You could be forgiven for not being aware of the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, even if you've lived in Westwood for decades. It's tucked off a busy corner of Hilgard Avenue, on the western edge of the UCLA campus, with fairly minimal signage. Easy enough to just whoosh right by. But next time you're in the area, refrain from whooshing. This 84-year-old marvel is a free, surprisingly wide-ranging garden that packs a big punch despite its compact footprint. You can check out bamboo, cactus, fir and rarer specimens (see: the glorious Chinese flame tree) in less than a square mile. And hang out with turtles. That's right, a thriving turtle population, often just a few feet from the path, soaking up sun in a big ol' posse or swimming in the pleasant little stream. In the spring, you can watch the babies grow — awww! It's easy to lose yourself here, so check the times. They lock the gates promptly at night, without too much warning, and while these reptiles are adorable, you might not want to spend the night with them. 777 Tiverton Drive, Wstwd. (310) 825-1260, —Sarah Fenske

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