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These oases tucked into the folds of Bay Area urban life offer opportunities for fun and tranquil activities, including walking, volunteering, meditating and connecting with nature

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

With its diverse collection of 13,000 plant varieties from around the world, the garden—located on a hillside above the university—promises a horticultural adventure and healthy hike. On a clear day, trek to the top and enjoy spectacular views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge from the Garden of Old Roses.

Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park

Founded in 1894, this 5-acre garden featuring Japanese maples, bamboo, cherry trees, bonsai plants and more is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Sights to see include the five-story pagoda, drum bridge, carved wood gates, koi ponds, Zen Garden and large bronze Buddha. Conclude your meditative visit with a cup of tea in the Tea House.

Feel like garden hopping? The San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Shakespeare Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers—all located in the east end of the park—are each just a short jaunt away.

The Gardens at Lake Merritt (Oakland)

Supplement your 3.4-mile trip around the lake with a turn through 7 acres of themed gardens tended by the community, including the Bay-Friendly, Edible and Pollinator gardens. Bring your gloves and small garden tools and work up a sweat during drop-in community work days. Check website for details.

The Gardens at Heather Farm (Walnut Creek)

This 6-acre educational garden features 24 pesticide-free demonstration gardens and learning sites (especially relevant during the drought) including the EBMUD Water Wise Garden, California Native Plant Garden, Butterfly Garden and Cowden Rose Garden with thousands of roses. Make a family day of it and picnic at the adjacent Heather Farm Park, which offers a large picnic area, an all-abilities play structure, playing fields, a nature pond, a dog park and more.

Filoli (Woodside)

In 1915, wealthy San Franciscans Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn envisioned building an estate that “might be interesting a few hundred years from now.” Today, the 654-acre Filoli is a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation featuring a stunning 16-acre English Renaissance garden, a nature preserve and a Georgian country house designed by architect Willis Polk. Explore the grounds at your leisure, or join a guided hike, walk or tour.