Art of the Matter

Do a UCLA College Campus Walk Among Art, Architecture, and Botanical Gardens

Thousands of students, hundreds of NCAA championships, and one beautiful campus. Wander the iconic school grounds of the most-applied-to university in the nation (sorry USC) for an outdoors study in art, architecture, and gardening! Situated in Westwood, the University of California, Los Angeles has a nice 3.5-mile route with historic buildings, unique sculptures, serene botanic gardens, and no final exams!

Person looking at an outdoor art installation at UCLA in Los Angeles

Raised piano art installation at UCLA campus in Los Angeles

Person sitting on a bench overlooking a green grassy area at UCLA

You can find free street parking in the apartment neighborhoods west of Gayley Avenue; however, we recommend Lot 4 ($3/hour) for its convenience. Climb the stairs on the northeast part of the underground lot to find yourself at Fowler Museum, a free anthropological display (weekend hours: 12 to 5 p.m.) and a great start or finish to your academic adventure. Head south toward Wilson Plaza, first taking a look for “Powell Cat,” a legendary local friendly feline who awaits pets from students in front of Kaufman Hall.

Person petting Powell Cat at UCLA campus

Person looking at outdoor sculpture on UCLA campus

Person walking into a large sculpture at UCLA on campus

Next, head up the famous Janss steps, the original 87-step entrance to the campus, now a daily workout for students that offers incredible views. At the top, behind a peaceful fountain lie Royce Hall (left) and Powell Library (right), the school’s two most famous buildings (the former being the university’s icon).

Person walking the grounds at UCLA campus in Los Angeles

Head northeast past the brutalist architecture of Bunche Hall and toward the Broad Art Center. Here is the steel walk-in Torqued Eclipse (Richard Serra, 2006), as well as the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, home to a variety of cool works scattered alongside a meandering path. Continue south, passing the “sunken gardens” of Dickson Court (look for a fish plaque on the flagpole!) and take a detour at Murphy Hall on your right. At the northeast corner, find Founder’s Rock, indicating the foundations of the new campus. Keep south on Charles E. Young Drive to eventually run into the most nature-friendly spot on campus: the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens.

Water feature at UCLA on campus

Person taking the stairway in front of a eucalyptus forest at UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens

The 7.5-acre oasis contains a turtle and koi pond and over 3,000 species, including incredible varieties of Australian and East Asian plants, palms, ferns, and one of the largest Torrey pines in the world. A favorite is near a bench in the southeastern corner: one of the largest dawn redwoods in North America.

Person looking up at a dawn redwood in the Mildred E. Mathias Bontanical Garden at UCLA campus

After you’ve had your fill of fantastic flora, head north back toward the main campus and turn left at “Bruin Walk,” a downhill walkway that most Bruins use daily. This passes through the main quad and by the UCLA store and deposits you at Pauley Pavilion, one of the most historic NCAA basketball venues and your final destination. Check out the John Wooden statue before heading north past the intramural fields back to the lot.

Growling Bruin Bear sculpture at UCLA campus in Los Angeles

Jackie Robinson number 42 sculpture and commemorative placard at UCLA campus

Flowers in Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens at UCLA campus Los Angeles

To get to the UCLA campus and Lot 4, take the Sunset Blvd. exit off of I-405 and head east. After 2 miles and at the junction with Westwood Plaza, turn right at signs for Lot 4. Dog-friendly. IMPORTANT: Please check ahead as UCLA's official website indicates that, pursuant to public health orders, the campus is currently closed to the general public. However, in light of recent changes to California's lifting of several Covid restrictions this information may change. Check before going.

Story and photos by Matt Pawlik.

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