's a pretty great place for a hand-holding walk.

[Photos: Will McGough]

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