I am a big fan of going places, exploring, discovering, taking trips, traveling… You name it. Long commute never stays on my way for new adventures. I’m ready to go no matter how far away my desired destination is. However, there are days when being stuck in traffic doesn’t look appealing at all (405 freeway can literally drain all energy out of you). Luckily, there are plenty of things to do in San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles such as having fun at Universal Studios, hiking in Runyon Canyon, or taking a stroll down the world-famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.

This time our choice fell on the small but very pretty and charming Japanese Garden in Van Nuys. Before we went there, we decided to stop at a park. Packed with a blanket and food, we headed out to our destination. We deliberately decided to pass on our all time favorite park, the Lake Balboa Park, which can be pretty busy on weekends, and went instead to the less crowded Woodley Park.

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The Lake Balboa Park as well as the Woodley Park are two sections of 2,000-acre Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, which deserves some recognition on its own. Can you find archery with free beginner classes (no equipment needed, you can borrow everything there for free), cricket fields, golf courses and tennis courts, off-leash dog park, the Japanese Garden, place to fly your model airplane, rent a boat, bike, or surrey in such close proximity to each other that you can walk everywhere? The Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area has it all. It’s a great place to spend time with friends or family, have your outdoor workout, or simply take a nice stroll around the lake.

We chose the far end of the Woodley Park near Archery Range where we feasted on our lunch in the shadow of a tree. Have you ever heard that food tastes better when you eat it outside? I couldn’t agree more! After spending an hour or so eating, talking, watching some YouTube videos on our phones (Yes, yes, and yes. The phones have become an integral part of our lives. Where did that time go when reading books was one of people’s favorite pastimes?), we were ready to explore the Japanese Garden.

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IMG_5828 (3)Nested in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, this 6.5 acre beautiful Japanese Garden known as Suiho-en, “Garden of Water and Fragrance”, combines traditional Japanese garden principles with the local environment. The garden consists of three gardens: Dry Zen meditation Garden, Water Garden, and Tea Garden. True to the Japanese culture, each element of the garden represents some divine qualities or objects.

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Tortoise Island in the Dry Garden is a symbol of longevity.

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Waterfall’s three levels symbolize heaven, earth, and man.

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Weeping Willow Tree represents a kind, loving, bending female. The opposite of the Weeping Willow, Black Pine, is a symbol of a warlike, strong, unbending male.

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The Water Garden is absolutely beautiful during summer months when water lilies and lotus flower, the symbols of enlightenment, are in full bloom.

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IMG_5851 (2)You will see many bamboo spouts and water basin in the Tea Garden, which according to the Japanese traditions, are meant for guests to purify themselves before entering the Teahouse.

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You definitely don’t want to miss Heavenly Floating Bridge, which, according to Japanese creation myth, lay between the heaven and the earth.

The Japanese Garden is also used as a tool to teach its visitors about importance of water recycling and reuse. All water used here comes from reclaimed wastewater. Not bad for such a small garden!

What are your favorite places in San Fernando Valley?