The Gardens at Lake Merritt contain eleven “themed” gardens on 7 acres at Lakeside Park on the shores of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. For over 50 years, The Gardens have provided Oakland citizens and visitors from around the world with beautiful gardens in a tranquil setting close to the heart of Downtown Oakland.

Themes of the eleven main gardens include the Bonsai Garden, Community Garden, Japanese Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Lakeside Palmetum, Rhododendron Garden, Sensory Garden, Succulent Garden, Torii Gate, Vireya Display Garden, and the Bay Friendly Demonstration Garden. There is also a Pollinator Garden, focused on plants that draw the birds and bees and insects that make it all come together. There is a popular Bee Hotel, with an Oakland-built structure that is modeled on one in Paris.

There is a cultural and educational center to spread knowledge of horticulture techniques, and historic preservation through enriching public programs.

Considered a positive reflection of the Oakland community, volunteers are always needed to assist and maintain The Gardens, especially now with the budget limitation of Oakland and severe staff reductions of the city gardeners. There are exactly 1.5 full time employees to maintain all the green spaces around the lake.

The Gardens have volunteer work party days which anyone can be a part of and financial donations are much needed in order to preserve this wonderful community treasure.

In 2004, the non profit organization The Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt (FGLM), was established and joined with the City of Oakland to revitalize The Gardens by organizing volunteers, soliciting financial contributions, and spearheading various special projects.

Due to the efforts of FGLM volunteers, two new gardens have begun: the Mediterranean Gardens and the Sensory Gardens. FGLM has also worked hard to increase participation and financial support at public events held at Lake Merritt.

Admission to The Gardens is free, although if visitors drive into Lakeside Park (the road at the entrance to Children's Fairyland) parking fees are charged. The advantage to parking within the park is that only a flat fee is charged, with no risk of obtaining a parking ticket from over zealous parking merit attendants. To park on weekdays, the fee is only $2.00 and on weekends $5.00.

The Gardens are open from 9:00 a.m. until dusk during the winter, and from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the rest of the seasons.

Volunteers Needed

Current monthly volunteer work day schedule:

The Gardens at Lake Merritt have lots of options for you to get your hands dirty -- on a weekly or a monthly basis. Choose one of more of these regular workdays and come lend a hand.

  • 1st Saturday of each month, 9am-12noon, Mediterranean Garden
  • 1st Saturday of each month, 9am-1:30pm, Succulent Garden
  • Send an email or sign-up online and let the gardens know your availability!

Edible Garden: If you’re interested in gardening at an Edible Garden; the Victory Garden Foundation’s People’s Victory Garden will have mentored gardening days on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays.

Please see the Event Calendar for the month of April at

The Gardens at Lake Merritt map to theme gardens 1


666 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland, California

Links and References

  1. The Gardens at Lake Merritt official website