Wandering around the heart of the beautiful coastal city of Santa Barbara, one might stroll past the Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden and think it is just another lovely park. But thanks to the considerable ambitions of the designers, the park—which is named in honor of the land’s former owner, Alice Keck Park, who donated it to the City of Santa Barbara in 1980—has many unexpected offerings.
To those with a keen eye for botany or anyone who simply appreciates lush surroundings, the variety of plant and tree species—75 of them, to be exact—is impressive. During your visit, consult this map for a self-guided tree and plant tour, which identifies each one along the way. There’s flora here from all over the world, including a natal coral tree from South Africa, a jacaranda, which is a common urban street tree in Brazil, and a purple orchid tree, native to India and China. Also present are numerous native and drought-tolerant species such as the flowering rosenka shrub and the California geranium.
Kids will delight in the ducks, turtles, and waterfowl that thrive in the park, and there’s a playground across the street that makes for another convenient diversion. Relax in a serene gazebo, look for fish in the koi pond, and if you’re lucky, enjoy an impromptu acoustic concert under a tree frequented by musicians.
The most recent addition to the park is the sensory garden, where visually and physically impaired visitors can take in not only the varied scents and sounds, but the interesting textural variation of the many plants installed there. A butterfly garden has been introduced as well and includes plants that are favorites of butterflies and moths.
Know before you go: Dogs and other pets are not allowed in the memorial garden.