If you’re looking for a short but fun activity in the heart of Long Beach, look no farther than the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens located inside Cal State Long Beach. These stunning gardens aren’t able to be seen from any major streets and aren’t a major destination for most folks. You could live your whole life in Long Beach and not know about them!
When our first kids were little, we spent a lot of time exploring Long Beach with toddlers. As alums of CSULB, we remembered that there was a nice little Japanese Garden right on campus.
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens were close, not overwhelmingly large, and FREE. This was basically the trifecta for us as new Moms, so we were excited to check it out.
Almost ten years later, this is still one of my favorite places to take my kids.
The Japanese Gardens at CSULB are an amazing hidden gem that your little ones will love. With an easy walking path, lots of benches for snack breaks and a koi pond that will amaze your kids, it’s sure to become a family favorite.
Here’s everything you should know before you head to the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens in Long Beach!
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Planning a Visit to the Japanese Gardens at CSULB
At the time of publication, the Japanese Gardens are open 10:00Am to 5:30PM, Tuesday through Friday. Reservations are currently required – but are very easy to make! Check out the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Online Portal to make reservations.
How Much Does the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens Cost?
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens are free to the public! If you’ve visited before, ou may recall that there was a small fee to enter. However, there is no longer an admission fee to visit the Japanese Gardens at CSULB.
Of course, if you still want to support the Japanese Gardens, you can make a donation here.
There is a small parking fee to park in the adjacent lot.
How Do You Get to the Japanese Gardens?
You’ve probably driven past the Japanese Gardens a hundred times and never knew it. Sort of. The Japanese Gardens are accessed by driving onto the CSULB campus. You can enter the campus from either Bellflower Blvd. or Atherton. From Atherton, turn onto Beach Drive onto campus and then left onto Earl Warren Drive. From Atherton, turn onto campus directly on Earl Warren Drive and continue until you reach the gardens.
There are also many signs that will help point you in the right direction once you’re on campus.
Parking at the Japanese Gardens
There is a very convenient parking lot (G4) across the street from the Japanese Gardens. If you visit during the school year you may notice that all the parking lots are VERY full! However, there are several “short term” parking spots nearest the gardens. These are for under 2 hours of parking, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one. For current prices, visit the CSULB Japanese Gardens parking page.
What is the Best Age Range for the Japanese Gardens at CSULB?
One of the things I love about the Japanese Gardens is that it’s such an easy starter outing. When I was first a Mom, I desperately needed to get out and about. But where could I really go with a tiny baby? The Japanese Gardens were the perfect spot to go. Easy to get to – FREE (so I wouldn’t be grumpy if the baby wasn’t feeling it and we had to leave) – and very relaxing.
Then, once my babies could walk, the gardens are small enough that their little legs could handle the whole path. Now, I have kids in elementary school and they still love to go and see (and feed!) the koi fish. Any older and they’d probably roll their eyes and think it’s lame, but you’ve got a good ten years you can have a fun time with your kids at the Japanese Gardens.
Can You Bring Food to the Japanese Gardens?
Unfortunately, there’s no food or drink allowed in the Japanese Gardens.
Does the Japanese Gardens have Bathrooms?
The Japanese Gardens has one beautiful bathroom just past the entrance. So don’t be afraid to venture off with a potty training, prone to touch EVERYTHING toddler! Plus, the gardens aren’t too large, so you should be able to run to them pretty quickly even from the farthest spot.
How Long Should You Expect to Stay at the Japanese Gardens?
How long you stay at the Japanese Gardens will depend largely on your kids. I’d recommend getting the one hour parking pass and planning to spend half an hour to an hour there – if your kids like fish! Personally? My kids could watch the koi fish for HOURS so I usually cut them off as we close in on an hour.
Should You Bring a Stroller?
There is a super accessible stroller path and no stairs at the Japanese Gardens. So if you choose to bring a stroller it’s very easy to use and navigate. While my one year old can handle walking the whole path, I usually bring a stroller in case he keeps trying to run INTO the koi pond. The edge of the koi pond is VERY accessible at several points, so if you have a runner, it might be a good backup plan.
What is There to See at the Japanese Gardens at CSULB?
There are two main draws to the Japanese Gardens at CSULB: the gardens and the koi fish. In our experience, the kids can finish exploring the gardens pretty quickly. Don’t get me wrong, they love walking over all the bridges, checking out the zen garden, and visiting the little tea house setup.
But then they are ready to spend the bulk of their time at the main attraction – the fish. If your kids are the adventurous sort that want to get extra up close and personal with the koi fish, you’ll definitely want to book a reservation during feeding time!
Your reservation is good for up to six people and you will receive a cup of koi food with your reservation. Be warned! Some of my kids think feeding the koi fish is the greatest thrill of their lives and some are SUPER intimidated by the hungry fish. Be prepared for either reaction! If your kids are a little more nervous, you can toss the food from a bridge or raised platform. You can also feed them from hand right at the waters edge!
Whether your kids choose to feed the fish or not, they’ll probably love walking from bridge to bridge and just watching them. We sometimes count the fish (impossible!), debate over which fish is our favorite(there’s a clear winner for me!), and try to find the biggest fish! The koi fish are simply captivating and are such a fun way to spend a bit of your day.
Why We Love the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Gardens at CSULB
We love the Japanese Gardens at CSULB because they’re a peaceful, cheap and centrally located activity that we can do with all our kids. They’re not overly crowded and not overly stimulating. It’s a fun activity that feels simple and wholesome and just delightful. And have we mentioned they’re beautiful?
We’re so lucky to have somewhere to visit that is so pretty and full of nature in the heart of a major city.
Looking to Extend the Fun?
If you’re finished with the Japanese Gardens, but want to have some more fun, there are a few great local options.
Whaley Park – Also located adjacent to the CSULB campus, Whaley Park is one of our kids favorites. And is the perfect way to get out a little more energy before heading home.
Rancho Los Alamitos – Just on the other side of CSULB (off Palo Verde) is the gated community that houses Rancho Los Alamitos, another hidden gem of Long Beach.
Grab a donut at Simone’s – The Japanese Gardens are close to one of our favorite donut shops, so we’re down for any excuse to pop in and grab a donut. Check out our review of Simone’s (and all the other quick and cheap treats in Long Beach) in this roundup!