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Art in The Gardens: A Guide to The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Written by Garden Travel Guide in Visit Gardens United States
Last Updated 12/03/2023

Vista, California: The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is a 14-acre artsy garden with diverse plants, unique art installations, and family-friendly activities offering something for all to enjoy. Traditional plant enthusiasts will be intrigued by the remarkable plants along the way. But, the Alta Vista Gardens aspires to be more than just a living plant museum.

Click on the Video Tour of the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Large-scale art is integrated throughout the gardens, allowing artists to showcase their talents while the public can appreciate art in an open setting.

Whether you are planning a trip to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens or are just interested in seeing it from afar, this post will take you along the path to fantastic art and gardens. A Garden Travel Guide to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens is located at the end of the post to assist you in planning your trip.

Jungle Garden

The palapa and the sound of water signal a tropical experience ahead. The palapa offers a view of a waterfall and the pond below in the lower garden.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Jungle Garden
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Jungle Garden

Along the trail, A Creative Bloom by Lia Strell emerges among the plants.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Creative Bloom Sculpture by Lia Strell
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Creative Bloom Sculpture by Lia Strell

The Welcome Garden

In the center of the Welcome Garden stands a 30′ gold-topped obelisk. Among the plantings are glass totems suggesting tea time in the garden. The culinary theme continues in the herb garden next to the Garden House.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Welcome Garden Teapot
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Welcome Garden

The Culinary Herb Garden

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Culinary Scuplture by Phillip Glashoff

The leading role in the Culinary Herb Garden goes to the 5 Culinary Sculptures by Phillip Glashoff.

Whimsical and playful, the sculptures stand ready to use the garden herbs.

Look up to see the 5th sculpture flying overhead.














The Ceremonial Garden

The Ceremonial Garden is a location for weddings and community events. It is bordered by a petite pond with aquatic plants and is home to a bale of turtles.

Rising out of the middle of the pond is the twisting shape of the Golden Torsion by Lia Strell.  

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Ceremonial Garden Pond
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Ceremonial Garden Pond

Did you see the turtles in the pond? Look at the lower right corner.

Alta Vista Botanic Garden Mouth of Truth by Bryan Morse

Amid Mediterranean plants, the Mouth of Truth by Bryan Morse is a focal point.

Similar to the sculpture in Rome, legend says that if you lie and place your hand inside the stone mouth of truth, you’ll lose your fingers.

The Labyrinth

A shady path to the labyrinth quiets the mind.

A labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool that fosters contemplation and spiritual transformation, typically formed as a circular path leading to a center.

Alta Vista Garden visitors wind their way to the center while viewing inspirational quotes from Mother Theresa, Oprah Winfrey, the Dali Lama, and Deepak Chopra and the Garden.

Standing as a guidepost in the middle of the Labyrinth is the tall granite sculpture Broken Link.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Broken Link Sculpture by Anthony Amato
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Broken Link by Anthony Amato

The Blessing Tree, by Melissa Ralston, stands next to the labyrinth entrance. Reminiscent of ancient Chinese architecture, the archway represents a graceful balance between man and nature. The chimes remind visitors to take a moment and receive the many blessings in their lives.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens The Blessing Tree Sculpture by Melissa Ralston
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: The Blessing Tree by Melissa Ralston

The Grape Arbor Lookout

To get a glimpse of things to come in the lower garden, walk out to the grape vine-covered arbor. There is a panoramic view, and if you look down, you’ll see dinosaurs in the prehistoric Cycad Garden.

“Alta Vista” Botanical Gardens translated means “high view.” The City purchased the property, and in May 1999, the nonprofit Vista Botanical Garden Foundation was established to develop the Gardens for the benefit of the community.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens High Overlook of the Garden
Alta Vista = “High View

Turn around and notice the artistry in the construction of this seating area called The Tree of Life by Bryan Morse. Small pebbles form a trunk with spreading branches over the seat and up the back.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Tree of Life Bryan Morse
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Tree of Life Bryan Morse

The Lower Gardens

The lower garden paths are unpaved, and the gardens are more natural. Depending on your preference, that’s a plus or a minus.

While in the lower garden, this was one of my favorite spots to sit. The birds were singing in the tree, the branches created a secluded spot, and no other visitors were around. It was so peaceful.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Secluded Spot
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Lower Gardens

The Inspiration Rock Garden

The Inspiration Rock Garden is a “healing garden oasis.” The garden coordinator invites all to, “Explore the lower level of the garden, immerse yourself in the vibrant painted rock garden, and witness the power of hope and healing through art.”

A river of stones painted with messages of hope, recovery, and healing flows down the center of the garden. Garden visitors are invited to take part in creating the painted rocks.

The Desert Garden

The Desert Garden displays palms from arid regions, along with cacti, succulents, aloes, and agaves. The forms and subtle colors are eye-catching.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Cactus Garden
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Cactus Garden

The Gardens to the West

On the winding path back to the upper garden, the visitor passes through several different geographical gardens.

In the South African Garden, the protea were blooming in October.

Protea Blooming in the Alta Vista Botanical Garden
Protea in the Alta Vista Botanical Garden

Bird of Paradise flowers were blooming in the Sub Tropical Garden.

The California Native garden was restrained this time of year.

The Pan Asian Garden, still under development, featured a statue along a tall bamboo path. The future garden promises a tea house, zen garden, lanterns, ponds, and streams.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Buddha
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Pan Asian Gardeunder development

Another of my favorite spaces in the garden was under this Baobab Tree sculpture by Robert Rochin. The tree is revered in Africa and Madagascar as a sacred and mystical tree. This is a lovely enclosed spot in the garden to sit, meditate, journal, or enjoy the view over the garden.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Baobab Tree sculpture by Robert Rochin
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Baobab Tree sculpture by Robert Rochin

Cycad Garden

If you have children in tow, be sure to see the dinosaurs in the Cycad Garden. Cycads are a group of prehistoric plants that have been around for millions of years, creating a Jurassic garden of sorts for the dinosaurs.

Dinosaur in Cycads Alta Vista Botanical Gardens
Dinosaur in Cycads Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Unfortunately, overharvesting and habitat destruction of Cycads in the wild has led to them becoming one of the most threatened groups of plants in the world.

The Alta Vista Botanic Gardens is one of many botanic gardens worldwide that play an essential role in the preservation of this ancient plant.

The Children’s Garden

The Children’s Garden is located just inside the garden gates. Small return visitors make a beeline for this garden to play, explore, and learn a few things about nature.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Children's Garden
Alta Vista Botanical Gardens: Children’s Garden

Pick up a Discovery Trail Guide map inside the Children’s Garden. On the back is a scavenger hunt of plant boxes filled with fun nature facts.

The fabulous Serpent sculpture rises out of the ground here. And, do try the Pebble Piano in the music garden.

A Community Project

The Alta Vista Botanic Garden hosts numerous festivals to invite the community to enjoy the beautiful gardens.

This nonprofit garden is a labor of love and community effort, thanks to countless volunteers and donors who have dedicated their time and resources to transform it into the vibrant space it is today.

Vision Statement:

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens are a living, changing and interactive environment bringing together nature, art and people.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Website

The Alta Vista Botanical Garden is still a work in progress, but it has big plans! It exemplifies what a botanic garden can become if the community supports it.

Garden Travel Guide Logo

Visitors Guide to the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens


1270 Vale Terrace Dr, Vista, CA 92084

How to Best Experience the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

Grab a map at the entrance and flip it over to see the suggested walk on the back.

I recommend starting the tour at the Jungle Garden unless you have children with you: They will undoubtedly pull you into the Children’s Garden near the entrance first.

Otherwise, save the Children’s Garden for your way out. There are several sculptures to see in the Children’s Garden, and the pebble piano is something your inner child will enjoy playing with.

The upper gardens are more manicured; the lower gardens are more natural. Both are art-filled.

In my opinion, the plentiful art and sculptures make the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens a unique experience. There are interesting plants, but the garden is still under development and rough in places.

The weather in Vista can get very hot in the summer, so go early in the day. Take water with you. Bring a picnic or plan to have lunch at the nearby Yellow Deli.

How Big are the Gardens?

The garden is 14 acres, with some areas still under development.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Map

Find the most up-to-date map on the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens website: Alta Vista Botanical Gaden Map PDF.

You may pick up a paper map at the entrance. Flip it over for a suggested walk.

Inside the Children’s Garden is a Discovery Trail Guide map of activities.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Hours

The Garden may change the hours with the seasons or for special events. Double-check the Alta Vista Botanical Garden’s website directly before your visit: https://altavistabotanicalgardens.org/

The Garden is open:

  • Monday Through Friday – 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Saturday & Sunday – 10:00 am – 5:00 pm

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens Tickets

  • Admission is $5.00 For Non-Members.
  • $3.00 For Children 3 To 12 Years Old
  • Two and younger are free

You pay at the front by:

  • Depositing cash in the Pay Tube -or-
  • Scanning the QR code on the sign and entering payment information -or-
  • Paying directly on the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens website via Paypal, debit, or credit card. Look for the box below on the website. https://altavistabotanicalgardens.org/

Parking at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

There is free onsite parking at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens.

You’ll wind your way through Brengle Terrace Park, accessed via the Jim Porter Parkway.

There is parking inside the Garden’s chain link gates and additional parking outside the gates.

Are Dogs Allowed at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens?

Dogs are welcome to join good dog owners for a walk in the Gardens.

Dogs must be on a leash, and the ponds are a no-go.

Doggie waste bags are available at the entrance to the garden to keep the gardens enjoyable for everyone.

Accessibility at the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens

The upper gardens are relatively flat and easy to navigate. The lower gardens are somewhat hilly, and the paths are unpaved.

Blue zone parking is located near the gift shop for those with disabilities.

Gift Shop

The gift shop is located in the upper garden across from the Obelisk next to the Garden House.

Places to Eat

Picnicking is allowed on the grounds of the Alta Vista Botanical Garden, and there are many picnic spots to choose from. I recommend the Jungle Palapa tables near the waterfall.

The Yellow Deli

My recommendation for a place to eat nearby is the Yellow Deli in the “village” of Vista.

Yellow Deli Vista California
Yellow Deli Vista California

It is unique, and in their own words, the vibe is summed up perfectly “So, we have good organic food, nice craftsmanship, and a nice environment to eat a meal… that is The Yellow Deli”

Unpretentious and good food to enjoy.

315 East Broadway, Vista, CA 92084

1.4 miles from the Alta Vista Botanical Gardens (about a 7-minute drive).

Street Parking, Outdoor Deck, Outdoor Seating, Vegan Options, Vegetarian Options.


The Alta Vista Botanical Gardens mission is to “Create a botanical garden for the education, enlightenment, and inspiration for our children, and the child within us all.

Alta Vista Botanical Gardens fosters involvement of the community in efforts, both local and abroad, to protect and preserve endangered habitats, which are vital to the health of our planet and all of her inhabitants. It is a place to reflect, relax and recharge.

The gardens are a living, changing and interactive environment which brings people together with nature and art. It serves as a gathering place, and educational center, a forum for the arts and an exhibit of the most remarkable, beautiful and rare plants in the world.”

Alta Vista Botanical Board of Directors




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