Ballona Discovery Park

Ballona Discovery Park is a two-acre native garden and wildlife habitat that serves as an outdoor laboratory for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level science education.

Ballona Discovery Park Activities

Instructor explaining a type of flower to younger students
Lisa Fimiani (CURes Dan & Susan Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow) leads a tour of the Park.

Staff members from CURes and our partners (LMU, Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Heal The Bay Foundation and Santa Monica Bay Foundation – The Bay Foundation), conduct tours, formal classes, teacher training workshops and research laboratories at the park on an on-going basis. These activities benefit students of LMU, neighboring Playa Vista Elementary School, and over a dozen other public and private schools in the region. In addition to students, a range of community groups, spiritual organizations, religious groups, urban planners, and nature enthusiasts take tours of the Park. It is also a venue for visual artists, meditative retreats and other organized gatherings.

Covid-19 Virtual Tours

While Covid-19 restrictions are in place, preventing gatherings of 8 or more people in public settings, we are offering a “virtual” tour of Ballona Discovery Park. You can enjoy the Park on your computer from the comfort of your own home. CURes staff members will take you through a presentation about the Park on-line with time for questions and comments. While it’s not the same as being there, you may be surprised at what you can learn.  Please contact Lisa Fimiani for times when the next virtual tour will take place.

Hours & Services

Ballona Discovery park is open continuously and serves the local community with gardens and wildlife viewing opportunities. We provide informal science learning activities include interpretive stations, a walkable model watershed ecosystem and a recreation of a native Gabrieleno gathering house (kiiy) with audio recordings of Native American Gabrieleno/Tongva stories. No admission is charged for entry into the park.

Accessing the Park

The Park is conveniently located near bus stops, a bicycle path, and major transit corridors. Seniors, young children, and individuals with physical disabilities and/or limited mobility have access to transit, are able to park in well-marked parking areas, and can easily move about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant wheelchair-accessible Park. The nearby 7-mile Ballona Creek Bike Path links bicyclists to the Pacific Ocean Bike Path that goes from the Pacific Palisades to Palos Verdes.

Park Features

Young students observing plants
Students visit the Park and record their observations, building scientific skills.

In 2011, CURes and Friends of Ballona Wetlands began running new outdoor environmental education programs in Ballona Discovery Park utilizing interpretive and interactive panels describing the Times, Tides and Transformations of the Ballona Watershed. The two organizations have been partnering ever since to expand the educational programs and funding sources and to engage urban ecology students from LMU as well as students from universities across the world.

Features include:

  • Representational model of a watershed
  • Watershed Walk – takes the visitor through an estuary, mountains, city, freshwater, saltwater, mudflat, lagoon, ocean, before water from the mountains reaches the sea
  • Willow Walk – leads the visitor from the Watershed Walk to the entrance of a Tongva/Gabrieleno kiiy. In the kiiy, recordings of a Native American actress and singer tell stories about the first Americans of the area, weaving together the history of the Ballona Wetlands and the Greater Los Angeles Area.
  • Amphitheater for presentations
  • Picnic area
  • Student gardens
  • Riparian Corridor Trail


A garden with various flowers
Ballona Discovery Park offers a range of native Southern California gardens to enjoy.

A walk through the Ballona Discovery Park reveals different palettes of native plants. These riparian plants, trees and coastal sage scrub tell the visitor a story about this ecosystem. Local elementary school, Playa Vista, has adopted the Pollinator Garden at the entrance of the Park. The Pollinator Garden showcases plants from the Southwest that attract birds and beneficial insects and teaches the students about the symbiotic nature of flora and fauna in this setting.

Swimmer Medicinal Garden

Originally planted in 2000 and recently completed in 2017, the Swimmer Medicinal Garden showcases Southern California native plants that were used by the Chumash, Tongva, and Cahuilla tribes for their healing properties. The garden is dedicated to Dr. David Swimmer, a physician in Santa Barbara who pioneered the use of medicinal plants at his clinic.


Swimmer Medicinal Garden

Friends of Ballona Wetlands

Friends of Ballona Wetlands has a long history of providing environmental education programs at the Park; their educational modules have engaged thousands of visitors over 36 years. LMU and Friends of Ballona Wetlands have worked as a team on education and restoration projects for over 15 years in the Ballona Discovery Park and nearby Ballona Freshwater Marsh.

The Gottlieb Native Garden (GNG)

The GNG funds Park activities, outreach, and educational initiatives, as well as other CURes activities. Additionally, the GNG serves as another site for individuals to learn about and experience Southern California native plants.

The Bay Foundation (TBF)

TBF is a long-term partner of CURes and supports the activities of the Park. Their scientific and educational work complements the activities of the Park and enhances visitors' experiences.

Bus Scholarships

We provide many underserved schools with bus scholarships to be able to participate in joint education programs offered through CURes and the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.