Palisades Park: A Santa Monica Landmark

Palisades Park, in Santa Monica, has been one my favorite places in Los Angeles since I first arrived here. Why do I like it so much?

First, because of its privileged location. High on a cliff, one can look down on the Pacific, enjoy the sea breeze and magnificent views of the ocean and the mountains while also getting some exercise. Busy but never overcrowded, the park is a place where people go for a walk, to jog, bike, do yoga, meditate, read, write, play with their children, walk their dogs, watch the sunset, or just hang out. I go there to walk, take pictures and, being a beach person, to be close to the ocean.

Palisades is a Santa Monica landmark. Its original landscape design was done in 1913 by architect I.G. Le Grande, who installed a long, winding footpath and added rows of Canary Island date palms and Mexican fan palms to the existing eucalyptus trees along Ocean Avenue.

I love the wide variety of trees, plants and flowers beautifully displayed throughout the park’s 26 acres. My favorites are the exotic succulent garden, the iconic palm trees, and the community rose garden, dedicated to one of the park’s founders. The picnic areas, under the shade of gigantic fig trees, are nice and inviting. And many benches and sitting areas along the entire stretch make it possible for people to rest and appreciate the views. The park’s Redwood Pergola, built in 1912, is considered an outstanding example of a Craftsman-style Pergola and is often seen in movies shot in Santa Monica. Park visitors, especially musicians, like to hang out at the pergola.

Among the many other features, the park has a Veterans Memorial; several sculptures, including the “Genesis Sculpture,” a wooden sphere by sculptor Baile Oakes; and the Overlook Beacon, which gives the viewer the feeling of being aboard ship in the ocean, with unrestricted views of the Pacific.

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Palisades park was a gift to Santa Monica from U.S. Senator John P. Jones, a mining baron who co-founded the city in 1875. In 1892, he and his business partner, Arcadia Bandini Baker, moved to preserve the bluffs’ charms for the public enjoyment. Ignoring the enormous real estate potential of the land, they deeded it to the city on the condition that it forever remain public parkland.

It’s nice to see that through the years, Palisades park has been preserved and continues to be used, not only by the people of Santa Monica, but also by people from Los Angeles Westside, and by visitors from all parts of the country and the world. It’s a remarkably democratic space, where the rich, the poor and the homeless, the old and the young, locals and visitors, and dogs galore, equally share the beautiful grounds as they go about their activities.

I’ve been going there since I first arrived in LA to walk, watch and photograph the beautiful sunsets and appreciate the flowers and plants along the park’s 26 acres. Anyone visiting LA must come to Santa Monica and take a stroll at Palisades park.

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